Mad Skillz

An invitation to share your mad skillz for Mad Skillz week(s)

Long time readers might remember Mad Skillz weeks. They’re an annual movable feast of reader generated goodness, and a great tool for me to pay attention to such trivial matters as exams and the like.

I know you might be reading this in a feed reader and about to move on – but don’t. Not yet. Sharing is caring. Do you care about kittens and babies and stuff? Yes. Great. Do you have something you’re skilled at that you wish other people were skilled at too? Yes. Great.

Also – if I know you read here from time to time, don’t be surprised if I email you asking for your help. Or hit you up on Facebook.

Mad skillz can be serious. They can be light hearted. They can be a professional trade secret, or a hobby that you’ve honed with years or hours, of practice.

If you have a mad skill… then…

mad skillz

It’s like show and tell. Only you’re sharing some sort of incredible, or obscure, talent or skill that you have, that you wish others had – or that is unique and interesting.

Previous years have included:

Do you have a mad skill you want to share that isn’t covered in that eclectic mix?

Do you want to promote your blog, or something you’re up to, via this medium?

I’d love you to. Especially if it is interesting and truly a “mad skill” that I might want to learn. It’s easy.

Just send me a list, or a short post, or a long post, on how to do your mad skill. Pictures are fun too.

Mad Skillz: How to run a debate at a theological college

Weird. Apologies to Arthur and Tamie. Just found this post in my “pending pile” thinking I’d posted it on the 24th of May. So, here you go. An extension to Mad Skillz for 2011.

Arthur and Tamie are pretty cool. I can tell that just by looking at their blog. And when you read it you’ll see that sometimes you can judge a blog by its cover. Or design. Anyway. I met Arthur once. At NTE. He was starting a Christian forum that I enjoyed participating in for a while back in ’05. Fast forward a few years and Arthur and Tamie are in Melbourne, studying at Ridley, ready to head to Africa to teach people about Jesus.

So anyway, Arthur and Tamie have a mad skill. They can run debates. At college. That are interesting. Here’s how.

Here’s how Arthur and Tamie ran debates at Ridley Melbourne.

Rationale (what and why?)

1. Make it engaging. The debate is for exploring issues together, not for being settled and definitive.

2. Make it fun. The debate is serious but it must not be dour. Be sure to create levity: compering that is warm and amusing, and speakers who love to laugh.

3. Make it irenic. The debate must be winsome and bridge-building, tactful and wise from top to bottom. Kill off potential antagonism and division.

4. Make it polemical. The debate must actively challenge people’s thinking. To that end, it’s useful to phrase the topic in terms of an artificial dichotomy: “Will the real Mars Hill please stand up?” “Mission: stay or go?”

5. Make it practical. The debate topic must relate directly to ministry and mission. A poor topic: “NT Wright’s understanding of justification is more accurate than that of John Piper.” A more useful topic: “New justification = better mission.”

6. Make it public. Although the debate is an in-house event, make sure it’s good enough to be published. Conduct it as if you will put it online—and then do so!

Procedure (when and how?)

1. Run one debate each semester. It’s quite easy to organise and is fantastic for building community.

2. Hand-pick the speakers. They need to be people with a good level of charisma and people-skills: people who can truly engage with the audience, acquit themselves well, and bring a positive light to both the issue and the college community. The speakers should also represent the whole college community, including both students and faculty, women and men.

3. Use an appropriate format. A traditional debating format may be fine, but be ready to vary this in service of the topic.

4. Prepare the teams. Gear up the speakers to interact directly with the topic, giving them guidelines and appropriate scaffolding, then leave them to prepare on their own.

5. Promote it effectively. Advertise with posters two weeks before the debate, and promote it creatively and casually.

6. Keep it short. 45 minutes is plenty of time for the entire debate.

7. Present it creatively. Pay close attention to the craft of the whole event. For example, introduce the debate using video clips, music, or infographics.

8. Announce a winner. This is not to pronounce a judgement on the issue at hand, but to promote reflection. Presenting a winner helps move the audience from being passive observers towards being proactive thinkers. Get an adjudicator who can do this aptly and wisely.

