Monday, 21 July 2014

Violet and Daisy (Film) 2011


Violet and Daisy is a 2011 action film starring Alexis Bledel as Violet and Saoirise Ronan as Daisy. The two are teenaged assassins who work for a local crime boss in New York. Despite their deadly dealings, the girls are like regular teenagers, they like to giggle, goof off and fangirl their favourite celebrity. Everything goes wrong when they decide to accept a job killing a man (James Gandolfini) who stole from the boss. They were assured it would be an easy job and it is because the man wants to die. The girls are perplexed by the man’s wish and find it hard to kill a man who is a willing subject.
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So Violet and Daisy decide they can’t kill the man until they know why he wants to die.  Meanwhile, other assassins show up which complicates matters since the girls won’t get paid if someone else kills him. They have to kill him otherwise they won’t be able to afford the designer dresses they had their eyes on.
Alexis Bledel was thirty when she played this role but she still looked around the same age as Saoirise Ronan who as seventeen at the time.I didn’t really believe that they were teenagers in the film. I always thought of them as adults playing at being teenagers like in the movie Grease. I thought the language that Violet and Daisy used didn’t seem like something teenagers would say. For example, “Hey mister, do you mind if I smoke?” and I thought what teenagers calls someone mister?
Saoirise as Daisy
Violet and Daisy have times when they conduct themselves professionally but still have huge lapses of judgment to show their teenage naivety. I just found that hard to believe that they would fall asleep while waiting for their victims or not bring any extra ammo. The girls are supposed to be very experienced but they make such rookie mistakes.
The film is violent kinda like Kill Bill so expect blood with a bit black humour thrown in. The girls are quirky and Violet seems to be a sociopath according to the way she behaves in the film. I got a little squeamish at what the girls call the “Internal bleeding dance” that’s a grossest thing I have seen in a while. It’s not that bad but I hate blood and gore so it was awful for me.
Alexis Bledel as Violet 
I am a fan of Alexis Bledel and Saoirise Ronan so I found it to be a blessing that they were both in the same film. I liked how the girls were business like and cold hearted when working but funny and girly when off duty. The film left me wanting more as had so many things left unanswered. I wanted to know more about their backgrounds such as why they became assassins, how did they meet etc.

This is a movie is suitable for people who like indie action movies or want to see teenagers killing other people. It’s not fast paced and there’s not really much killing going on. The girls take quite some time talking to their willing victim.  It’s more a dramatic movie with a bit of death. 




Thursday, 17 July 2014

Winter Break



In my part of the world it's winter. One of the perks of being a teacher is the term holidays! To be honest, I don’t want to go back to school! I’m a teacher so I have to go back to school when the holidays are over.
This is what I have been doing:

Currumbin WildlifeSanctuary

I went for an hour long drive with my brother to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It is essentially a zoo to native Australian animals such as the kangaroo, koala, various snakes, Tasmanian Devils, birds and other animals.

 There’s also a segway track, zipline and ropes obstacle course available at the sanctuary. I went at the end of the day so everything was winding down. I think I would have enjoyed the sanctuary during the start of the day where there’s a crowd and all the animal shows are on. I found the place a bit run down so I hope they refurbish one day. I didn’t think there were many animals at the sanctuary.

Super Bee HoneyWorld, Currumbin

While I was Currumbin, Queensland I also went to visit Super Bee Honey World. It’s a big store that features honey from all over Australia and they also show live bee demonstrations. My brother was a bit scared of the idea of live honey collection so we didn’t see the show. I bought two honey sampler packs, one for my family and one for a friend.
Super Bee Honey Gift Packs I bought, courtesy of Super Bee Honey World

Surf World

We also went to Surfword which is next door to Super Bee Honey World. Surf World is  a small surf museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating surf history. I think if I knew something about surf boards, I would have been more interested in the variety of surf boards on display. What I was particularly interested in was a photo of DukeKahanamoku who was a surfing pioneer. It was good to be reminded that surfing is actually an old sport from Hawaii.

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Mum’s birthday

My mum turned 49 on Thursday. We decided to go Feast which is an all you can buffet. They have a good selection of food available, from roast meats, pasta dishes, salads, Asian food, seafood and deserts. The service was excellent; the staff was friendly and not intrusive. In some places, they watch you like a hawk because they want to collect dishes so they don’t pile up which can be an uncomfortable dining experience.

