Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Brightest Day or Blackest Night?

I am conflicted.

But first, thank you for reading my blogs throughout the campaign. Your support been appreciated. From the first blog in June until now I had triple the amount of views. The last blog in February had more than 1500 views. Your messages of support helped me, and my colleagues, through the campaign.

And here we are.


In each blog I was clear - this was never about the money. I said so to motivate my colleagues, to educate the lay person on why we had to fight for a better deal, and on why we inconvenienced parents and students for three-and-a-half days. I meant every single word. More money would be nice. But I saw this as an opportunity to advance our profession. Our log of claims had more provisions that would improve our conditions than it did details about money. I had hope we could take a stand and push teaching well into the 21st Century. That's why I call it a profession - it is more than a mere job or career. It is a calling. It is a noble occupation - one of service and one critical to our development as a society. The best of us are amongst the kindest, more generous and selfless people in the country. We deserve to be treated as such and be able to work in conditions that allow us to excel at our profession.

My expectations have not changed at all.  That is why I am conflicted. My government and my union do not share my expectations.

The government is only concerned with where they can save money. That's why they gutted the regional offices, cut VCAL funding and look to put up performance pay and make it available to only a fixed amount of staff - regardless of overall school performance. (Allow me to digress for a moment - performance standards should be maintained, enforced and developed. Hell perhaps there should be bonuses. But this is not what the government suggested, nor did they put up for a model for what the performance standards would look like. It was dollars and cents - nothing else.) The government has shown no interest in our welfare or creating conditions that would allow us to educate every single kid. Instead we will remain overworked and under resourced. Quite simply - this government does not care about our students or the people we entrust them too everyday. School improvement does not fit the election cycle, nor is it sexy for the TV.

Sadly my union is no better. The campaign was flawed from the start and treated the public like idiots. Instead of promoting our conditions they focused solely on the "best paid in the country" election promise. Politicians lie - especially when seeking re-election. Highlighting this does not court the public's sympathy or support. And it sets us up for failure. When you publicly campaign on the prospect of increased wages you better deliver. The proposed agreement does not give us 30% over three years. It does not give us all 12% over three years either (our revised offer). The figures quoted by the union include the automatic 2.75% from the previous agreement (for not having a new agreement by January 1, 2012). It include the $1000 sign-on bonus. Which is great - I lost just under $900 in pay for striking. At my current pay level I'll end up with around 10% more by 2016. Which I will take.

What I won't take is the conditions. Class sizes are the same (we wanted them lower). Face-to-face hours are the same (we should have wanted them lower). There have been changes to the excess rules which will save the government money because more expensive, experienced teachers will not be able to transfer to another school if their school downsizes or closes. This is great news for the thousand graduates looking for a job. Not so great for the hundreds who have been displaced already. There have been no changes to the situation with contracts. This was a central part of our campaign (as it was in 2004 and 2008) and we have made no progress. Monitoring contracts does not mean a thing - they are monitored now. Maintaining the status quo is fine if you're satisfied with the status quo. And here in lies the problem.

The worst part if the agreement has (as it was in 2008) been presented to the public as a win. From this there is no turning back. It was released to members, finally, on Friday afternoon. Confusingly the government also called it a win and quoted different figures! The public's patience has been stretched by our strikes, the government's stubbornness and the fact that a lot of people don't rate what we do.

Here is the conflict. We vote NO and reject a pretty shitty deal and we probably spend another year negotiating. The government does not want to give us more money - which is why they have not in the proposed deal. The public will not support us through more strikes and don't even notice the other bans we had in place with the exception of reports. The 38 hour week? My school cancelled exactly one event - and it was one that teachers barely attended anyway. Teachers don't like to do things that disadvantage students. Our hearts are just too big. And that's why the campaign is over. 

If we vote YES we accept the deal and the conditions. This is great if you're fine with how things are now. It is basically the same. We have made no progress and, to be honest, the union is not interested in this either. I doubt most teachers are interested in it. But they should be. We allowed them to run a campaign about the pay, and allowed factions to debate the place of entertainment in our rallies. It is time we expect more of ourselves and our officials.

The answer then lies with the teachers. If you want to be treated like a professional you need to act like one and we, as a profession, need start holding each other to a higher standard. Most importantly we need to hold our government and our union to that standard. If we want progress then it will come from us. We deserve to be paid and treated as if we are being entrusted to enrich and develop the next generation. We must work to convince others, including our union leaders, that this is what we want.

But not this battle. This campaign is done. We have a government and union that are only interested in dollars and cents.

I am conflicted on how I will vote for this agreement. I don't see the point in voting NO, but barely agree with the YES.

I am clear about what I expect from my government and my union. When the time comes I will vote accordingly on both.

We are a great profession. We need to remind them of it.

I want this profession to move forward. And I will continue to fight for conditions that are better for our children.

Do me a favour. This week write to a teacher (current or former). You can find them on facebook no doubt. Express your gratitude. Their union and our government has kicked them - pick them up again. Trust me, we rarely get acknowledged for what we do. If you know someone who deserves send them a quick note. 