9. Provide a way forward. The topic isn’t abstract, so conclude the debate with recommendations for the audience, such as books to read or conversations to have.

Mad Skillz: How to plant a church in a new(ish) community

Andrew Millsom is a college buddy of mine planting a new church with my old church in Townsville, Willows Presbyterian. His church is called Northside Presbyterian and it is a new church in a new suburb in Townsville, North Queensland. One of Australia’s fastest growing cities. Townsville is an amazing place full of amazing gospel opportunities. This new church is in Townsville’s Northern Beaches area, so if you live nearby, and you’re looking for a family friendly church. Check. it. out. They also have great coffee (supplied by me – you too can buy coffee for your home, business, or church).

These are some of Andrew’s thoughts almost nine months in (though the plant is the product of years of preparation from the Willows perspective, and it launched in January, Andrew moved to Townsville towards the end of last year).

I’m not your hairy-chested, Mark Driscoll type church planter, but still I think I’ve learned some things. Here’s a sample.

1. A hand-picked core group is great.
If you come to Northside you’ll see something that looks a lot like normal church. But it’s what you won’t see that matters – you won’t see people sniping at each other, fighting, forming cliques, or complaining about stuff that isn’t being done their way. And you won’t realise that almost everyone there is in a small group and desires to serve in some way. All this makes the day-to-day work of church planting a lot easier. And Northside is like this because the core group was hand picked.

2. Just because you plant a church doesn’t mean new people will come.
This might sound obvious but sometimes we’re tempted to think this way. Sure the church is good, sure it doesn’t have some of the ‘baggage’ of an established church, sure it really is a church worth coming to. But if people don’t know you’re there, they can’t come. You need to put effort into getting your name out there.

3. The basics remain the basics.
The important things stay the same whether you’re in an established church or a church plant – teaching the Bible, welcoming newcomers, looking after the people who’re already there. If anything, without some of the distractions of a larger church, church planting means you focus on these things even more.

4. Being a part of a team is really helpful.
Church planters are generally one-man-bands. And like any pastor of a small church you need others to encourage and challenge you. I’ve been blessed to be part of a great team at our mother church, Willows, but I also try to catch up with one of the other pastors in the area (the Baptist guy) on a regular basis.

5. A community presence is gold.
We meet in a community hall in a state school. We did a working bee there last Saturday. Gold! You can’t buy that sort of goodwill for
the church or for Jesus Christ for that matter. People in our community no longer automatically have a positive view of Christians; we have to earn that. And church
planting (generally) provides more opportunities for doing that.

6. Best book I’ve read on church planting
Church Planting Is for Wimps by Mike McKinley. It’s just really down to earth… and short!

Mad Skillz: Maddie on how to use Facebook well

Maddie is my sister. She’s like, the best Facebooker I know. Here are her tips. You should listen to her because since last Mad Skillz her surname has changed to “Smart”.

Dear Readers,

Last year my Mad Skill(z) was telling you all how to write a good Mad Skillz post. I’m sure this blog’s editor in chief will manage to put a link to it here (if not I take no responsibility). I trust you will all take that advice on board before you submit your own skill this year. I will now share with you another skill I have. That is the skill of using facebook well. How do I qualify you ask? Well, I use Facebook a lot. I would say i check it once every 45 minutes on average, often before sleeping and after waking.

1. If you are a company make sure it makes sense to have Facebook. For example, if your business is selling anti-technology books it does not make sense for you to be on Facebook. If you do not need to contact your customer base often, or if you sell something no one really wants (maybe you are a funeral parlour) I don’t believe you belong on Facebook.

