Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Whatever

The weasel: it went POP! Or maybe that's just what the song wants us to believe. Why are barbecue flavoured chips always in orange packets? I've never seen an orange barbecue. I've never seen a human vagina in person. Only in pornos and stuff. Sunflowers aren't nearly as hot as their name suggests. I love girls with freckles. Definitely underrated. I want to sit by the fireplace with a good book and maybe someone I love. Corsica? I forget what that means. You can frame anything and call it art. Roger Rabbit is art. Pelicans gulp a lot; don't they? Paper is defeated by scissors. Scissors are obliterated by rock. Paper covers rock, but personally, I think that's just impractical. Is a monkey that sleeps around a slut? Is anyone or anything a slut? What is a slut? Things that are occasional will quickly become habitual. I don't have a catchphrase. Who do you think I am? A fucking goofy caricature? A walking clich√©? Optimal is one of those words that smarmy business types like to use. But sometimes they opt for optimum. Squishy is a disgusting word. You know what's squishy? Dog shit. I was a library monitor in primary school. It wasn't that thrilling. Fireman Sam: they should bring that show back. I don't care that I'm 19. I'd watch the shit out of it. Pie. Jason Biggs stuck his cock in one. But not really; it was a movie, you see? Some pies have meat inside. I like those pies the best. Have you ever eaten a pie that's SO good, it leaves you flabbergasted? Haberdashery is just a pretentious word that means 'men's clothing'. Snub is buns backwards.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The 10 Darkest Episodes of The Simpsons

Blogging about my top 15 Simpsons episodes the other day got me in the mood to formulate another list about everyone's favourite yellow family. This time, I'll be looking at the episodes that troubled me, psychologically. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy all of the episodes in this list, but damn, they all contain some "I can't believe they went there" moments. Some of the moments are just plain scary. I've decided not to include any Treehouse of Horror episodes in this list. Two of the episodes on this list featured in my previous blog, so I apologise if I repeat myself. Now, let's begin the countdown!

10. El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer) (season 8)


Plot: At a chilli cook-off, Homer eats several ultra-hot Guatemlan peppers, sending him into a hallucinatory state. When he regains his consciousness, he re-evaluates his relationship with Marge, questioning whether or not she is his soulmate.  

What makes it dark?: This episode isn't especially dark, which is probably why it comes in at number 10 on this list. Nevertheless, the existential crisis that Homer goes through is unsettling at times, and a large chunk of this episode has a melancholic vibe to it. The scene depicted above, wherein Homer thinks he has 'found' Marge in his hallucination, only to discover it's a mound of coloured sand that looks like her, is a beautifully-animated sequence, but also very distressing from Homer's perspective...which is essentially ours, too. And there's a haunting, moody scene where Homer walks by himself around town, trying to find his soulmate. Everywhere he looks, he is met with rejection. Even the community outreach centre doesn't want him. This is underscored very nicely by the sound of Janis Ian's At Seventeen. P.S. I would love to see David Lynch interpret some of the hallucination scenes in a live-action adaptation of this episode. 

9. Alone Again, Natura-Diddily (season 11)


Plot: After Maude Flanders is tragically killed at a speedway, Homer tries to find a new partner for Ned.

What makes it dark?: First of all, I'll explain WHY the character of Maude Flanders was killed off. Maggie Roswell, who voiced the character, left the show in 1999 following a pay dispute. Rather than find a new voice actor for Maude, the producers decided to kill off the character to pave the way for new storylines. They also thought this would lead to a ratings boost. Already, we can see that the episode sprung from cynical motives. There's a considerably small portion of this episode that's related to the Flanders family in mourning, and you would think that makes the episode more lively and jovial. Well, it does...but it also undermines what Maude meant to Ned, Rod and Todd. Homer makes a dating tape to 'sell' Ned to women, and these scenes are rather funny, but you'd think that Ned would need some more breathing space and alone time if he were a real person. Some other dark lines: 

* Moe tells Ned, "...if it was you that died, I would have been on her (Maude) so fast."
* Rachel, lead singer in a Christian band, tries to empathise with Ned, "We just lost our drummer...to a Pentecostal ska band. Uh, I know it's not the same but..."
* A song from Rachel's band plays over the end credits, with the lyrics: "It's a show about Ned / About him losin' his sweet wife / She landed on her head / But now it's time to get on with his life."

8. The Joy of Sect (season 9)


Plot: A cult called the Movementarians takes over Springfield and brainwashes its citizens.

What makes it dark?: Admittedly, I haven't seen this episode that many times, and cannot remember too many specific scenes. Generally speaking, cults are pretty freaky, and it's worrying how easily the members of Springfield are won over by The Leader. One line that sticks out is when Bart monotonously says "I love The Leader," after encountering a Movementarian recruiter behind a closed door. But the scene that I always remember when this episode is mentioned is Marge's escape from the compound. During the night, she approaches the exit, where the Squeaky-Voiced Teen is on security. Surprisingly, he tells Marge, "Lady, people are free to go whenever they wish," but there's a catch. To escape the compound, Marge must cross terrain that's littered with landmines, attack dogs, alligators in water, and barbed wire. She's even 'chased' by a mysterious balloon. Luckily, she escapes unscathed. 

7. Das Bus (season 9)


Plot: Bart, Lisa and other children from Springfield Elementary School are stranded on an island and are forced to work together. Meanwhile, Homer founds his own Internet company.

What makes it dark?: This parody of Lord of the Flies doesn't always make for cheerful viewing. We slowly witness the students lose their sanity as they turn on one another, but no one cops more punishment than Milhouse. He is wrongly accused of eating all the snacks, and the other students TRY TO KILL HIM once he is acquitted by Bart. Things escalate into a 'Savages vs Dorks' scenario, whereby the savages are led by Nelson, and all don war paint. This is about as intense as The Simpsons gets, and it's genuinely uncomfortable to see everyone angry at each other. Oh, and what happened to bus driver Otto? He was picked up by some Chinese fishermen who plan to use him for slave labour. 

6. Cape Feare (season 5)


Plot: When Sideshow Bob is released from prison, he tracks down the Simpson family and attempts to murder Bart.

What makes it dark?: So many things make this episode dark. Sideshow Bob's 'Die Bart, Die' tattoo, Homer racing into Bart's room to show off his new chainsaw and hockey mask...I could go on forever. But what scares me the most about this episode is how intent Sideshow Bob is on finding Bart in the first place. Here's a man who literally wants to murder a ten year-old boy. It's especially creepy how Bart initially receives threats from Sideshow Bob, the most memorable coming over the radio, "All right, this is dedicated to Bart Simpson, with the message, 'I am coming to kill you slowly and painfully.'" A forgotten scary moment from this episode is when Ned Flanders brandishes a glove with knives on the fingers (√† la Freddy Kruger) and tells Bart to "say his prayers," before lightening up and inverting the sentence to something innocent. P.S. This is also the best Sideshow Bob episode ever. I usually hesitate to label something as the 'best', but I can confidently use it here. 

5. My Sister, My Sitter (season 8)


Plot: Marge and Homer go to a party and leave Lisa to babysit Bart. Bart does his best to annoy Lisa at home, and eventually injures himself. Lisa must find a way to get medical attention for him without losing her reputation as a good babysitter. 