"People should not be afraid of their governments - Governments should be afraid of their people."
Thank you for your support.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The best, worst & strange comic book movies

10 that worked -
In order to work they need to both represent the source material fairly and still make the most of the cinematic medium. Ideally a comic book movie will be worthy of a simple title- film. The following films had great directors, Oscar worthy casts, a solid script and an immersive experience that makes the audience believe in heroes. They might be fun but never disrespect the source material or comic book fans.

10. X Men First Class
9. Batman 89
8. X men 2
7. Kick Ass
6. Hell Boy
5. Superman II
4. Spider-Man 2
3. Iron man
2. Avengers
1. The dark knight trilogy
UPDATE: After suggestions on Facebook I need to include The Crow and Blade (actually I rate Blade 2 higher than the first one). These two made comic book movies 'adult' again after the last couple of Batman films pushed them too far into being camp and kid toy friendly. Just outside the top 10 include: Thor, X-Men, Spider-Man, Hell Boy and the awesome (but far different to the source comic) V For Vendetta.   

10 that didn't -
Comic book movies that don't work usually have some of the follow characteristics: too many crap villains, a dull plot, uninspired dialogue and usually at least one really strange and misplaced sequence. The featured hero usually strays in a weird way from the source material too. The top one here has them all.
10. Spider-Man 3
9. Wolverine
8. Fantastic Four 2
7. Daredevil
6. Elektra
5. Hulk (ang lee)
4. Catwoman
3. Green lantern
2. Batman & Robin
1. Superman IV
UPDATE: How could I forget SuperGirl? The first Fantastic Four isn't great either but the second one is worse. Ditto Superman 3 - the next one was just dull and a far worse film. Others that would come outside the top 10 include Amazing Spider-Man, Blade Trinity, Jonah Hex, and Judge Dredd (Stallone version), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.
10 weird ones that could go either way -
Sometimes a producer deserves credit for trying. Sometimes the source material itself is really tough to fit into a film. 10-6 here gave it a good cracked but were plagued by shitty effects, a pointless plot (ahem 9 & 8), or something just not feeling right. I actually like 1-5. They're pretty bold in their approach but for different reasons didn't quite click with audiences.
10. The Shadow
9. Dredd (2012)
8. Superman Returns
7. Ghost Rider
6. Flash
5. Batman Returns
4. Incredible Hulk
3. Punisher
2. Sin City
1. Watchmen
UPDATE: A few that fit here (good films that were a bit weird or tried too hard and didn't find an audience): The Phantom, Swamp Thing, TNMT (animated film), Spawn, 300, Captain America: First Avenger.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The importance of friendship at work

In the last episode of The Office (UK) Tim turns to the camera and says this:

"The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don't know them, it wasn't your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day."

Tim of course runs out into the night to chase the one colleague he could stand walking around on the same bit of carpet with. They make out. It's lovely. The audience had been waiting three years for it to happen.

It is easy to be cynical about the nature of work relationships. Tim is right. Most of our week is spent with people we are just thrown together with. But we don't need to limit ourselves to this lonely and soulless reality. Some of the best moments I've had in my professional life have come from working with people I care about. I've been blessed to meet people I've come to call friends - who I've shared wedding days with, the births of our children, engagements, new houses, new pets, renovations and birthdays. There have been sad times too - funerals, changing jobs, break ups and bust ups. These triumphs and tragedies, unite us, bind us and bring us together. It gives us something share beyond carpet and work. And it's really important we make the effort to know our colleagues.

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor lists social investment as one of the seven principles that fuels success at work. Achor explains that in times of stress and difficulty at work most people tend to shy away and spend more time 'on work' (even when at home) than they do with people. Research shows that successful people, and by extension organisations, actually strengthen their connection with people during times of high stress. They still take time to laugh and swap stories, to share coffee and have lunch. People who work together on a problem are more likely to solve that problem. Social investment, even just stopping in the hallway and asking someone how they are, is a positive interaction that sparks a moment of happiness. The more of these moments we share, the stronger our social connection and the better we can perform our work.

In each of the places I have worked I have sought to do this. I am not by nature an extrovert. But I like people and I like learning. I really like people who like learning which is a major reason why I've made friends with teachers. Our job is incredibly demanding and rarely acknowledged (at least by government). The friendships I have formed have sustained me through some tough times. Like any profession it is full of politics, pressure to perform and strange traditions. My relationships with the people I work with make it all bearable.

When I was disappointed at not being promoted it was the people around me who pulled me through. They encouraged me, dissected it with me, drank with me. One told me to stop moping and realise the opportunity for what it was - a step forward.

The good times are just as important. At work we celebrate birthdays with a morning tea or lunch. One person's special day is everyone's chance to catch up and descend on the staff room. A few years ago, having made the decision to work the day before my wedding, I arrived to find my desk "wedding bombed". I was still picking glitter out of books eight months later. It will be one of my enduring memories of the place - even as I forget the kids, VCE score and curriculum documents. My recent blog on the trivia team was a collection of colleagues who got together in the middle of school holidays. I've stopped counting all the Strathmore and Rosehill aunts/uncles who have visited my new born.