2. Question why you are on facebook. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to build a relationship with your customers (contact them, invite them to comment on your wall)? Do you want your customers to build relationships with each other (image the PA that would get – two cadbury ‘likers’ find love)? Do you just want to let customers know about existing/new products/events? Do you want to boost sales (offer discounts)? Do you want people to fill in surveys for you (offer free product samples like Nivea did). Make sure you do what you are there to do. Don’t just be annoying by not doing step 3…

3. Know when enough is enough. Just because I have ‘liked’ your company page does not mean I want you to fill my news feed with updates. I say limit yourself to one a day at the absolute maximum. I know i know, ‘one a day’ you say, ‘that is not enough because I need to tell everyone how excited I am about my product/company/pet fan page and people must love hearing from me all the time because they’ve gone to the effort to like my page’. WRONG. People may like you, but that has hardly taken any effort on their part, maybe 30 seconds. 30 seconds of their life does not give you a license to pollute their news feed. Now, even if you are only updating once a day you better be offering something good (discounts/sales/competitions) not something boring (pictures of employees, pictures of your products, quotes about your product, annoying questions about if it is ok to drink urine – here’s looking at you B105). You might think you’re interesting and that you’re product is amazing, but what you are doing is overkill. People will stop looking if you keep posting things constantly throughout the day. It’s annoying, and it stops your posts being special. Think – “if I had to pay to put this message here would i do it?” . If your answer to that is ‘no’ think about what you are saying – “i would not pay to share this with my customers”. Why wouldn’t you pay? – because “its not worth it”. So, if it is not worth sharing with customers why are you doing it? Just because comments are free doesn’t mean you need to abuse the channel of communication with trash. Keep them minimal, keep them interesting, make sure you are offering something valuable to your likers.

4. For the everyday, individual, non-corporate user – be interesting. Ban yourself from posting statii that start with “I am …insert mundane everyday verb here…”. Only write “i am verb” updates if the verb is something amazing like “sky diving” or “sword swallowing” or “sitting next to Brad Pitt on the plane”. I don’t care if you are brushing your teeth or watching tv, and i’m guessing no one else does either.

5. If you want comments on your latest status update or photo invite people to do so. Give your reader something to respond to or actually ask their opinion. BUT PLEASE do not vague book. It’s so annoying. Most people are not that interested in your life that they will sit there and try and guess what you are talking about when you write things like “something is about to happen to my life that is going to change another thing in my life”. Just tell them what happened in the first place. Leave all your attention seeking vagueness behind. If you want people to notice a photo tag them in it. It works every time, because let’s face it – people on facebook are all slightly self-obsessed and any mention of their name will grab their attention.

I believe this is a fitting image to finish with:

Mad Skillz: How to make toasted Mars Bar sandwiches, and some variations

While I’ve enjoyed posting mad skillz from a few other people (and I have a few more to go), I thought I might contribute a skill of my own… so, without further ado, I give you my updated guide to the production of the world’s most delicious toasted sandwich. For this batch I expanded the recipe to include marshmallows. So I give you. The Toasted Mars Bar and Marshmallow Sandwich.

You’ll need:

Fun size Mars Bars
A sandwich toaster (might be best to get a second one, because if you’re not careful you’ll be trying to get rid of the taste of marshmallow for weeks)

It’s all fairly self explanatory:

1. Chop up the marshmallows.

2. Place them on the bread, away from the edges, because you want to make sure they don’t spill over the edges onto the hotplate.

3. Cut up the Mars Bar – I used fun size ones, I think they used to be bigger. This batch probably could have done with some more chocolate to be honest.

4. Place the Mars Bar bits on top of the marshmallow. Put it in the sandwich toaster. You’ll need to check it as it cooks a few times in case a bit of marshmallow leaks. Trust me.

5. Serve. Delicious.

Now. That looks pretty good right? But you can make it a little more gourmet with the introduction of some puffed pastry in the place of the bread.

Either cook them on the toasted sandwich maker (be sure to oil it) – it’ll take about 15 minutes…

…or in the oven – I let these go for about 17 minutes in the end.

With a little bit of egg glaze (1 egg and a dash of water)…

The parcel worked better than the open one.

You could probably dust these with icing sugar to present them all fancy and stuff. They’re best eaten hot, but the insides get very, very, hot. So don’t burn your tongue.