What makes it dark?: First of all, this is one of the most underrated episodes of the series. People often cite this as the episode where Bart is on his all-time worst behaviour. That's a big call, but it's valid. You can't help but feel sorry for Lisa, who must shoulder the burden of an injured brother, while simultaneously fearing the repercussions this will have on her reputation. It's rather repulsive that Bart slams his head against the wall to make the lump he has sustained even bigger. The darkest part of this episode is the ending. Lisa puts Bart into a wheelbarrow, along with Maggie, who is in a pet cage. She can't get an appointment at the emergency clinic, so she takes Bart to the hospital by foot. Bart falls out of the wheelbarrow and tumbles down a muddy hill. Lisa, Maggie and the wheelbarrow come falling after him. Now, they are on full show to their parents and other Springfield residents, who assume that Bart is dead, Lisa is on drugs, and Maggie is about to be drowned. Now if that's not dark, I don't know what is. 

4. The Secret War of Lisa Simpson (season 8)


Plot: Bart gets sent to a military academy as punishment for bad behaviour. While visiting the academy, Lisa sees that the school is far more challenging than hers and she decides that she wants to attend as well.

What makes it dark?: This episode makes for extremely uncomfortable viewing. The colours are very drab and depressing, and even as a viewer, you feel as though you're in unfamiliar territory, and are just as unsafe as Bart and Lisa. This was the season 8 finale...what a depressing note to end on. Anyway, why is it so damn grim? An air of hopelessness hangs over the whole episode. No one at the military school is sympathetic towards the Simpson kids. They are put through rigorous tests of endurance. It's just horrible. The element of common struggle unites Bart and Lisa, and it's hard to think of another episode where they're as close with each other. Oh well, at least there's a happy ending (and even that can only loosely be described as happy)

3. Homer's Enemy (season 8)


Plot: The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant hires Frank Grimes as a new employee. Homer is friendly towards Grimes, but Grimes grows frustrated with the fact that Homer is lazy and nonchalant, yet lives a more comfortable life than he does. In the subplot, Bart buys a dilapidated factory for a dollar at an auction.

What makes it dark?: Frank Grimes was abandoned by his family, and copped the full brunt of a silo explosion. Despite this, he went on to complete a degree in nuclear physics. This man deserves a life of success and happiness, but when he must work alongside Homer at the power plant, he loses his grip on reality. It is a natural trait of the intellectual to marvel in bewilderment at the antics of the stupid. Grimes cannot believe that a man as lazy and as stupid as Homer has had a more successful life than he has. Grimes lives between two bowling alleys, while Homer has "Everything! A dream house! Two cars! A beautiful wife! A son who owns a factory! Fancy clothes and...lobsters for dinner." Grimes is not inherently spiteful (he saves Homer's life when he's about to drink sulfuric acid); he's merely envious, and he has the right to be. And the exclamation point on this sad episode (yes, it IS sad, despite the laughs) is Grimes' death. He becomes a man possessed, mimicking Homer Simpson, and virtually becoming him. Even sadder is Grimes' funeral. Reverend Lovejoy says a few words, while Homer talks during his sleep, "Change the channel, Marge." Lenny chimes in with "That's our Homer!" It seems this episode was one huge celebration of Homer's stupidity, which, personally, I think is sometimes overdone on the show.

2. Marge Be Not Proud (season 7)


Plot: Marge refuses to buy Bart the new video game Bonestorm, so he steals it from a local discount store. Bart ends up being estranged from his mother when he gets caught, and fearing that he has lost her love, he decides he must regain it.

What makes it dark?: Although this comes in at #2 on the list, if I were ranking these episodes based on levels of realism, this would top the list. I couldn't believe how mean-spirited the writers made Marge in this episode. OK, Bart stole a video game. He didn't burn a puppy to death or drive the family car off a cliff. The level of passive-aggression that Marge displays here is chilling just to think about. This episode seriously disturbs me, because it makes me wonder how I'd feel if my mother practically disowned me. When Bart comes home to see the rest of his family making snowmen, and asks why they didn't wait for him, Marge replies "I figured you were getting a little too old for this. But you can still make one: there's some snow left under the car." We see the snow she's talking about. There's not much of it, and it's rather dirty. How can Bart be "too old" for making snowmen when Homer and Marge each made one? What Marge wants to tell her son is "Hey Bart, I fucking despise you now." Bart goes to Milhouse's place, and even wants to hang out with Milhouse's mother because Marge won't show him any love or attention. Poor kid. Huge props to the late Lawrence Tierney, who voiced Don Brodka. Tierney's gravelly, remorseless voice plays well here, and makes things even scarier for Bart. Overall, this episode is hard to watch because it feels so damn real. This is the sort of thing that could happen in real life. It's not scary due to supernatural elements, and it doesn't rely on any extravagant circumstances. Bart steals a game. He gets caught. Marge hates him for it. It's as simple as that. 

1. Bart Sells His Soul (season 7)


Plot: Bart declares that there is no such thing as a soul, and to prove it, he sells it to Milhouse for $5, in the form of a piece of paper that has 'Bart Simpson's soul' written on it. After this transaction, strange things begin happening to Bart. In the subplot, Moe renovates his tavern, turning it into a family restaurant called 'Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag'.

What makes it dark?: We're used to seeing Bart so confident and cocky, so to see him genuinely afraid is kinda unnerving. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, there are two scenes that make this episode especially disturbing. 

1. The rowboat nightmare sequence (pictured above). Bart dreams that all the kids of Springfield are rowing with their souls, while he is left out. He tries rowing out to sea, but his boat only goes in circles. Sherri and Terri (and their souls) chant "Bart, it's time to end this dream / And don't forget the standard scream," right before Bart wakes up.

2. Bart begging a helpless Ralph Wiggum for his soul. It's night time, and Chief Wiggum has left Ralph by himself in a squad car while he talks some sense into a derelict. Bart propositions Ralph after a friendly introduction, telling him "I need a soul, Ralph. Any soul! Yours!" Ralph bawls his eyes out in fear, and when Chief Wiggum returns to the car, Bart hisses and vanishes into the misty night. 

And there are some other dark moments, like when Lisa says grace at Uncle Moe's, praying for everyone's soul except Bart's, of course. I think this episode works so well at unsettling us because it's not as though any of us know if the soul exists. We can speculate all we like, but it can't be proven. I don't believe in the soul, but this episode of The Simpsons is scarily convincing at times. I always have to remind myself that it is fiction. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top 15 Episodes of The Simpsons, According to Me

Before I begin the list, I should make it clear that these are my 15 favourite episodes, and I am not contending that these are the best episodes ever produced. Also, this is an ordered list, with #1 being my favourite episode ever. With that said, let's begin the countdown!

15. Duffless (season 4)


Plot: After visiting the Duff Brewery, Homer is arrested for DUI. He loses his driver's license, and Marge challenges him to give up beer for a month. In the subplot, Lisa conducts an experiment for a school project: "Is my brother dumber than a hamster?"