It is easy to be cynical. It is really hard to be open and honest with our colleagues. But it is worth it. I, for one, can't imagine working in a place where all I shared with people is the carpet. I've managed to achieve a lot in a relatively short amount of time. I know I could not have done any of it without my friends.

Especially the one I ended up chasing, making out with, marrying and having a daughter with. She's one of a kind.

Tim knows what I mean.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Part 3 - Reimagining the Star Wars Prequels

 The last installment is here.
By the third episode the differences between Obi Wan and Anakin are pronounced. Anakin's lust for power an glory means he ignores the Jedi code in favour of methods that guarantee victory. Obi Wan however continues to follow the code and behave honourably, even as his friend begins to pull away from him. Naturally they must face each other, though I've changed the context from the original Episode 3. Lucas put darth vader's physical state firmly on the shoulders of Obi Wan. My version is a little different. I think Obi wan has seen vader's mask before they cross paths in episode 4 so I've addressed that here. I also thought it was important to address why Obi Wan lies to Luke, so I've tried to do something about that. 

I've also added to the Emporer's character in a way that is more fitting to the vibe of the original trilogy. The Empire always gave the appearance they were an entirely human army led by a charismatic dictator. This vibe was lost in the prequels as Palpatine's was surrounded by more colorful advisors. 

There's a neat sequence that provides some nice context to the Bobba Fett-Vader relationship too. I just thought it would be good to establish that prior to Empire Strikes Back. There's also Wookies, Tarkin and we end in a similar place to Lucas' own episode 3. Why? Cuz I actually didn't mind that part of it.

Let me know what you think.


Over the ocean planet Mon Calamari, a star destroyer pursues a Corellian cruiser firing on it to slow it down. Fighters are deployed from underneath to engage the clone fighters. After a skirmish the star destroyer is successful in slowing the cruiser. Using their tractor beam them capture the craft and board. Anakin Skywalker leads the storm troopers in and captures the clone captain. When the captain refuses to cooperate, he uses the force to choke him into revealing the clone facility on the planet below. He reports this information to Admiral Tarkin who commences bombing of the planet. The two communicate the success of their mission to Emperor Palpatine.  

With the Clone Army fighting for survival, the Republic begins to reorganize to ensure their survival in a prolonged battle. Palpatine grants himself emergency powers to give specific orders to the military. Padme meets with Bail and Mon Motha to discuss these developments and agree to present their concerns to Master Yoda.

Anakin returns home with Tarkin and meets with Padme. The two have continued their affair in private and she is pregnant with twins. They discuss the new order and Anakin admits he is pleased Palpatine is seeking to end the war quickly. Padme worries about the direction and admits to wanting an audience with Yoda. Anakin dismisses her fears as he as fallen out with the Jedi over his relationship with Palpatine.

Obi Wan finds Anakin training with Boba Fett. Obi Wan wants a report on Anakin’s mission, which he delivers flippantly. Noticing the change in his demeanor, Obi Wan senses his fear and asks what is wrong. He rudely dismisses Fett from the room. Anakin admits to having visions of Padme’s death. Obi Wan warns him of fear, and encourages him to meditate and find his balance again. He suggests they retreat together away from the war, a suggestion Anakin resents. He complains that the council would not recongise the rank Palpatine has bestowed on him and accuses Yoda of playing favourites.

Palpatine summons Obi Wan to his quarters. There he offers Obi Wan the chance to replace Yoda as head of the order. Not willing to betray his master, he declines but realizes Palpatine attempts to use the Jedi Mind trick. Palpatine flatters Obi Wan and offers to train him so that he can stand by his side in bringing justice back to the galaxy. Palpatine orders him to track down Grevious to prove his loyalty. Obi Wan appears to accept though has been alerted to Palpatine’s use of the force.

Before his departure Obi Wan meets with Yoda and Padme. He admits to them his suspicions that Palpatine is strong in the darkside of the force. Padme tells them she has been meeting with Organa and Motha about the possibility of defeating Palpatine once victory over the clones is assured. Yoda explains that the future is cloudy and no Jedi has been able to see it clearly for sometime. Motha unveils the results of her own research  - each of the planets that have had a clone facility homes a non-human race. Each had won a defense contact, which had later been proven to clone factory, approved by Palpatine. Palpatine’s xenophobia has seen him attack only planets with alien races. Sensing a conspiracy, Obi Wan promises to bring back Grevious alive.

Anakin finds out Obi Wan has been given the mission and confronts Yoda. Angry that he has again been over looked he quits the order. He goes to Palpatine who tells him that the Jedi do not see him as someone capable of wielding unlimited power. He tells him that Obi Wan is considered the successor to Yoda’s title and that he knows they plan to control the republic for themselves. Jealous, Anakin pledges his allegiance to the Emperor and swears to protect his legacy. Palpatine offers to complete his training and show him things the Jedi would not.

Anakin sends Boba to kill Grevious, telling him to stop Obi Wan if he interferes.