I don’t try to stuff myself anymore when it comes to a buffet. I don’t like feeling too full and wasting food as there’s always a heap of food uneaten on the plate.  I just aim for three courses. So I had pumpkin soup and cheesy bread for starters, roast pork, gravy and potato bake for a main meal and soft serve ice cream with jelly and mousse.
I got eight new mugs for mum’s birthday and I baked her some cupcakes. My little brother got her a scarf and a woolen hat. My older brother is going to take us to Dream World.

Eat Street Market

Eat Street Markets is an outdoor venue consisting of food stalls and trucks selling hot food from around the world. Australia doesn’t have street food except at outdoor events like festivals and markets and those are only temporary. So Eat Street Market is the closest thing we have to a street food venue.
Eat Street Photo courtesy of Eat Street Facebook
The markets open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Fridays and Saturdays it opens from 4pm-10pm and on Sundays it opens from 10am-7pm. Admission is $2. I recommend bringing cash because all the stalls deal in cash. There are three ATMs at the markets but they usually have long queues. Most of the food is around 6-20 dollars depending on what you are getting. I think it’s a little pricey but the markets are located in an up market area and the quality of the food is high.
Woodfire Pizza couresty of Eat Street Facebook

I first went to the market with my friend Jenny. It was  a bit of an out of the way venue for us and we discussed various ways to get there. At first we were going to take public transport because neither of us wanted to drive to a faraway place we had never been to but later Jenny offered to drive.
The markets are very hipster, with lots of trendy people walking around in their skinny jeans and quirky outfits. 

 I also liked how there was plenty of places to sit down and enjoy the food. The markets had plenty of secondhand chairs, milk crates and wooden tables for dining outdoors which added to the hipster feel. I hate having to eat and stand, especially if I’m eating something messy and awkward. There was an overwhelming variety of food available from all parts of the world. So we wandered around looking at everything. There was Korean sliders, crispy Peking duck, wood fire pizzas,  chicken satay, cheese krunsky, calamari, calzones, macaroons, ginger beers, ribs, wings, cronuts, churros, gelati, dumplings, octopus, lamb shanks etc. Jenny and I decided to share food so we got the Korean slider burgers, Capricosa pizza and herbal iced tea.
The ice tea that Jenny and I had. Photo courtesy of Jenny
I recommend bringing some plastic containers so you can take food home. There were so many things we wanted to try but we were already too full. Usually, the food is served on plates or bowls to be eaten there so you can’t really take it home with you. I think it’s better to go the markets if you are in a group because you can share food and sample a bit of everything. Besides food, there are two live bands for entertainment and a few stalls selling handicrafts and vintage stuff. The emphasis of the markets is food though so there’s not much to do after you have eaten.

Korean sliders that we ate. 
I also went to the markets again on another day with my brother and mum. This time we bought chicken satays, calamari, curry puffs, coconut ice cream, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, a German food platter and ginger beer. I really liked the curry puffs and coconut ice cream. The ice cream is soft serve and there is a good coconut flavor.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Entertainment Monday: Jersey Boys (July 14, 2014)


For the 4th of July weekend a couple of weeks back I visited with my family for a few days and mom and I decided to go to the movies and watch Jersey Boys, Clint Eastwood's movie adaptation of the Broadway play about the life and times of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. 



Jersey Boys the movie somewhat follows the tradition of a play translated to the big screen by having the characters speak in asides to the audience.  So it tries as much as possible to stay true stylistically to a play, which I like.  The movie chronicles the founding and rise to fame of The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi.  The story line is entertaining and easy to follow.  It's not one of those movies where you have to figure stuff out, it is what it is.  Frankie Valli as the lead singer with a unique vocal range has the star power that carries the group to success, but they must fight through the financial hardships brought on in large part by Tommy DeVito the band's lead guitarist. 

The music is a sampling of many of the Four Seasons greatest hits (penned by Gaudio) including such songs as Ragdoll, Walk Like a Man, Dawn, Big Girls Don't Cry and December 1963 (Oh What a Night) as well as other hits.  If the actors do their own singing then the singing is really quite good and far, far better than the singing in the movie adaptation of MaMa Mia for example. If you love the Four Season's music you might take a critical eye to the song performances, but if you are simply a movie-goer looking for a fun movie then the music performance is not an obstacle to your enjoyment.