Why do I love it?: It contains many great sight gags. For example, when the quality control guy at the Duff Brewery is distracted and we see Hitler's head (among other things) inside bottles of Duff, going past on the conveyor belt. This is also the episode where Hans Moleman admits he is 31 years old during an AA meeting. Another great thing about this episode is Homer's When I Was Seventeen song. You know, the one where he drank some very good beer that he purchased with a fake ID. I also think the subplot of this episode is rather strong, and if you examine the picture above, you'll notice an homage to A Clockwork Orange. But the thing I love most about this episode is the ending. Homer turns down a beer at Moe's to go bike-riding with Marge. The sun is setting and they sing Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head, which plays into the end credits. Just perfect. 

14. Itchy & Scratchy Land (season 6)


Plot: The Simpsons head to Itchy & Scratchy Land, and things turn disastrous when the robots malfunction and turn on the tourists.

Why do I love it?: As with other theme park/carnival episodes like Selma's Choice and Bart Carny, the writers create all sorts of absurd comic situations that could not have worked in other locales. A personal favourite is the BORT license plate scene. Maggie getting trapped in the ball pit is another favourite sequence of mine, as is the hilarious log ride scene. It's just hilarious how unprofessional and inept everyone at the park is. It's one of those episodes where everything that could possibly go wrong, goes wrong.

13. Homer's Enemy (season 8)


Plot: The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant hires Frank Grimes as a new employee. Homer is friendly towards Grimes, but Grimes grows frustrated with the fact that Homer is lazy and nonchalant, yet lives a more comfortable life than he does. In the subplot, Bart buys a dilapidated factory for a dollar at an auction. 

Why do I love it?: First of all, this is one of the darkest episodes of the show that has ever been produced. Personally, I empathise with Frank Grimes: a man who has brains, but due to circumstances that have befallen him, has not progressed far in life. I almost feel like punching Homer in the face when I watch this episode. As funny as he is, his daftness almost peaks in this episode, and he is rather frustrating to watch at times. The subplot doesn't get a lot of screen time, but it's still one of my favourites. I especially love when Milhouse uses the coffee machine and it dispenses a rat.   

12. The PTA Disbands (season 6)


Plot: When Ms Krabappel calls a teacher's strike at Springfield Elementary, the students react in different ways. Lisa forgets what it feels like to be graded, and Bart gets up to all sorts of mischief. Meanwhile, the Springfield townsfolk is called upon to fill in as substitute teachers.

Why do I love it?: This is a sorely under-appreciated episode, which is weird because it's shown quite frequently on television. It's one of those episodes where there seems to be a joke in absolutely every scene. A lot of small gags culminate to form one solid, memorable episode. The antagonism between Krabappel and Skinner is priceless, but there are several small jokes that I love. "Purple monkey dishwasher", Lunchlady Doris mincing gym mats, and the way the different teachers flee the school when the strike is called. I especially love Lisa in this episode. When she's at home and plays the tape of Ms Hoover saying "Sit up straight. Eyes forward. No talking. Is that gum? Is that gum? Is that gum?" THAT'S a clever scene, just like when she freaks out because she's "losing [her] perspicacity." And who can forget when Jasper lectures the class "That's a paddlin'"? Or, as the picture above shows, when he gets his beard caught in the pencil sharpener?

11. Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy (season 5)


Plot: Lisa grows tired of how sexist the Malibu Stacy doll is, and with the help of the original creator of Malibu Stacy, creates the doll Lisa Lionheart to inspire young girls. In the subplot, Abe Simpson gets a job at Krusty Burger. 

Why do I love it?: Again, here's an episode that never gets the wraps it deserves. Maybe some people think it's too politically-loaded, or maybe a lot of people just don't like Lisa-centric episodes. All I know is that it cracks me up every time I watch it. Like The PTA Disbands, it's strengthened by several small gags that remind us why we love the show. An example of what I'm talking about is when the gates to Stacy Lavelle's mansion open up, and some random guy runs into the frame and proclaims "All right! I've been waiting nine years to get my frisbee back!" He retrieves it, and within seconds, throws it back over again. Another great scene is when Lisa needs to use Smithers' computer. She turns it on, and a bitmapped Mr Burns appears: "Hello, Smithers. You're quite good at turning me on." A very underrated gag is when Krusty speedily records the lines for his talking doll before the technician can even turn around to face him. And what about the executives at Malibu Stacy who care more about ordering Chinese food than they do about combating Lisa's doll? Abe Simpson has some killer lines in the subplot. I really enjoy when he quits Krusty Burger and tells his boss "I never once washed my hands!" I also love when he says: "Why are you people avoiding me? Does my withered face remind you of the grim spectre of Death?"

10. Homer the Great (season 6)


Plot: Homer joins an ancient secret society known as the Stonecutters. Just as he is about to be banished from the Stonecutters, it is discovered that Homer is "The Chosen One", and he is subsequently worshipped by the other members.

Why do I love it?: This is a favourite among many fans of the show, and it's easy to see why. The structure and pacing of this episode is perfect. It's also one of the more atmospheric episodes of the series. It's hard to forget the song We Do, which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. And how funny is it that the Stone of Triumph is larger than the Stone of Shame? I think this episode works so well because it has no subplot, which allows the viewer to fully invest in one story arc. My favourite gag in this episode would have to be the whole 'No Homers Club' scenario. When Homer Glumplich sticks his head out the window and laughs at Homer Simpson (twice)...that gets me every time.

9. Bart Sells His Soul (season 7)


Plot: Bart declares that there is no such thing as a soul, and to prove it, he sells it to Milhouse for $5, in the form of a piece of paper that has 'Bart Simpson's soul' written on it. After this transaction, strange things begin happening to Bart. In the subplot, Moe renovates his tavern, turning it into a family restaurant called 'Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag'. 

Why do I love it?: This is yet another dark episode of The Simpsons, perhaps a candidate for the darkest episode of the show. There are two moments in this episode that are particularly haunting. The first is when Bart has a nightmare that the children of Springfield are on a beach, accompanied by their souls. Each kid gets into a rowboat with their soul, leaving Bart stranded by himself on the shore. The other moment is when Ralph is alone in his father's squad car, and Bart approaches him with the proposition "I need a soul, Ralph. Any soul! Yours!" Ralph is petrified and breaks down in tears. Thankfully some excellent comic relief is supplied by the subplot, which is one of my all-time favourites. Todd Flanders' proclamation "Ow! My freaking ears!" is one of my favourite Simpsons quotes, period. And what about when Rod orders the million dollar birthday fries? P.S. I can do a great impression of Moe saying "Please take the fries off my head, kid. The basket is extremely hot!"

8. Lisa the Vegetarian (season 7)


Plot: After bonding with a lamb at a petting zoo, Lisa decides to become a vegetarian. As a result, she is ridiculed by her schoolmates and family members.

Why do I love it?: The great thing about this episode is that you don't have to be a vegetarian to empathise with Lisa. When she steals the roast pig at Homer's barbecue, you want her to dispose of it because everyone around her has been giving her a hard time. This episode features arguably the funniest Troy McClure video, which is essentially a propaganda film produced by the Meat Council. Other memorable moments include the "You don't win friends with salad!" conga line, and Mr Burns promising to donate a million dollars to the local orphanage..."when pigs fly." And which writer's idea was it to make a boot an ingredient of a hot dog? Absolute genius. The episode changes its tone in the final five minutes, when Lisa meets with Paul and Linda McCartney on the roof of the Kwik-E-Mart, and in a very cute gesture, Homer gives Lisa a 'veggieback' ride home. 