Obi Wan finds Gervious and after a chase through the caves is able to corner him. Grevious reveals his lightsaber and admits to having undergone Sith training. The two duel and Obi Wan forces Grevious to submit. As he loads him into his ship, Fett appears and uses a disintegrating gun to assassinate Grevious. Obi Wan chases him but Fett escapes. Furious, Obi Wan returns to Courscant to confront Anakin.

Anakin announces the defeat of Grevious. Padme is elated that Obi Wan is victorious but Anakin shoots this notion down, explaining that he had Grevious assassinated. He dismisses her optimism that Motha will now take over calling her a traitor. Angry at her weakness he force chokes her, before releasing her.

The alliance attempt to force a vote against Palpatine though he is undaunted by the rebellion. Palpatine wins when other senators refuse to vote against him. He declares there is a Jedi plot to over throw him and orders the arrest of master Yoda. He introduces his new commander, Darth Vader, who emerges dressed in a mask and black cloak.

While this is happening, assassins attempt to kills the leaders of the alliance and a number of Jedi masters. They are successful in killing most of them, though Mace Windu and Yoda evade capture. Obi Wan manages to arrive back and protect Organa and Motha- who agree to leave the planet with Yoda. Windu decides to confront the Sith Lords to aid their escape. Vader himself kills Windu after a battle in which Vader is badly burned. He requires extensive robotic surgery that Palpatine organizes.

Having successfully declared himself Emperor and defeated his local enemies, Palpatine decides to end the clone wars. He gives Vader and Tarkin the location of the final cloning facility- a planet known as Kyysshk. From their new base on Dantooee, the Organa and Motha realize Kayysshk has also received a defense factory and, antipating The Emporer's move, they send Obi Wan and a rogue squadron of fighters to Kyyyssshk to confront Vader and restore the Jedi name.

The wookies, who realise the threat posed by the invading storm troopers, attempt to defend their home planet. The Empire unleashes their walkers who attack the wookies while Tarkin’s star destroyers bomb the cloning facility. The Rogue Squadron engage the star destroyers with limited success.

Inside the facility Vader faces Obi Wan who, despite Vader's face being completely hidden by a mask and helmet,  recognises him as Anakin. Obi Wan attempts to reason with his friend but realises he is overcome with fear and hate. Vader dismisses Obi Wan for trying to soften him and taunts him for being afraid of solitude and power – a result of being abandoned as a child. He offers Obi Wan the chance to join him on the darkside. Obi retorts that his friend is dead so he is alone anyway – he will not succumb to temptation. Realizing Obi Wan will not join him Vader attacks Obi Wan. During the battle Obi Wan is successful in injuring Vader. Vader attempts to use his force lightning but is unable to do so, his physical humanity having been replaced by wires and gears. Obi Wan seizes the opportunity to remove the last of Vader’s human legs. Standing over Vader, Obi Wan admits he has been afraid. He knew Anakin was turning to the dark side but couldn’t confront him. He apologizes since Anakin’s failure to find balance in the force means he failed as a teacher and friend.

Having defeated the Rogue Squadron, Tarkin continues to bomb the facility and villages so Obi Wan escapes, leaving Vader behind. Vader recovers and is rescued by Storm troopers. The Empire wins and enslaves the wookies.

On small cruiser the principle members of the rebel alliance meet. Padme’s wounds are fatal but she asks if Anakin survived Vader’s assault. Obi Wan replies that Vader murdered Anakin. Yoda’s gaze indicates he knows this is not the truth but he nods his approval. Padme clings to life as she gives birth to twins but soon dies. They mourn Padme and Anakin. Organa agrees to take the girl of the two twins. Yoda and Obi Wan agree to watch over the male and both go into hiding in separate locations. Motha returns to Courscant to monitor the Emperor.

The Emperor, a repaired and upgraded Vader and Admiral Tarkin over look the construction of their new space station- the death star.

Obi Wan delivers the child to his childhood planet of Tatooee and watches as Owen and Beau Lars take the boy inside. He dons a brown cloak and retreats into the mountains as the twin suns set.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April 4 - The Tale of the Lucky 13

The frustration had been growing. Too many Thursday nights, in the heat and the cold, had ended in defeat. There had been consolation prizes of course - the odd jug of beer, a Jesus Disco Lamp - but nothing that could be considered victory. There were moral victories - the night just three showed up only to lose by the smallest of margins was one moment that is still spoken of with pride. There were 'could have beens' - the failure to recognize 'Complicated' as Avril Lavigne's first single, or forgetting the name of the dog in the Brady Bunch, being talked into naming Suzie Quattro as the voice of 'I Love Rock & Roll'. Such is the life of a trivia team. To compete is to court disappointment and, yes, a difficult life of regret and shame.