The personalities, both their personal and professional dynamic are interesting and portrayed quite well.  Tommy DeVito's character is both very likable and also very easy not to like at the same time.  He is established as the driving force behind the band but comes off as someone who is looking out only for his own best interests, while veiling his monatary gambles under the guise of group management and marketing.  I think all the characters are likable but faulted, falling victim to some of the pitfalls that many famous bands fall victim to, especially in regards to relationship fidelity.  

Overall the movie is a good movie and worth the ticket price if you are a fan of plays.  If you don't particularly enjoy plays then the style of the movie may not appeal to you, but I think it's still worth the Red Box rental on a rainy night or cold winter night. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

FIFA World Cup 3/4 Final and Championship



Once again I had a split decision with my FIFA World Cup semi final predictionns.  I was tempted to say that Germany would run away with it against Brazil in my prediction but I used more discretion.  Turns out a bolder prediction would have probably even fallen short of the anihalation that Germany pulled off against the home favorites.

I do feel for the Brazilian fans.  I remember wanting the United States to do better than they did back when the World Cup was held here in 1994 I believe. I did not expect a championship but I hoped for a deep run into the tournament that never came to be.  I know that my disapointment for the U.S.A. back then and even now does not even compare to what the Brazilian people must feel.  With that said, as a die hard Mets/Chargers and Islanders fan my entire life I have a little bit better sense for the heart break that comes with losing.  The perspective I do not have even with my fandom in those sports is that of a fan who is used to his team being dominant or used to his team having a storied history and the expectation that comes with that kind of sustained success.  I imagine when you're used to disapointment you have to mitigate the sting a bit or you would be in perpetual depression.  When you're not used to disapointment then I think the sting of defeat might feel sharper to those people.

As I type Brazil is competing against Holland for the 3/4th place finish.  I want Brazil to win because the Holland coach supposedly made some kind of comment playing down the importance of the 3/4 match up.  I say supposedly because I heard about his comment from a third party and have not looked into them myself as of yet.  IF something like what I was told is true than I would definitely support Brazil.  Plus it would be nice for them to save some face anyway after the difficult and embarrassing lose to Germany. 

I predicted the Netherlands would make the finals against Germany in an all Euro FIFA final.  Argentina however held up their end of the bargin in the originally favored final of Brazil v. Argentina.  I think that both the Netherlands and Argentina played a defensive minded game and were evenly matched.  I still hate the penalty kick as a deciding factor in this sport.  As much as I've come to enjoy football I do not know if I'll ever feel comfortable with excepting the penalty kick as a deciding factor in important games.  Even though I expected the Netherlands to come out on top I am happy that Argentina won.  Messi has been my favorite player in the tournament and I wanted to see him win a title once the U.S. was eliminated.

Semi Final Prediction: the Netherlands 2 Brazil 1.  I think that Brazil will show much better in the 3/4 place final then they did against Germany.  I believe though that without Neymar and after the difficulties and stresses of the loss to Germany that a more talented Netherlands team takes it.  I HOPE though that Brazil is able to prove me wrong and give their fans at least a small sense of redemption and pride for a team they had such great expectations for.

Finals Prediction:  Germany 4 Argentina 2.  I think that the final will be a wide open contest with both teams showing off their offensive chops.  I was extremely impressed though by Argentina's goal tender during the penalty portion of their match against Holland.  The German goal tender has impressed me a lot during the entire tournament and I believe should another penalty kick situation arise that he would be much more up to the test than the Dutch goalie was.   I have hopes for both Argentina and Germany in the final.  I would like to see Argentina win because I think that Messi deserves to have a World Cup title on his already impressive resume.  I also have made some online friends from Argentina over the years.  I would like to see Germany win because from a team stand point they have impressed me the most of any team in the tournament.  I also have online friends from Germany who I would be happy for should the German side win.  Not to mention that it would be kind of nice to see the top team from the U.S. group take the title, with the knowledge that the U.S.A. played a close 1-0 contest agains the eventual World Champion.  My biggest hope is that the final will not come down to penalty kicks.  I would like to see one team or the other win it in either regulation or extra time.