7. Team Homer (season 7)


Plot: Homer starts a bowling team with Moe, Apu and Otto. When Mr. Burns discovers the team was funded with his money, he insists on joining. In the subplot, Springfield Elementary adopts a uniform dress code after Bart wears a shirt that says 'Down with homework', which incites a riot.

Why do I love it?: Oh boy, this episode is PACKED with great jokes. I love that Otto chooses the lobster harmonica over the Harvard diploma in the claw machine. I love the fact that there's a Harvard diploma in there to begin with! How delicious is the irony when Moe whacks Mr Burns in the leg with a cane, hoping to injure him, but instead popping his dislocated knee back into place? It's really easy to relate to the Pin Pals in this episode. Mr Burns is so irritating in this episode—an unrelenting pest. We've all been in a situation where we've had no choice but to team with someone less capable than us. It sucks, and this episode really captures the frustration involved in such an instance. The subplot is a classic, peaking during the scene where the kids play a game of tag (or 'tip', as it's called in Australia) with no enthusiasm whatsoever. Todd Flanders tags Lisa and says "You're 'it'." Lisa tags Milhouse and tells him "Now you are the one who is 'it'." Milhouse mournfully accepts this: "Understood."

6. Bart Gets Famous (season 5)


Plot: Bart gets a job as Krusty's personal assistant, and becomes an accidental star when he utters the words "I didn't do it" during a failed sketch. 

Why do I love it?: The episode begins with the kids of Springfield Elementary on a field trip at a box factory, and the tour guide is hilarious. One of my favourite quotes in this episode is from Lisa, and it isn't even a joke: "If I ever become famous, I want it to be for something worthwhile, not because of some obnoxious fad." Bart replies: "Obnoxious fad?", and the look on his face is priceless. And how funny is it when Bart actually WANTS to learn in class, but his classmates and Ms Krabappel just stand around him, demanding him to say the line? For me, the funniest scene is when Bart performs on Krusty's show for one last time, and no one in the audience finds his act funny. He walks out and says the line "I didn't do it." One woman gives a slight chuckle, and another man clears his through. He repeats the line, only to be met with chirping crickets. Desperate, he tries the line "Woozle wuzzle?" The crowd is bewildered and leaves. Afterwards, Krusty tells Bart that he is "finished," and says "That's show business for you: one day you're the most important guy that ever lived; the next day you're some shmoe working in a box factory." The box factory guide from the beginning puts his head out the window and says "I heard that." That whole sequence is in turns hilarious and poignant. But what most people remember this episode for is the ending, when various characters deliver their catchphrases. Lisa doesn't really have a catchphrase, so she settles on: "If anyone wants me, I'll be in my room."

5. And Maggie Makes Three (season 6)


Plot: Lisa notices that there are no photos of Maggie in the family photo albums, which leads to a recount of Maggie's birth.

Why do I love it?: To me, this is the most touching episode of the entire series, and I'm usually not the type to get sentimental about babies. I love how, in the flashback scenes, Homer is oblivious that Marge is pregnant, even when Moe TELLS HIM TO HIS FACE "Hey, Homer! Way to get Marge pregnant." Then Homer barges in on the baby shower, and Marge's pregnancy doesn't sink in until Maude Flanders congratulates him on his new job at a bowling alley. Homer's farewell from the bowling alley is moving, and you really feel for him when acid rain decimates his going-away jacket. He then heads to the power plant to get his old job back, and Burns tells him without any remorse, "Don't forget: you're here forever!" A demotivational plaque with this exact sentence is screwed to the wall in Homer's sector. This allows for the episode's most memorable moment: the ending. It turns out there are no photos of Maggie in the family albums because Homer keeps them where he needs the most cheering up. Cue the demotivational plaque, transformed into a motivational plaque that reads "DO IT FOR HER." Absolutely perfect.

4. Summer of 4 Ft. 2 (season 7)


Plot: The Simpson family heads to Ned Flanders' beach house for a vacation, where Lisa makes some friends, which incites jealousy in Bart.

Why do I love it?: This episode means a lot to me. Like Lisa, I do not have a whole lot of friends. You know, REAL friends that you hang out with and stuff. So I see a lot of myself in her. This episode has some good gags, but it's not the humour that makes this episode a winner. It's the pathos and the atmosphere. Flanders' beach house is located in the fictitious Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport, and the animators have captured this location beautifully, so that it has a personality of its own. I think Milhouse is a crucial part of this episode. He is constantly the fall guy, and you can't help but feel sorry for him. Back to Lisa's storyline...I can totally relate to when she has to scan a compliment for sarcasm, and I have since quoted "scanning for sarcasm" in conversation. Christina Ricci supplies the voice of Erin, and her delivery is really sweet and comforting. Trivia: Ricci recorded her lines over the phone, rather than going into the studio. As vindictive as Bart is in this episode, I can understand things from his perspective, too. There are just so many emotions connected to this episode, that no one is intrinsically 'good' or 'bad'. Rather fittingly, this episode served as the season 7 finale.

3. Bart on the Road (season 7)


Plot: Bart creates his own fake driver's license. He rents a car and takes Martin, Milhouse and Nelson on a road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. In the subplot, Lisa spends a day with Homer at the power plant. 

Why do I love it?: You probably weren't expecting this to make my top 15, let alone my top 3, but it's just so damn likeable. It works because of the odd quartet of Bart, Nelson, Milhouse and Martin. With the exception of Bart and Milhouse, you generally wouldn't see these characters hanging out together. Thanks to this episode, we discover that Nelson is fan of Andy Williams' music. Who'd have thought? It's funny that Bart nonchalantly picks up a hitchhiker, even stopping for ice cream when he requests it. Hilariously, Martin spends their last ten dollars on an Al Gore doll that says "You are hearing me talk" when you pull its string. The subplot is very cute and funny, and is memorable for Homer's line: "Purple is a fruit." Even if this episode is unrealistic, the main plot ties in with the subplot very nicely to make for a solid 22 minutes of entertainment. 

2. Lemon of Troy (season 6)


Plot: The children of Springfield wage war on Shelbyville after their beloved lemon tree is stolen from them by Shelbyville children.

Why do I love it?: It's a classic "us vs them" storyline. How can I NOT love it? The writers cleverly make several similarities between Springfield and Shelbyville, and I especially love how there's a kid called Milhouse in Shelbyville, who, like the Springfield Milhouse, has blue hair. The episode is well-paced and builds up to a nice climax. It also feels as though there's something at stake for the viewer. Like the kids of Springfield, we want the lemon tree returned to its rightful place. I think the episode works so well because writer Brent Forrester understands how kids think and behave, and it is ultimately the kids, from both towns, that give the episode its character. 

1. 22 Short Films About Springfield (season 7)


Plot: There isn't really a 'plot', per se. Rather, this is a look inside the lives of various characters on an average day in Springfield.