So a plan was formed. A plan that would bring glory to each of them. A plan that would end the frustration. A plan so audacious that Danny Ocean himself would walk away without taking a cent. An all in, all star assault on the Lord Newry Hotel's monthly trivia crown. For once invites would be sent two weeks before to rally the troops. The rally cry was simple - Help us win. No exclamation mark, nor all caps, were required. And rally they did. Three returned to the team from time away. New faces joined. The torch bearers, who had more than their fair share of disappointment, all arrived. The Lucky 13, as they were to be known, had assembled.

There was nervous laughter as the host began his opening monologue. Would they be victorious? Did they have all the major knowledge categories covered? There were an awful lot of humanities teachers of course. The first question threw seeds of doubt upon their fragile alliance. Where the hell was Fanny Bay? There was much head scratching, biting of lips and gnawing of teeth. And then the power of the 13 became realized. One of the new comers had been there! With much prompting they recalled the trip and low and behold the state was realized! One point to the Lucky 13!

Their relationships would be tested. There was furious debate as to which hit was Lady Gaga's first single. One declared that this was "Sk8r Boi all over again." No phones were used and the answer was selected. It was wrong but it would not matter. The first round would be won by a solitary point. A jug of beer was the prize and they celebrated clearing this initial hurdle (much like you will celebrate when I stop using cliches and mixing metaphors). The subsequent music round played to the groups strengths with 17/18 scored and another round win. The final round was flawless. Each team member contributed.

And they were made to wait. The ShitHouse Showcase was played before they announced the winner! The tension built. Men headed for the bathroom while women stared stone faced at the host. Finally, after an exhaustive wait (at least as long as it takes for an AFL goal review), the Lucky 13 knew the result.

They had won. Finally they were victorious. Two years of frustration and moral victories ended. They now held the title of Monthly Trivia Champions. Thirteen unique minds who bound together to defeat more than 80 others. It was glorious. They celebrated together before heading separately into the night.

Until next month when they will defend their crown.  As David Bowie would say: they are heroes, just for one day.

(You were expecting the final part of the Star Wars remake? Come back over the weekend. You won't be disappointed.)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reimagining the Star Wars prequels - Part 2

If you haven't read yesterday's blog which featured the rationale for remaking the prequels and the first episode then you can do so here: http://daprano.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/reimagining-star-wars-prequels.html

Having used the first episode to both establish the relationship between Anakin and Obi Wan, and show off Anakin's piloting abilities, it is time to show their differences.

At the end of my Episode 1, Anakin and Obi Wan are victorious. They worked together to save the day. Of course, it was Anakin who saved Obi Wan but he was unable to defeat Darth Maul who managed to escape. Publically at least they are seen as equals. However Obi Wan is promoted ahead of Anakin, a move Anakin mocks. In this Episode the goal is to show why Anakin is tempted to choose a different path to Obi Wan. The audience is left to decide which of the two has behaved heroically.

For sub-plots there is the growing relationship between Padme and Anakin, the partnership between Obi Wan and Bail Organa (which Leia hints at in A New Hope) as well as the first appearances of General Grevious and the Fetts. I always liked in Empire Strikes Back that Bobba and Vader seemed familiar with each other. Some seeds for this are planted in this episode.

The goal with these remakes is to position the characters better for the original trilogy.

Let me know what you think!


A Jedi shuttles descends to a desert planet Geonosis and lands behind a hill. Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi emerge wearing Jedi military attire. Anakin comments on Obi Wan’s new rank of general as they move into a position to observe the installation below.

Below them is a massive plant. Complete with smoke stacks, the industrial complex is used to produce clones. Obi Wan radios to their in-orbit command ship that they will move in. The two reach an air duct that will allow them to enter. Inside they are able to observe and photograph the production line that incubates clones so they are born quicker. Anakin comments on the implications of this discovery – the clones will out number the inexperienced Republic army before long.

They are detected by droids and forced from their hiding place. Surrounded, they are able to use their force powers (speed, jump and push) to escape. They agree to split up to make and rendezvous at their shuttle. Anakin runs into a dead end and is surrounded by warrior Geonosisians. He takes out his light sabre and attacks them- dismembering all so that he is able to escape into a hatch. Obi Wan is able to use his force skills to mind tricks to leave via a side door. The two reunite outside and head for their shuttle though Obi Wan falls into a pit. With droids and warriors approaching, Anakin is able to force-lift Obi Wan out of trouble and uses his force-push to knock away the approaching droids.

Following a chase the two Jedi return to their shuttle to meet the approaching lander. From the lander giant Walkers emerge to approach the complex. Obi Wan and Anakin watch from afar as the Walkers fire on and destroy the complex.

Upon their return to Coruscant they debrief with their Commander Mace Windu. Both make light of their brushes with trouble and report the success of the mission. Yoda enters and warns the two that they must remain mindful of the bigger threat- the two Sith lords who have not been seen for sometime. Anakin boasts that they would be no match for Obi Wan and himself, which Yoda does not find amusing so he mocks Anakin’s overconfidence.

In the Senate, the senator for Mustafar admonishes the decision to attack his allied system – Geonosis. Palpatine argues that anyone who aids the clones is no friend of the Republic. With an election looming his speech has taken on a strong nationalist rhetoric. Padme and Organa exchange worrying glances, as the Mustafar senator is silence by the cheering senators who support Palpatine’s campaign to be elected High Chancellor.