Mad Skillz: Steven’s Guide to Wii Dance

From my perspective, Steven Tran is many things. Talented photographer. Blogger. Budding theologian/preacher. Friend. Coffee companion. Dancer.

That’s right. Dancer.

Have you ever known somebody for a while only to have your eyes opened to their true nature a surprising amount of time into that relationship? It can be disconcerting. I don’t think I’ll ever look Steven in the eyes the same way having watched him take me completely apart in a game of Michael Jackson’s Dancing Whatever on the Wii recently. It was, well, wow. It was wow.

I’ve never seen anybody play Wii dancing quite like Steven did. It was like the old days. The Timezone days. I’d be there with my friend Simon, playing Pro Evolution Soccer, or whatever the arcade equivalent was. And there, next to us, would be some very serious looking dancers. Faces still. Limbs flying. Serious expressions. Steve was like that. And he knew all the moves.

Here are his tips to dancing like a star…

  1. Practice – basics: multi-tasking is the trick, you gotta keep the beat, gotta watch the stickman for the next move, gotta time your moves right to score
  2. Memorisation: the little stick man that pops up on the screen never changes his moves for each picture, get into memorising what picture = what move
  3. “Jiayou” there’s no use playing these games half-heartedly. If you don’t look like a fool you’re not doing it right…
  4. Hold the Wiimote Correctly: having the right moves and not holding the Wiimote correctly will mean no points
  5. Practice – Goldmoves: after all your practice you’ve got to get the Goldmoves to maintain a +10K point average. Learn what they are, where they come up, and time it well…

I must confess, the whole experience reminded me of a South Park episode, it has a rude title that some might find offensive, and I haven’t watched it recently so I can’t remember if it has rude words, but here’s a link to the clip

Mad Skillz: How to, in an appropriate context, choke somebody unconscious in 8 seconds

Let me open with an arbitrary disclaimer. Only try this at home if your home is being invaded and you can take the criminal by surprise. Even then, you might be better off kicking them in the groin.

Not the hold suggested below.

I don’t know when you’ll need to use this, and I hope you never will, but Craig Schwarze is a seriously tough guy. He doesn’t just watch UFC like the rest of us. He does martial arts stuff. He knows how to do stuff you’ve only seen Chuck Norris do. He blogs about Genesis 1. You don’t get much tougher. You should, by the way, check out his blog. I’ve been reading it pretty much since I started blogging, and his post rate a few years back inspired me to up the ante here.

Here is his guide to taking down said opponent.

1. Position yourself behind the subject

2. Take your right arm, hook it around the subjects neck, and then place your right hand on your left shoulder. At this stage, the subjects neck should be sitting comfortably in the crook of your elbow

3. Take your left hand and slide it behind the subjects head, with the palm facing toward you. Use it to grip your right shoulder. There should still be no pressure on the subjects neck

4. Gently begin to squeeze your elbows toward each other. Don’t press too hard or quickly, or you will “gas” your arms. Just steady pressure together

5. Your forearms would put great pressure on the arteries on either side of the subjects neck. There should be no pressure across the throat. If applied correctly, subject will lose consciousness within a few seconds

6. Check out a quick demonstration (sadly embedding is disabled on this video)

Thanks Craig.

Feel free to submit your own mad skillz via my email address, found in various locations around this page (try the header).

Got a mad skill? I want to know about it

Remember Mad Skillz Week – that awesome fortnight last year when you, my dear readers, contributed your mad skillz for the benefit of others. Good times.

Well. It’s Mad Skillz time again. I’ve put the call out on Facebook, and now I’m putting the call out here too. If you have a randomly acquired ability, a professional skill, a piece of expertise, or something from your vast range of life experience that you think would benefit the eclectic mix of readers who visit this site – then tell me about it. Please. It doesn’t have to be amazing, just something that you know how to do but others don’t. I’ll publish it if it’s not something inappropriate and if it’s not boring. Maybe even if it’s boring.

Email me at my gmail address. It’s nm(.)campbell at gmail dot com. But without the brackets and with the requisite @ symbol.