Why do I love it?: This is an episode I wish I could watch for the first time, every time. Alas, every time I watch it, it's still very fun. My five favourite segments in this episode would be:

* Principal Skinner having Superintendent Chalmers for lunch, serving him Krusty burgers and passing them off as 'steamed hams'. I'm calling this one of the funniest scenes in Simpsons history.
* Milhouse going to Android's Dungeon to use the bathroom. Comic Book Guy doesn't let him use it without first making a purchase. I love how Milhouse has to buy the cheapest comic book in the store, which is a used 'Hamburglar Adventure' magazine. The poor kid doesn't even get to use the bathroom because Kirk comes and retrieves him. He tries Herman's Military Antiques instead, where a Pulp Fiction scenario is playing out with Chief Wiggum, Snake and his own father.
* The cops comparing a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with cheese and a Krusty Burger with cheese. 
* The Very Tall Man teaching Nelson a lesson.
* Any scene involving an attempt to remove the gum from Lisa's hair.

There are many other great sequences, and the only segments that bore me are Apu's and the Bumblebee Man's (the latter is not significant enough to warrant his own segment). The segments connect in imaginative ways, so the episode never feels clunky or forced. Bart sums up the episode with the line "Everybody in town's got their story to tell. There's just not enough time to hear them all." We then see Professor Frink frantically trying to get some screen time, but the credits have already begun rolling. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Filmic Conspiracy Theory

Guys, I just had an epiphany! This will only be a short post, but I feel that it is very important. I bet you guys believe that Jim Carrey starred as Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, right? Well, you're WRONG! I am about to convince you that it was Jack Nicholson, not Jim Carrey, who starred as Count Olaf in the 2004 adaptation of Daniel Handler's (Lemony Snicket's) A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is my second-favourite film of all time, and if you haven't already seen it, I'm about to spoil it for you (just a bit, although The Simpsons have already done this in a Treehouse of Horror episode). Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) dies. He freezes to death in a snow-filled hedge maze.


Well, that's what Kubrick wants us to believe. I think he had the REAL Jack Nicholson cryogenically frozen, to be used in a future film. Fast forward to 2004, and doesn't Count Olaf look eerily familiar?  


I mean, just look at Olaf's expression in the above image. He is in shock, still coming to terms with tactile sensations. Nicholson is thinking, "Oooooh, this is what glass feels like. I forgot because I was FROZEN for 24 years!"

I know what you're thinking. What about all the films Nicholson did between 1980 and 2004? You see, Nicholson has an identical twin brother named Rupert. He became a recluse when his brother Jack started becoming famous. That's why you never hear about him. Rupert Nicholson has filled in for Jack in all roles post 2004, as well. Jack has retired as he does not want anyone discovering his big secret. 

But why is Jim Carrey's name still attached to the Lemony Snicket film? Good question. You see, Carrey's first ever role in a feature film was as Bobby Todd in the critically panned Copper Mountain, back in 1983. After that film, Carrey's agent felt sorry for the up-and-comer, and included a clause in Carrey's contract that he would be guaranteed to star in at least five 'big production' films within the next 25 years. Carrey was set to star in A Series of Unfortunate Events, when he came down with a mystery illness that kept him bedbound for close to six months. Director Brad Silberling made a phone call to Kubrick's daughter, Vivian, who knew where Nicholson's frozen body was located. Nicholson was soon thawed and given some acting lessons, and he was ready for the role. And there you have it, folks—Hollywood's greatest secret.

*Disclaimer: I don't actually believe this; I just have a very active imagination. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

40 School Memories

I was lying in bed the other night and I couldn't get to sleep because I was thinking about prominent moments from my schooldays. I miss school. Sure, I sometimes had to learn about things that weren't interesting to me, but I miss the atmosphere of it. Everything was funnier at school, and in a way, school was a soap opera. There was always something happening that I could look forward to. Every school day was different. My attendance record was close to impeccable, because staying home meant I might miss something interesting. I think some interesting things have happened to me at school, and I'd like to share these moments with you. Half of these memories will be from primary school, and the other half will be from high school. One stipulation is that all these moments must have directly involved me, or must have been witnessed by me. You won't see something like "Canteen food was good," because that's too general. This list will be a retrospective of my days at school, and I'll try to be as specific as possible. Oh, and don't worry if you didn't go to school with me. You'll still be able to learn a lot about me by reading this list.

Also, here are the schools I attended:

Kindergarten - Year 4 (1998-2002) = St Gertrude's Primary School, Smithfield
Year 5 - Year 6 (2003-2004) = Patrician Brothers' Primary School, Fairfield (now closed)
Year 7 - Year 12 (2005-2010) = Patrician Brothers' College, Fairfield

PRIMARY SCHOOL

1. One time in kindergarten, we were colouring in pictures of Santa Claus. I sat next to a girl called Sophie Havas. Now, I may have been five years old, but I knew what colours are usually associated with Santa. So there I was scribbling away with my red pencil, when Sophie put her hand up and complained, "Miiiiiiiiisssssss, Steven's copying me." IT WAS A FUCKING DRAWING OF SANTA CLAUS. Of course I was going to colour his suit red. From memory, my teacher actually AGREED that I was copying Sophie, and NOT on the basis of factual accuracy. What the hell?

2. My first serious 'teacher crush' was in Year 3, over Miss Pagano (some of you boys and girls may remember her). Anyway, I unwisely told a few people about my crush on her, and it didn't take long for word to spread. One day, during class, Holly Booker and another girl (possibly Taylor Balk) began making mock invitations for a fictitious wedding between Miss Pagano and I. Anyway, the girls stuck one of the invitations to the whiteboard using magnets. I was fuming. I got out of my seat, went up to the board, and snatched the invitation. I ripped it up in front of the whole class, and yelled at the top of my lungs "LEAVE ME ALONE! STOP DOING THIS TO ME!", or something along those lines. My teacher, Miss Kelly, was worried. She looked at me with a sincere, frozen expression and said "Just calm down Steven; calm down." I realise Holly or Taylor may be reading this right now (I have both girls as Facebook friends), and I forgive both of you (but DAMN, you pushed me to the limit that day).

3. I once called my Year 4 teacher a cow, and it was totally by accident. Mr Stewart was an excellent teacher and I would never call him anything except a top bloke. Here's what happened. I wanted to test the gullibility of my best friend, Dean Pisani. Mr Stewart had left the room, and I tapped Dean on the shoulder, shouting "Look, a cow!" At the same time, I pointed at the door...just as Mr Stewart walked through it. The whole class erupted with laughter. Even I saw the funny side of it, despite blushing heavily. Mr Stewart called me over to his desk, and instead of berating me, he simply asked if I had done the homework. I hadn't, but I got off scot-free. 

4. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard this one before. Some find it disgusting; others envy me for it. My Year 1 teacher, Miss Green, was an attractive woman (perhaps she still is). She would sit on a chair and read stories to the class, who gathered around her. I forget how this whole thing began, but one day she was telling the class how sore her feet were. She took her shoes off and requested a foot massage from the kids sitting closest to her. She was always wearing stockings, and her feet were never sweating profusely. In fact, a pleasant aroma filled the room whenever she removed her shoes! I became addicted to massaging her feet, and to this day, I have a foot fetish. This is the first time I've revealed this fetish. Don't laugh. Looking back, it's amazing she allowed kids to do that. Stuff like this would never go on in high school.

5. The first and one of the only times I got in trouble at school was in kindergarten. It was lunchtime, and I agreed to a game of hide-and-go-seek with a few of my chums. A few of us chose to hide in the toilets ("No one will look in there!"). Mr De Nobile was on playground duty, and must have known we were causing a ruckus. Either that or he enjoys hanging around primary school toilets. He caught us playing the game, and yelled at us. His yelling voice was EXTREMELY loud and frightening, and I was trembling with fear. If you want to imagine this more vividly, here's a video of Mr De Nobile lecturing at Macquarie University last year. 