Later, Padme meets with Anakin and Obi Wan to catch up. While they discuss the political climate, something Anakin has little interest in, the sky turns dark. Sensing a disturbance in the force, the two Jedi take Padme to the Jedi temple and realize Pirate Clone ships have filled the sky. The Senate reconvenes. The Jedi plan a strategy as the Senate prepares an evacuation. It is decided to have Jedi accompany the Senators in their escape. Anakin accompanies Padme, and Obi Wan accompanies Organa.

Padme and Anakin use Anakin’s star fighter to escape the new blockade and escape to Naboo. Obi Wan and Bail head to Dantooee on a commercial ship. Palpatine refuses Windu’s offer to go and pledges to remain until there is nothing of Coruscant left. With a depleted reserve, and the majority of Jedi Knights elsewhere, the capital falls quickly and Palpatine goes into hiding. General Grevious, a part cyborg/alien who leads the attack, declares victory for the pirate army as they occupy the capital.

Meanwhile on Naboo, Anakin and Padme find a safe house. Padme admits her attraction to him, but Anakin is unable to reciprocate due to his Jedi Oath – whci forbids the indulgence of intense emotions including passion. An assassin eventually finds them and attempts to kill both. Anakin is able to defeat them easily though not without sustaining damage to his leg. While nursing him, Padme seduces him and Anakin willingly accepts. Knowing that they are not safe, Padme decides they must leave, as she won’t risk damage to Naboo.

At the same time Bail and Obi Wan find themselves disguised as pirates on Dantooee. Unable to remain incapacitated the two agree to see what they can find out.  They eventually find themselves recruited into a mission with a weapons expert known as Jango Fett. They journey to Yavin 4 and attend a pirate meeting. They are astonished to find a battalion of pirate clones ready for battle. There they also see plans for a facility that Jango confesses will “win the war.” The Death Star is a space station that, when built, will destroy all. Organa doubts the pirates will be able to secure the funds to build such a station but Obi Wan senses a dark presence nearby. Obi Wan recognizes Darth Maul and begins to follow him but he evades him. Deciding to return to Coruscant, the two confront Jango with their true identities and arrest him. They commandeer his ship, The Slave, and head back home. They allow his son Bobba to accompany them.

On the outskirts of the system the two parties meet with senator Mon Motha and Yoda. They receive a message from Palpatine who asks for reinforcements. Motha has gathered the remnants of the Republic fleet to take back the capital but has been unable to contact Palpatine on the surface. Anakin suggests a full assault on Grevious to bring down the army once and for all. They eventually agree on a more elusive strategy that should force them from the planet and allow Motha to restore government. Privately, Obi Wan tells Yoda of Maul and the Death Star.

They use The Slave to approach the system. Obi Wan notices the closeness between Anakin and Padme but says nothing. The plan works and they are able to land. Making their way through the Jedi Temple they find Sidious, Maul and Grevious. Sidious flees but Maul uses his force powers to bring the roof down, while Grevious throws grenades. Padme and Motha are injured, while Obi Wan is able to save Organa. Fett is killed when he attempts to follow the Sith lords. Anakin gives chase to Maul, Obi Wan tracks down Sidious and Organa tends to the injured women. Bobba and Yoda emerge from the rubble, though head in different directions. Obi wan is unable to locate Sideous but finds Palpatine imprisoned and frees him.

Finally, Anakin confronts Maul. They battle furiously with Anakin the aggressor. He succeeds in relieving Maul of his double-edged lightsaber, though Maul reveals a second spare one. Maul manages to cut off Anakin’s hand leaving him defenseless and in agony. Maul offers Anakin mercy – if he will join him on the darkside. Anakin, enraged by Maul’s renewed taunts, unleashes a stream of white lighting from his good hand towards his enemy. Maul is knocked from the platform and falls into the electrical station below. Staring at his smokey hand he realizes he has avenged his parents and collapses to the ground in tears cradling his injured arm.

Clone troopers find the weakened Anakin and attack him. Anakin is able to hold them off, using Maul’s second lightsaber, but finds himself cornered. When he nudges them away using the force, Bobba appears and distracts the clones. Anakin beheads them. He gives a knowing wink to the young boy as they leave the area.

Palpatine uses Anakin’s exploits and “promotes” him to Jedi Master. Anakin, a hero of the battle, stands at the side of Palpatine as he wins the election when Mon Motha concedes defeat. He describes the republic as an unbreakable empire that will now crush the clone menace. Yoda, Obi Wan and Mace exchanged concerned looks as Padme looks into Anakin’s eyes across the great hall.

Reimagining the Star Wars prequels

I don't usually write fan fiction. The very phrase carries with it a plethora of connotations - most of them involving weird sex (think very carefully before you click that link).

But after watching Red Letter Media's Plickett reviews of the Star Wars prequels I did jot down some ideas. (If you haven't seen the reviews set aside a couple of hours and click on that link. It is worth it.)