Mad Skillz: Mad on mad skillz

My little sister obviously didn’t get the memo. You know. The one I addressed to the whole world inviting contributions for the increasingly inappropriately named “Mad Skillz Week”… you can decide the basis that I think the name is inappropriate for yourself. Anyway, Maddie, aka little sister number 2, had this to contribute.

I was annoyed that Nathan didn’t ask me to give input during mad skillz week. I thought perhaps he didn’t believe I had any mad skillz, and he may have been right.

I’m Mad, but the skill part still eluded me. I considered giving 5 tips on how to be me. But then if all the readers took my advice there could be maybe 3 or 4 of me running around and so I thought the better of it.

I considered writing 5 tips on how to be a cat lady.

  1. Buy two cats of the opposite sex.
  2. Never shower.
  3. Walk hunched.
  4. Wear scarves and cardigans.

Well now you see the problem. Plus since I’m not actually a cat lady it seemed like a fallacy.

Still I was convinced I could give 5 tips on something. Then it hit me…

Mad on How to share mad skillz:

(in no particular order of importance, except point 4)

  1. Be humble. Suggest you’re not that skilled, that there are a million people better than you and that you only have the skills because they were bestowed upon you by a mentor/teacher/father figure.Including other people’s names makes it clear you’re not a self centred blogger and that you’re part of a real world community without suffering some superiority disorder. I’m not really sure I’m qualified to advise you on how to write about your real skills, but growing up with Nath has taught me a little about writing stuff.
  2. Never say your skills all come naturally. If people are reading about your skills part of them wants to be like you. Fill them with a little false hope – tell them if they work hard they’ll be able to do your skill too. Anyone could write 5 tips to others, all you need is a skill and a communication medium – chisel/stone tablet, pen/paper, fingers/iPhone.
  3. “Although seemingly contradictory to rule number 1” – this phrase should always be included in your 5 key points. why? Because it shows there are shades of grey, there’s no best way, and it makes it look like your skill is a fine balancing act – so is actually a real skill.And although seemingly contradictory to point 1, it’s important your 5 points show that you are skilled, don’t shy away too much from your abilities because if people think you don’t know what you’re talking about why should they listen??? I know this because I won a public speaking award in grade 10.
  4. Always have something funny in point 4.
  5. Don’t put too much technical jargon in your points, but do include examples, photos, diagrams, flow charts – things that can be grasped fast. People outside your world aren’t familiar with the culture and stuff. And to be honest they probably don’t care about technicalities because how many people are going to become substitute roller-skating photography teachers? Not many.

    They are interested in the general gist of your skillz. So stick with simple words, concepts and grammar. Keep it short. <- see?

So there you have it – if you’re inspired feel free to keep sending mad skillz my way – nm campbell

Mad Skillz: Andrew on low light photography

Andrew isn’t just an opera singer about to hit the big time in Germany. He’s also a photographer of some repute. Here are his tips on low light photography. I’ll update this to include a link to his Flickr. If he’ll let me. I guess you’ll soon find out. Ahh, stuff it, it’s public domain. Here you go. Check his work out.

And here’s one of his photos – it is copyright so look but don’t touch (even though I’ve hypocritically stolen it – but we all know how I feel about copyright…).

A couple of years back I had a 10-tips article on photographing rock concerts published in JPG Mag (Read it here). So for Mad Skillz Week, here’s an adaptation of 5 tips for photographing in low light. Whether it’s a concert, candle-lit cuisine or the cool colours of the Eiffel Tower light-show, these tips will help make the most of difficult lighting situations.