Sure, he looks friendly there, because he HAD to be. But, could you imagine that man fuming with rage? Not a pretty sight. I digress. Once he caught us, he ordered us to go to the principal's office. The principal, Mr Logue, instructed us to sit on the main verandah, so we were on show to the ENTIRE school. I thought I was a genius by whispering to the others, "Maybe if we put our fingers on our lips, we'll be set free." We tried that. We failed. We also tried putting our hands on our hands...also a failed strategy. I remember returning to class after lunch. My teacher, Miss Clogher, was so disappointed in me.

6. The last time I pissed my pants at school was in Year 4. That's a bit late to be pissing your pants at school, which is why it was so damn embarrassing for me. It was during English groups, and the whole class knew about it. I had to go and get a spare pair of shorts from the office. This is why teachers shouldn't intimidate primary school students about asking to go to the bathroom. I was too scared to ask the teacher (Mr Roger, a substitute). So scared that I preferred to piss myself. 

7. My Year 4 class had a mascot, and I created him. His name was Boris. He was a cut-out drawing of a man at a microphone stand. Boris became a part of that class. Mr Stewart even ADDED HIS NAME TO THE CLASS ROLL! It should also be noted that Year 4 was when my popularity peaked. I was the class clown. Everyone loved me. 

8. In Year 2, Mrs Scollard taught me a mnemonic device that I could use to remember the colours of the rainbow. ROY G. BIV = Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. 

9. In Year 4, I used the word 'Abo', referring to Aboriginal people. Miss Quinteros intervened, "Don't you EVER use that word again!" That moment has stayed with me.

10. In Year 4, I drew a picture of Santa Claus sitting on the toilet, with a speech bubble coming from his mouth, "Ow, I got a papercut!" I believe my friend Dean also had a role in this drawing. The text in the speech bubble was inspired by Mrs Dundovic's explanation of life in the olden days. She told us that people would sometimes wipe their bottoms with newspaper, and that this would often lead to papercuts. I threw this drawing in the bin and thought nothing of it. Then, Ashton Teoh went to Mrs Dundovic with the drawing in his hands, saying he had found it in his desk (we had those desks that opened up). Dundovic was furious, and she demanded the person who drew it to come forward. I remained tight-lipped. Some kid even dobbed on me: "I thought I saw Steven drawing that." But Dundovic didn't believe the dobber because I had such a great reputation. "Oh, Steven would never draw something like this," she said. The lesson here is "Build a solid reputation."

11. Rainy days in primary school often meant staying indoors during recess and lunch. My Year 2 teacher, Miss De Angelis, would bring out a crate of board games. One of these board games was Junior Scrabble, and I secretly detested that regular "grown-up" Scrabble wasn't available. Do you know how pathetic Junior Scrabble is? You don't? Consider yourself lucky. 

12. Winner of the 'Strangest Reason for Getting in Trouble' award goes to me in Year 6, for "drawing a moustache on my own face." I'm not kidding. I was bored, so I drew a moustache on my face. A real curly one—something that'd make Nietzsche proud. When substitute teacher Miss De Leon found out, she called me to her desk. She asked me why I did it, and I can't remember my response. It was probably along the lines of "I thought it would be funny." She then instructed me to "go to Mr Warren's office." She meant "Mr Loy's office," but I suppose it's normal for substitute teachers to mix up first names and surnames. Mr Loy (the principal) made me sit on a seat for the entire lunchtime. I felt like a zoo animal, and could feel the glares of my contemporaries. 

13. My kindergarten teacher tried this exercise where she would write a letter of the alphabet on the board, and would get the kids to yell out ANY word they knew beginning with that letter. One day, she wrote the letter 'V' on the board. I called out "Vench". She didn't understand me, so I defined the word: "The things people sit on in parks." Embarrassingly, I thought it was 'vench' rather than 'bench'. 

14. In Year 3, everyone in the class had to write a speech. I wrote a speech about how much I disliked my older brother. It was so cheesy, with an opening line like "Step right up; I am selling my brother for free." I was too stupid to realise that "selling my brother for free" is an oxymoron. Anyway, my teacher (Miss Kelly) loved it. She even made me go to another class and recite it. 

15. In Year 5, I decided to audition for my school's talent quest. I wasn't confident in singing or playing an instrument, so I decided to tell jokes. Now, I hadn't seen much stand-up comedy at that age, so I wasn't really aware of how comedy 'works'. Not only did I blatantly steal jokes from a joke book I owned. I also WROTE THEM DOWN on palm cards and read them. Essentially, my act was reading from a joke book. Somehow I made it to the final (they MUST have been low on contestants). I remember standing up on stage telling the stolen jokes, which received very few laughs. Oh well, at least I wasn't heckled!

16. Father Jason Camilleri was the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church when I was in Years 5 and 6. He has since quit the priesthood after starting a family with my Year 9 Religion teacher (true story). Anyway, he had a pet golden retriever called Toby. One day, Father Jason was walking through the playground with Toby, when Toby stopped to do his business. My friend, Erik, dropped a five cent coin in Toby's steaming turd, and dared me to get it out. I was a tightass at the time, so I accepted the dare. I was caught in the act by Mrs O'Neill, who said "What are you doing, you silly boy!?" I was speechless. I mean, what DO you say when you're caught picking up five cents from a pile of dog shit? My punishment was having to clean up the crap.

17. In Year 5, I thought it would be funny to look up the words 'penis' and 'vagina' in the dictionary and show the definitions to my peers. I located the words, and when I made my friends read the definitions, they laughed. My teacher, Mrs Orlando, called me over to her desk and asked me to tell her the word/s I looked up. Of course, I was too embarrassed to tell the truth, so I thought of something a ten year-old might find funny. I said I looked up 'fat'. Looking back, this was a stupid word to pick. There's nothing remotely funny about the definition of 'fat'. A ten year-old might laugh at someone for BEING fat, but the definition alone is not enough to elicit laughter. Mrs Orlando knew I was lying. She said "I don't think that was the word," almost in a passive-aggressive tone, before sending me back to my seat. 

18. I believe the following happened when I was in Year 3. It was around the time that you could get those Digimon holograms in chip packets. There was this kid called Anthony Obeid. The two of us had a Frigimon hologram. For some reason, I asked if I could swap my one for his one, all in the name of fun. It wasn't long until I realised that his had a scratch on it. Being a neat freak (which I still am), I couldn't stand this, so I asked to have my original one back, which was in mint condition. The bastard wouldn't give it back. I tried chasing him around the paddock (the grass area next to the church across from my primary school). I caught him, but couldn't retrieve the hologram. It crushed me. I went home and even cried about it. I never got it back.


19. One time at St Gertrude's, there was a family picnic day. My friend Dean had just poured himself a cup of Fanta, and I thought it would be hilarious to drop a chip into his drink when he wasn't looking. When he saw the chip, he was furious, and held a grudge against me for the rest of lunch.