After the Championship match tommorrow I hope to give my final thoughts on this year's FIFA World Cup. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

A day in the life of a substitute teacher


I started working as substitute teacher last month as a way to get into teaching. I am a qualified teacher and I’m still looking for permanent work. I haven’t had much success in job hunting so I’m hoping subbing will help me to build relationships with schools so that they think of me when an opening comes up.

The Education Department in Queensland has a division called Tracer which allocates substitute teachers in government schools. So in the mornings, I wait to get a call from Tracer to tell me what school I’m subbing for the day. Teachers can allocate school preferences and grades so I have a bit of an idea of what to expect for the day.

Once I decide to accept a job, I quickly pack my lunch and prepare for the grade that I have been assigned to teach. I’m still starting out so I don’t know most of the classes at the schools so I plan general lessons that revise what students from that grade would know.  For example, I have students practice handwriting, do an English piece and put up some sums on the board for math.  Usually, teachers leave some work behind for the substitute teachers but sometimes I have to plan my own. If the teacher leaves stuff to do then I make sure the children do that. If they finish quickly they have to do my stuff as well.

The first thing I do when I arrive at the school is go to the administration office. I introduce myself to the receptionist and they hand me a schedule and tell me about the school. I find my classroom and scope it out. I get ideas of what the children are like and what they are learning about by looking around the room. I think of possible lesson I could teach them. I also look for any notes that the teacher has left behind for me as well as the phone. It’s important to know where the phone is and how to call the office in case something happens.

I also meet the other teachers in the area and they give me advice about what to do. Most of them tell me that I can call on them for help and I’m glad that they are so nice. I smile at any child that peeps into the window and say hello.
When the children come in, I introduce myself and tell them how the day will run. I also explain what my expectations are and how they will be rewarded. I give out stickers to reward good behavior and work. Most students love to get the stickers and that motivates them to work well.
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Every class has a trouble maker and their behavior is worse than usual because I’m not their regular teacher. It can be challenging and frustrating dealing with those students but nothing I can’t handle. I try to talk to them, make them aware of the choices they make and the consequences. I also send them out of class to be disciplined if I need to and I try to get them to work. Sometimes, they can’t be reasoned with and they don’t want to learn so when that happens I focus on supervision rather than learning. I give the child some menial task to do that will keep them busy or I let them continue their activity as long as they do not disturb others. I also let them know that they will be doing the class work in detention if they choose to continue playing around.  I have twenty four other children to look after so I can’t spend time dealing with one or two unruly children.
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Sometimes, the whole class can be hard to control. Working with children when they are disruptive is like trying to put out fires. Once you have put out one fire, there’s another fire you have to put out. I’ve had classes where there were children running around the room, children touching things they shouldn’t, one or two children asking me stuff, tattlers come to me to tell me things, someone crying and it’s all happening all at once. It can be overwhelming dealing with that kind of situation.

In that situation, I go about the room telling students to go to their seats. If anyone talks to me, I’m like a broken record. I say, “Not right now, go to your seat, “until they do it. If the children are still talking, I put marks on the board which I explain represents all the minutes that they will be spending in detention. I give them a big lecture and I get them to stay quiet until I say they can talk again.
Warning- this film contains profanity. 
When a class is out of control, safety becomes a priority over learning. When a class is out of control, stuff gets damaged and people get hurt so it’s important to shut down all activities until they under control. When the children become more cooperative and respectful class resumes again. I let go of any animosity after the punishment because the children need to have a fresh start. I try to organize fun things that the children will enjoy and end the day on a high note.

Some days all the children go home happy. Other days it’s almost all of them except for a few naughty kids. The naughty kids usually go home grumbling because they spent the whole day battling with me to let them get away with doing nothing. At the end of the day, I make the class tidy up their things and they go home when the bell rings. I write a letter to the regular teacher which I leave in the room; it details what happened during the day.
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I find being a substitute teacher to be a good living. I don’t want to do it forever and I wish for my own class. It has been a valuable learning experience for me as I have taught different classes and schools. Before I was terrified of the idea of subbing but now I know it’s not a big deal. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy subbing because it’s like babysitting with a bit of education thrown in (Sorry if I offended any subs out there). I’d rather like my own class so I can watch them grow and help them to learn. I hope I didn't scare any aspiring teachers out there. Teaching is a rewarding career and like any career it has it's advantages and disadvantages. 