So I had a little crack at rewriting the prequels based around the following problems:
  • There is no protagonist in The Phantom Menace. 
  • There is no likeable protagonist in any of the films. Obi Wan just does dumb things that he learned from his dumb master. 
  • Having C3-PO and R2-D2 around causes more plot headaches than it is worth. 
  • Jar Jar Binks exists. 
  • There is actually little action and lots of talking about trade federations and blockades and midichroleans. This stuff, coupled with some really dull characters and directing choices, makes the movies boring.
What had me most excited about the prequels were some of the insights we received from Obi Wan in the original film (A New Hope). This was all we had about the time before Luke found the droids. He spoke of nobility when discussing the Jedi and provided two important pieces of information about Anakin Skywalker - he was "the best star pilot in the galaxy" and he was "a good friend." Well the prequels as they exist don't show us any of this. Being able to race pods makes him the best pilot? Strange, especially when Obi Wan isn't even present for the whole sequence. For my remake the story centers on Obi Wan and Anakin's friendship - from meeting to disintegration.

I didn't think too much about it so many of the planets and characters from the available prequels still appear. I've also tried to show that Leia's father (Bail Organa) served with Obi Wan in the Clone Wars since this is the only reason she messages him in the original film anyway. I've kept Darth Maul and Padme (though her character is much more straight forward). What I did axe was some of the characters who appeared far too often (the trade federation, Count Douku) or in roles they were ill suited (Yoda should not wield a lightsaber. Ever.) There's no droids, Jar Jar or Chewbacca. But there are Wookies and some more background on Boba Fett (though not in the episode below). There's no Han Solo but there's pirates. And a clone war that actually appears in the films - not an accompanying animated series.

What follows is a really rough outline for a remade Episode 1. I'll post the other episodes over the next few days too. Comments and crticisms are more than welcome.


Above Naboo, a Mon Calamari cruiser is attacked by a pirates. On board is teenager Anakin Skywalker and his parents. The pirates face off against the security squad of Senator Palpatine of Naboo. Specifically the leading pirate wears a black, hooded cloak that hides his face. The pirates are successful in subduing the bridge and begin to clear the decks, looking for the senator. While ransacking guest quarters, they are stopped by the Skywalkers who are killed in front of Anakin. Anakin escapes to the dock and commandeers one of the pirate star fighters. He attacks the pirate ship is able to out maneuver their fighters. His piloting appears to be on instinct and he is successful in disabling the pirate ship. Escape pods manage to get away. The lead hooded pirate escapes without the senator and watches the space battle from the outskirts of the battle. As a new starship enters the system from hyperspace he orders his pilot to leave.

Jedi Knights arrive from hyperspace to arrest the pirates and find the Senator. After hearing details of Anakin’s exploits, the two Jedi request a meeting him. Believing Anakin to be strong in the Force they offer to take him with them to Coruscant. He is skeptical, claiming he was lucky in attacking the ships, but accepts when Palpatine also offers his support.

On Coruscant Anakin is taken to the Jedi Temple to meet Master Yoda and his pupil, Obi Wan Kenobi. After testing him with a Jedi Mind Trick, Yoda allows Obi Wan to train him. That night, Anakin is invited to a reception hosted by Palpatine, which Obi Wan attends as well. There they meet Padme Amidala, an ambassador from Naboo and Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan. Organa expresses his concern at the rising number of pirate attacks on peaceful systems. Palpatine advocates for a stricter response which the others disagree with. Both Anakin and Obi Wan take a liking to Padme, though Obi Wan reminds Anakin of the Jedi oath he will take tomorrow.

Before Yoda and Mace Windu, Anakin takes his Jedi Oath. He begins his training with Obi Wan on an isolated part of one of Coruscant’s moon. The training comprises of both physical challenges and mental puzzles. Anakin is successful in anticipating threats, such as rocks hurled at him by Obi Wan, but struggles to manipulate other objects such as the entrance to an ancient temple. At night they discuss fear, as Anakin admits his frustration at not being able to save his parents. Obi Wan reveals that he was orphaned as a boy. He resented his parents until a Jedi taught him how to find balance in the force. Anakin hopes he can find this inner peace.

Elsewhere, the planet Kemino comes under attack from a pirate army. It is unusual for pirates to attack an entire planet. Obi Wan is sent to investigate and takes Anakin with him. A pirate army blockades the planet. Obi Wan is unable to sense their thoughts. Knowing of Anakin’s exploits above Naboo he entrusts the piloting to Anakin to is able to breach the blockade and evade the enemy fighters. Landing on Kemino, they make their way to the capital with Anakin flying through the difficult terrain and avoiding ground-to-air cannons.

Upon reaching the parliament they realize why they could not sense their thoughts- the pirate army is made up entirely of clones. They appear to be under the command of the hooded pirate whom Anakin identifies, and Obi Wan realizes (from the insignias on his tunic), is a Sith Lord.

They retreat to contact Yoda and Palpatine. Palpatine sends Padme to negotiate but she is captured upon entry into the system. Obi Wan and Anakin see this from their hidden ship and re enter the capital to save her.