20. OK, this last primary school memory doesn't directly involve me, but it's something I witnessed. Remember how I said my Year 4 teacher, Mr Stewart, was a top bloke? Well, that was if you were on his good side. To piss him off was to make a huge mistake. Ashton Teoh found this out the hard way. Ashton was being a nuisance in some way or another, and Mr Stewart just snapped. He picked up Ashton's [open] pencil case and flung it out the window, leaving it to crash on the footpath outside the school. There was stationery all over the place. Bear in mind, my Year 4 classroom was pretty high above ground level.


HIGH SCHOOL

1. My teacher for Year 8 Italian was Miss Naso. She was attractive and I was a 13 year-old boy raging with hormones. I would often stare into space and fantasise about her. One day, I shared one of these fantasies with Phil Nguyen, who was sitting next to me. I whispered to Phil, "Imagine if she was on playground duty in a bikini." Miss Naso heard me, and I consider myself lucky that my only punishment was a shake of her head and a death stare.

2. Christian Hernandez once threw an apple across the Year 12 quadrangle and it struck me right in the temple. I can't even begin to tell you how much that pissed me off.


3. During Year 11, I decided to get involved in a program offered by my local newspaper, the Fairfield Champion. I would be able to write articles about my school and potentially get them published in the paper. As part of this program, I had to attend an information day at Prairiewood High School. Miss Ferreira, who coordinated the program, drove me, Reggie Teagle and John Giang-Nguyen to the info day. On the way back, Miss Ferreira kindly insisted on buying us lunch at McDonald's. We stopped at Fairfield McDonald's, when Reggie suddenly spotted Parramatta Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi shovelling leaves or something outside his apartment. He was shirtless, and had worked up quite a sweat. Reggie approached Fuifui as if he'd known him for years (maybe he had). Being a massive Parramatta fan, I was absolutely starstruck. Fuifui was so laid back, and allowed us to take photos with him. I took my place next to him, as John snapped a photo on Reggie's phone. You'll notice I have my eyes closed. That's because John didn't give me a countdown for when I should smile.



But here's the funny part. When Reggie told Fuifui that we were with a teacher, Fuifui asked if our teacher was a female, and if she was hot. She was. Fuifui then wrote down his mobile number on a piece of scrap paper, gave it to Reggie, and said "Give this to your teacher. Tell her Fuifui wants to speak to you." We got back to the car, and Reggie gave the phone number to Miss Ferreira. Ferreira declined, as she was in a relationship, or perhaps just didn't appreciate random advances from strangers...even famous ones.

3. During Year 10, my English teacher (Ms Durand) suggested I should pick English Extension 1 as an elective for Year 11. I appreciated her recommendation, but I thought that picking that subject would burden me with too much stress. Sure, I was good at English, but that didn't equate to enjoying the study of English as it is administered by the Board of Studies. I was expected to pick the subject, and that annoyed me. I never picked it. One afternoon in Year 12, my Advanced English teacher, Miss Lowing, stopped me as I was walking out of her classroom. She asked me "Steven, why didn't you pick Extension?" I responded with a half-truth, "I didn't think I'd be good enough for it." She gave me a bewildered look and said, "It was made for people like you." I smiled awkwardly, before heading to my final period, where I reflected on what she said, and it made me feel like a heap of shit because I'd failed to live up to her expectations.   

4. Again, this is something I witnessed. My Year 7 homeroom teachers were Mr Muller and Mr Byrne. I also had Mr Byrne for Science (he was the COOLEST). Mr Byrne got married and went on leave for his honeymoon. When he returned from his honeymoon and walked into the classroom, Patrick Osman (a student) shouted "SIR GOT LAID!" The class erupted with laughter, before Mr Byrne said "Hey! Don't say that!"

5. Every Modern History class I had with Mr Bobin was hilarious. The great thing about Bobin is that he knew the majority of students hated school, and that learning in a quiet classroom was often very boring. So, he'd allow us to talk among ourselves, but he'd find a way to teach us the content, too. The thing is...the conversation topic was always something that teachers and students shouldn't be talking about. Bobin told us about his sexual encounters, experiences with alcohol, and he even hinted at grievances he had with other staff members. Only 10% of the lesson involved actual learning. I thought this deserved its own entry, because it was a highly enjoyable class to go to.

6. Mr Clark was one of the best substitute teachers I ever had during high school. Maybe THE best. He was extremely crude, but so likeable. It was Melbourne Cup day in 2005, and I had him for Geography (I think). Anyway, no one was doing the set work, and somehow or another, Mr Clark started randomly musing. He said one thing that I'll always remember. He told us, "One day, we'll all have to be burned when we die, because there'll be no space left for us to be buried."

7. We were playing cricket one time in Year 7, and the ball fired off Alan Truong's bat and struck me straight in the cheekbone. It hurt. A lot. Luckily, it wasn't a real cricket ball, but one of those hard rubber ones. Still, those things fucking hurt. I went to hospital to make sure everything was fine, and it was...and we all lived happily ever after.

8. It was Year 7, and I was playing t-ball for sport on a Thursday afternoon. It was my turn to swing the bat, and because I was rather uncoordinated that day, I couldn't hit the ball off the tee. After my seventh swing, I still hadn't hit the ball, and was subsequently made to sit down. What made it especially frustrating was the fact that Christian Hernandez was screaming out "UNCO!" every time I missed the ball.

9. The Liturgy of the Light at my Year 11 Retreat ranks among the most meaningful moments of my life. To cut a long story short, everyone in my cohort was seated in a room lit only by candles. We had the opportunity to mark the foreheads of past enemies with ashes, as a sign of forgiveness (remember...I went to a Catholic school). We could also mark the foreheads of people who had significantly impacted us in a positive way. The room was charged with an emotional electricity, and many people, including myself, let tears flow. I have written more about this night in the following post: (http://savona93.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/commemoration-of-one-year-anniversary.html#).

10. The following is something I've been wanting to get off my chest ever since 2009, but have never had the balls to say it, which is a sad reflection on society. It concerns something that happened at the retreat mentioned in the previous entry. There was this activity where six sheets of paper were stuck on the walls around the room. Each piece of paper had one of the following written on it: +3, +2, +1, -1, -2, -3. A statement would be voiced, and students had to stand near the number that corresponded with their opinion on that statement. The positive numbers stood for 'not sure but probably', 'agree' and 'strongly agree'. The negative numbers stood for 'not sure but not likely', 'disagree' and 'strongly disagree'. So, if the statement was "I love pizza", I would, without hesitation, run over to +3. If it was "Animal cruelty is acceptable," I'd go straight to -3. OK, got it? Well, the teachers who ran this activity should be ashamed of themselves. They manipulated students, removing them from their comfort zones so they could peck at their emotional wounds. I believe they started with innocent, playful statements, before moving on to something personal like "I get along with my parents." At the completion of every round, one kid would be picked from each group to explain their position. Could you imagine being the kid who was picked to explain their rough home life? Anyway, it was the last question that REALLY pissed me off, and that inspired this entry on the list. The statement was "I know there is a god." The majority of kids flocked to either +3 or +2 (I suspect a large percentage of them were lying). I went to +1, indicating I wasn't sure, but that I think it's likely. Now, that was merely a front. If I was answering honestly, I would have went to -2. Guys, I am an atheist. A fair few of you would know this by now, although I don't think I've ever declared it like I did in that previous sentence. Back to the story: only two students stood next to -3, declaring they were certain there is no god. I have so much respect for what they did. They knew people would give them crap for it. You could get bullied for being an atheist at my school. One of the kids, Robert Kern, was asked to explain his position. He said he does not believe because there is no proof, and that he has to see to believe. This is also my reason for not believing. A teacher, Miss McVeigh, then said one of the most disrespectful things I have ever heard muttered from a human mouth. She said "Robert, did you have a great grandmother?" Robert replied, "Yes." McVeigh then retorted "Have you ever seen her?" "No," replied Robert. Then, McVeigh had the audacity to say "Well how do you know she existed?" What an ignorant, offensive argument. If I were Robert, I would have walked out of the room, returned to my cabin, and not cooperated for the rest of the retreat. What made it worse is that McVeigh's comments were APPLAUDED by most of the students, while I was seething with rage, internally. 