  • No Flashing. Turn the flash off, it won’t help, and if it’s a classical concert*, it will get you kicked out. The flash will either not even reach the subject, or it will completely destroy an sense of performance or mood created by the low light.
  • The need for speed. This is where some manual control comes in handy. The idea is too get as fast a shutter speed as possible. If you can manually control this (like with SLR cameras and some digi-cams) you should aim for the hand-holding rule – a shutter speed that is equal to, or greater than the focal length of the lens (again, generally much easier with an SLR). Digi-cams with scene modes sometimes have a performance mode, otherwise, the portrait mode will open up the aperture, allowing for faster shutter speeds. If you have the option to turn the ISO sensitivity up, that will help greatly, though has the unfortunate side effect of introducing digital noise.
  • Closer. Related to the previous point – the less zoom you use, the slower the shutter speed you can get away with.
  • Brace. The best option is to use a tripod of some sort, otherwise, bracing the camera against a hard serface like a fence or a lamp-post can help reduce camera-shake. I keep a mini bean-bag in my camera bag so that I don’t scratch the camera in the process.
  • Squeeze. Another major cause of camera shake is pressing the shutter-release button. A gentle squeeze will help reduce the distrubance caused by pushing.
  • *Disclaimer: of course, you shouldn’t be taking photographs in professional performances, but if you happen to have a child star, then this will be of use.

    Mad Skillz: Kutz on how to play international roller hockey

    Of all the people in all the blogosphere Kutz is the only person I have lived with in Brisbane. Tim also blogs, and Mattias used to. I also work with Kutz. And go to the same college. And we play futsal together, and very soon we’ll play football together.

    For a guy who almost staged a coup on my only claim to presidential authority (QUT Christians in 2005) we get on surprisingly well and spend a lot of time together. Kutz is a deep thinker, who I think sometimes thinks so deeply he gets lost in his own thoughts while trying to articulate them. Lots of people know Kutz – both online and in the real world. His two greatest personal achievements are convincing his wife to marry him and playing international roller hockey – that’s my assessment not his. How many sporting internationals do you know? I can count them on two fingers. While the cynics out there might think that picking an obscure sport to play is kind of cheating – Roller Hockey is hard core (I watched a tournament once) and Kutz was a standout.

    Anyway, here are his tips on how to be awesome at Roller Hockey. He gets extra points for diagrams – though I suspect he was making them when he should have been writing a sermon.

    I’m Kutz and I’m an ex roller hockey player. Hoquei em patines, for those Spaniards among you.

    Roller hockey is awesome. You take 5 steps, and then all of a sudden you’re already going fast. Seriously. You don’t need to keep running. You just roll. Your legs are still. And yet you’re still going fast. A beautiful concept. Add to this the feeling of smashing someone into the wall, flicking a ball into the top corner (probably on the keeper’s stick-side) and getting to hit a ball (and, on occassion, other people) with a stick and how can you go wrong?

    Now, I used to play with a team of guys: Michael, Les, Dion, Matty, Serge (my bro), Chris, Peter and some others.

    Michael’s top 5 rules were:

    Rule #1 – Hit Dion
    Rule #2 – Hit Dion
    Rule #3 – Hit Les
    Rule #4 – Hit Dion
    Rule #5 – Hit Les

    Fun rules they were too. They aren’t, however, mine.

    My Five best* tips for playing roller hockey. (And these are genuine, and hence will interest only a very few of you.) (They will also mostly be team, not individual, principles. That’s because that’s all my dad taught me.)

    1. In negative sports**, a strong defence that puts some pressure on the opposition is the key to winning. So defend tightly, and communicate well.
    2. Don’t give away the ball close to the halfway line. Breakaways goals are imperative to avoid.
    3. If you’re trying to score, the hot-spots to skate to are here. (see diagram)
    4. When defending man-on-man (ie, you’re marking a specific player, not defending in a zone) skate in straight lines, roughly parallel to your penalty box lines. Skating in straight lines gets you there faster than skating in curves.
    5. Try to make your team-mate look good. If everyone on the team has this mentality, hockey is a beautiful thing.
    6. 6. (Unofficial, but vital) Don’t drop the soap in the showers.

    Nathan’s asked me to tell you now how applying these 5 tips will change your life. I would suggest that after intense thought and application these principles will simply confuse you if you try to use them while learning to play hockey. Our coach Eduard Karayan (ex-pro in Italian league) just let us go and have fun. So we did. :)

    * May change after more than 10 minutes of contemplation.
    ** A ‘negative sport’ is my short-hand for a sport where in any given attacking phase it is more likely that the attacking team will not score than that they will score. Ie, football(soccer). A ‘positive’ sport would be something like basketball where the expectation is that more likely than not the attacking team will score from their attack.