Meanwhile on Coruscant the clone army arrives and blockades the planet. A second Sith Lord, identifying himself as Darth Sideous, attacks the High Chancellor and assassinates him. Mace Windu arrives with the Royal Guard and the army retreats. Under attack from Republic Navy reserves, the Clones retreat from the system.

On Kemino the Jedi are successful in freeing Padme and rescuing the Prime Minister. The reserve navy arrives and engages the clones in battle. The clone army promptly retreat. As they try to escape, the hooded pirate reveals himself. Darth Maul confronts the Jedi and Padme. Obi Wan attempts to hold them off and draws Maul into another room. Maul destroys the door control before defeating Obi Wan with his double edge light sabre. Obi Wan is injured and left unconscious. Frustrated and sensing Obi Wan’s pain Anakin angrily uses the force to open the door. Anakin picks up Obi Wan’s light sabre and attacks Maul fighting him to a stale mate. Maul taunts Anakin telling him that his parents died because they were weak and that true power comes from true hate. He uses the force to block Anakin’s path and fires a lightning bolt towards Anakin. Anakin anticipates the attack and the bolt misses though Maul escapes. He reunites with Padme as Obi Wan regains consciousness and the arriving Jedi rescue them.

Having returned to Coruscant, the two Jedi are awarded honours by Organa and Palpatine for saving Padme. Anakin smiles, pleased with the recognition, while Obi Wan remains stoned faced and neutral, his emotions balanced in the force. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

School Leadership and Kennett's eight year theory

Jeff Kennett's recent declaration that Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson should "be sacked or resign" at the end of the year has caused significant discussion in footy mad Melbourne. Is failing to beat Geelong since winning the 2008 AFL Premiership against said team justification for dismissal? Kennett claims the side has underachieved by winning only one Premiership from two grand final appearances since 2004. The merits of this are debatable but I'm interested in Kennett's theory on leadership.

Kennett's stance is that after years of hearing Clarkson's voice the players become numb to a roasting or verbal push. In the world of coaching this is probably true. AFL has a strong culture of unity with rules to prevent players from readily changing clubs. Unlike EPL or NBA coaches (who rarely last as long as he has anyway), Clarkson probably has faced the same players regularly throughout his tenure. Kennett's statement that "six to eight years was as long enough as any coach should stay at a club" is perhaps based on his own failure to win a third term when he was Victorian Premier. He has pulled out a similar number though when discussing AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou's future as league boss. The argument then was that leaders come in fresh and can establish themselves as leaders. Eight year is time enough to lead change and still provide stability. At the eight year mark, again a figure probably chosen based on Kennett's own experience of public office, a leader and their team becomes too familiar and much less effective. Certainly in Demetriou's case, and perhaps Clarkson's, recent form suggests those around them are tired of the same song and dance. Kennett's argument is that a change in leadership after six to eight years can only be good and preempt the decline that a self-satisfied leader might oversee.

So what does this have to do with school leadership? With a new EBA looming perhaps it is time to discuss the role we want leaders to play in schools. Kennett's belief, though there is little research to support it, could have some basis for how we contract and appoint our principals. The current government school principal contract is a standard five years - the same length as the standard strategic plan. Principal's rarely are appointed at the end of the last review period so can spend the bulk to their first contract implementing a plan they had no say in. An eight year contract would allow them time to settle in and participate in a review of the previous five years. Having been through a few reviews there is no better way to get to know the big picture of a school. Then they would be able to set direction and plan for the next five years - all of which they will be around for. In their last couple of contracted years they would begin a new strategic plan to maintain or readjust the school's goals. An eight year contract would provide this stability.

The biggest problem is that principal's do not always leave after their five years (and why would you want them to if they're doing good things in the school?). Two principal contracts would mean sixteen years at the same school instead of ten. As Kennett says though, people become tired of the same voice and the same personality. Change can be good and can be a catalyst for renewal. It can re-energise people who didn't even know they were stagnating. This seems to be the core belief of the American presidential system - it certainly ensures there is a different voice for the State of the Union address at least every eight years.

So perhaps school leaders should be moved on after eight years? It might work. But it would be conditional on a clear appointment process and development program. The current government has stripped principal's of access to these regional resources. No one is perfect - but imagine being stuck with the equivalent of [insert crappy sport coach here] for eight whole years? There's a reason Clarkson will stay at the Hawks and Demetriou will stay as CEO. It is the same reason Collingwood stuck with Mick Malthouse despite taking TEN years to deliver a premiership (what must Kennett make of that success rate?). We prefer the devil we know to the devil we don't - at least when things are going well. There would need to be regular review periods of course and a chance for 360degree feedback. These mechanisms exist in the current system and should be utilized regularly.

A mentor once told me four years was plenty in a school. Perhaps it is sometimes. But sometimes the job is only half done and a second term is necessary. Whether we need a third term is a question worth asking.

I'm on school holidays so I'm hoping I can blog everyday. If the one month old lets me. They won't all be teacher/education/leadership type stuff.