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

FIFA World Cup Semi Final Match Ups



The semi finals are now wet with Brazil, Germany, Argentia and Netherlands advancing out of the last round.  I finished 2-2 in the last round as my hope for Colombia and France faded in two closly contested match ups against Brazil and Germany.

First Semi Final: Brazil v. Germany

The big controversy of the World Cup to this point had been Luis Suarez's affinity for biting opponents but that was trumped in the Colombia v Brazil match when National Hero,  Neymar broke a bone in his back after having been kneed in there by a Colombian player.  Leave it to the Sports world to provide the best reality dramas on t.v. today.  Will Brazil collapse without their Super Striker?  Or will the team find inspiration and relief do to lowered expectations and surge into the finals by defeating a German team that became the first team in World Cup history to reach the semi finals four World Cup tournaments in a row?

I like the way both teams have played.  I just wonder if Brazil will lose their flare and lose heart without Neymar.  I think this game really hinges on the first half.  If Brazil is even or ahead at the half I don't see them losing to Germany.  The confidene gained with a first half lead  or goal less tie will be enough as the home crowd carries them the rest of the way.   If Germany can score an early goal then I think we might see the Brazilians succumb to the stresses that have weighed upon them for a good deal of the tournament and lose by 2 or 3 goals. 

Prediction: Germany 2 Brazil 0

I think that the loss of Neymar is too much to overcome against a solid and experienced German team that has been here often and will not feel the pressure that Brazil will in front of its home crowd with a berth in the World Cup Finals at stake.

Second Semi Final: Argentina v. The Netherlands

The Netherlands were a finalist last World Cup and have a talented group of players who are chomping at the bit to get back to the finals and bring home the countries first World Cup championship.  They have several accomoplished players who can put the ball in the back of the net of their opposition.  I think that the number of dangerous offensive players on the Netherlands team gives them an edge over Argentina.

Argentina has the best player on the planet though in Lionel Messi and virtually every goal that the team has scored this tournament has been directly off the foot of Messi or an assist from Messi to one of the other Argentinians.  Messi's importance can not be understated.  Can the Neterlands come up with a game plan to keep him in check and force the other Argentinian footballers to step up?  Will Argetina be lifted on the capable shoulders of Messi Dependence and complete the much anticipated Brazil v Argentina final so many were hoping for?

Prediction: Argentina 2 Netherlands 3

I think that what has been a high scoring tournament thus far will prove to carry out to form in this semi finals match up.   Messi will have an impact as he has all tournament long but that the Netherlands talent up front will provide just enough fire power to counter Messi's star power and get them a return visit to the World Cup Finals.  The Netherlands will then have their eyes and hearts set on the country's first World Championship in a battle against Germany.  The all Euro final may disapoint the South American fans but fate struck a cruel blow to the Brazilians chances and Argentina will need to depend on someone else to step up alongside Messi if they hope to add a 3rd World title to their ledger.  

Monday, 7 July 2014

Maleficent


Sleeping Beauty is one of my favourite fairy tales. I heard the story many times as a child and I liked the magic, fairies and happy ending. In the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, the evil fairy’s name is Maleficent. Maleficent is a re-telling of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the villain Maleficent.
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I had watched Sleeping Beauty as a child and I always thought Maleficent was pretty scary with her big horns and black clothing. The new movie shows how Maleficent became an evil person and why she cursed Sleeping Beauty.
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Maleficent is played Angelina Jolie who has extremely high cheekbones thanks to contouring. She looks beautiful in an otherworldly way. While she looks menacing in the trailer and publicity stills, I didn't find her scary in the movie at all.  Maleficent was the main character after all and watching from her perspective made her more sympathetic.   

Princess Aurora is portrayed by Elle Fanning.  She’s everything that sleeping beauty is meant to be. Aurora is beautiful, sweet, innocent and beloved by all.  Personally I found her a bit dull because there isn’t any dynamic about her.
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My favourite character was someone that I thought about throughout the whole movie. I have deliberately not mentioned the name of the character as I don’t want to spoil it for you.  This particular character was good at the start but turned evil. I was waiting for them to show some redemption as it’s typical in Disney to have an evil character who softens. Usually it’s the comedic henchmen or hunky bad boy who has a change of heart after meeting the heroine but it wasn't so in this case.


Overall I thought Maleficent was cute, simple and entertaining film. I think it’s a perfect movie to see with girlfriends and family.