11. My Year 11 Visual Arts teacher was Miss Kalianiotis. She was one of my favourites. Knowledgeable, approachable, and I had a crush on her. It wasn't just because of her looks; I was attracted to her mind, too. When I told a witty joke, she'd be the only one in the class who got it, and she understood that I liked conceptual art, and was happy to nurture this love of mine. As a thank you gift, my class decided we'd chip in $5 each to buy her something. I think the gift was a voucher for a manicure. pedicure, or something like that. Aforementioned atheist Robert Kern, Domenic Leonello and I were the ones who presented her with the gift. We went to her homeroom one morning to surprise her, and she was moved by the gesture—so much that she cried. Then, the unexpected happened. The three of us received a kiss on the cheek. I remember bragging to my friends at recess, and I remember their jealousy. But here's the weird part. That night, lying in bed, I had to convince myself that it even happened. I closed my eyes and seriously pondered if she kissed my cheek or not. I guess the fact that it happened so quickly is what made me second-guess its occurrence. Oh, and on a tragic side note, I requested to add Miss Kalianiotis as a Facebook friend a few weeks before school was over, and she not only declined...but blocked me. Oh well, I've moved on (probably).

12. It was Year 8 Design and Technology (D&T). My teacher, Mr Fellows, was out of the workshop. I thought it would be cool to get a piece of acrylic sheet, clamp it in a vice, and snap it in half by kicking it. Aaron Tarasiewicz also joined me. I split one piece in half, and didn't get caught. Aaron, however, was unlucky enough to be kicking the acrylic just as Mr Fellows walked back into the workship. When Fellows raised his voice, it was scary (even scarier than Mr De Nobile at St Gertrude's). Poor Aaron copped the full brunt of Fellows' vocal cords, while I stood by tight-lipped like an asshole, refusing to own up as his accomplice. I felt like a bad person that day.

13. I had Mr Fry Jr. as a homeroom teacher in Years 9 and 10. Fry Jr. had a bad habit of dismissing the WHOLE class late because ONE kid was misbehaving. This was unfortunate for me, as my afternoon school bus would always be the first one to arrive at the college. When the last bell rang for everyone to go home, you could count on bus 9512 to be outside the school already. I missed my bus a few times because of Fry Jr's inept efforts to discipline students. I told my mum about this, and she was fed up...so fed up that she confronted Fry Jr. at my parent-teacher interview night, despite the fact I didn't have him as a subject teacher. After that night, Fry Jr changed his attitude completely. He would be stricter with students, and even threw in lines like "Some people need to catch buses, and you're holding them up!" I found it hilarious, and if he wasn't doing his job properly, I'd sometimes wave my bus pass around to torture him in a passive-aggressive way.  

14. One time in Year 8, Phil Nguyen and I were calling each other names via email, just as a joke. We were on the library computers and we were using our school email accounts [stupidly]. Suddenly, the courier came through the door with a message: "Can Steven Savona and Phil Nguyen see Mr McFarlane in his office." Mr McFarlane was the I.T. coordinator. We knew we were in deep shit. We got down to his office, and McFarlane essentially told us in a cold, stern voice "I can see everything you do on these computers," "I saw those emails," etc. He let us go with a warning, but boy was that tense!

15. One afternoon, my Year 9 Italian class had Miss Kim as a substitute. She stopped the lesson halfway through, saying her purse had gone missing. She accused one of the students of stealing it. All of us sincerely denied these allegations. The assistant principal was called up, and wanted to ask individual students if they had witnessed the purse being stolen. None of us saw anything. When our regular teacher, Mrs Strazzeri, came back, she was furious with what happened. She wasn't angry with me and the other students. She was angry with Miss Kim for consuming so much lesson time. The truth is...no one stole Miss Kim's purse. Miss Kim didn't even bring her purse to school that day. She left it at home. I think she was fired after that.

16. In Year 12, I participated in the 40-Hour Famine sleepover on a Friday night at my school. I was having an enjoyable night until I split my head open. No, really. I was sitting up in the loft area of the school hall, when a soccer ball from down below came towards me. It wasn't travelling at speed, but I did have to contort my body to catch it. I leaned back a bit too far, and my head collided with the concrete step behind me. I hurt, but I thought nothing of it. Then, the person next to me said "Hey Steven, you're bleeding." Some teachers were called over, and they were really nice and caring, helping me clean up the blood. I didn't require stitches, so that was good.

17. One time in Year 10 English, a student (I believe it was Kresimir Kardum) declared "Gays aren't men." My teacher, Ms Durand, took great offence to this, and spontaneously asked everyone in the class to take out a piece of paper and answer the question "Are homosexuals men?" in a line or two. To the best of my memory, I responded "Homosexuals are men, because they have male genitalia."

18. My first ever true camping experience took place at my Year 9 camp. I had to spend one night in a tent, and the other night in a cabin. The night in the tent was somewhat unsettling. I shared the tent with my friend, Lucas Maganja. It was cold outside, and we could hear noises. We could see shadows on the tent walls, and the sound of footsteps indicated a human presence. Lucas put his head up to the tent's window and said "Fuck off, Ryan!" Ryan Ainley was a student who was notorious for being a pest. The person outside the tent wasn't a student at all. It was a teacher on supervision...Mr Dinh. It's rare that you accidentally tell a teacher to get fucked, but that's what Lucas did.

19. One time in Year 12, I had Mr Simonian as a substitute teacher for Studies of Religion. When the lesson was over, Roger Le could not get out of his seat. He raised his hand. "Sir, I can't get up." Mr Simonian: "What do you mean you can't get up?" Roger Le literally could not stand up, and Mr Simonian was angry that Roger waited until the end of the lesson to tell him. I never found out why Roger could not stand up that day.

20. I was unsure about whether I should include this one, but I've decided to go ahead with it. When I was in Year 12, former Australian PM John Howard visited my school as part of Leadership Day. Initially, he was supposed to address the College executive, the College prefects and the entire Year 12 cohort. This was changed at the last minute to only include the first two groups. This caused a HUGE shitstorm, especially when it was revealed that Year 12 could not be trusted to display good behaviour in the presence of the former PM. When the executive and prefects were listening to Howard, the rest of Year 12 partook in a softcore riot. Some students even walked out of the school. I can't go into detail about what happened during this recess, as I was listening to Howard speak (can't remember a single thing he said). This whole event spiralled out of control, and it created feuds among students, and also impacted on student-teacher relations. It became infamously known as Howardgate.