    Mad Skillz: Izaac on writing Christian parody songs

    Do you read Izaac’s blog yet? You should. It’s funny. And it’s by my friend Izaac. Izaac and I grew up in the town of Maclean. We’re both first years at Bible college. Maclean has a good chance of having the highest per capita production of blogging bible college first years in Australia. Anyway. Despite the self deprecation Izaac is a pretty talented guy. I wouldn’t have had him MC our wedding reception otherwise. It might have been ruined.

    Here’s his mad skill.

    I’m average at a lot of things. I lack the dedication and motivation to be truly awesome at any individual skill. I play piano but don’t read music, I play guitar but can’t play lead, I sing but only by the broadest definition of the word and at 25 I just started learning the clarinet and can only just make a noise. I am in no doubt this ‘could be better’/’could be worse’ stance has continued into the realm of blogging.

    One thing I can do however is shamelessly plagiarise the works of others for personal gain (though parody is protected by law and I don’t actually get any benefit from it). I now present to you Mad Skillz – How to write Christian Parody Songs.

    1. Don’t be obvious.
      Every man and his dog has thought about re-writing the lyrics to “I’m a Believer.” No one thinks you’re clever.
      And then I saw God’s grace/Now I’m a believer/Now there’s not a trace/Of doubt in my mind.
      All you’ve actually done is replaced “her face” with “God’s grace” which is both vague and potentially confusing jargon. It’s akin to re-writing Bryan Adams Everything I Do (I do it for you) by replacing every “you” with the word Jesus.
    2. Choose enduring songs
      There’s no point putting all that effort in just to have the original song fade into oblivion by the time the next ARIA chart is released. It’s better to choose songs by established artists and particularly their earlier work. Along the same lines rock and/or roll endures while other styles tend to fade away. Pop sensibilities change and most dance music has a particularly short lifespan. Remember Disco?

      This is the current ARIA Top 5 – Replay by Iyaz, Fireflies by Owl City, Blah Blah Blah – Ke$ha, Memories – David Guetta Feat. Kid Cudi, Tik-Tok – Ke$ha. No doubt like me you’re scratching your head wondering who these people are and how long since Coldplay released a single. Don’t re-write any of these songs.

    3. Pick songs with lots of lyrics.
      A lot of modern music is based more on the beat and bassline than the lyrics. Go for artists that are particularly verbose. I once attempted to use the entire Beatles #1 album to re-tell Romans. It was really hard with the shortage of lyrics and the length of lines for many of the songs. Make sure you have enough words to tell your story.
    4. Not all ideas are created equal
      Sometimes a great idea won’t work in practice, at other times all you need is a word or phrase to kick you into action. When I re-wrote Little Lion Man about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, it was just the word ‘Lion’ that got me thinking. I broke Rule 2 because the song won the Hottest 100 which ensured a lot of instant recognition. For those thinking I broke rule 1, I would contend because the song isn’t actually about lion’s it isn’t all that obvious. Maybe I’m just trying to say you don’t need much of an idea to have a go.
    5. Lighten up
      You’re essentially engaged in an act of humour. That means you must try to be funny, even if you fail. People will already be smiling because “Hey, isn’t this that song? But listen that crazy cat has changed all the words.” Don’t get bogged down with too much seriousness. I wanted to convey in Little Lion’s Den that King Darius hoped Daniel would be frightened by the punishment. The line I was trying to rhyme with said “Tremble for yourself, my man” I went for “Tremble in your sandals Dan.” It’s not funny ha-ha, but it works because it’s a play on “tremble in your boots” plus sandals are inherently funny.
    6. Realise it’s not a congregational song
      Simone writes God-glorifying congregational lyrics which she tells us aren’t particularly suited to recounting narratives. Parodies on the other hand are a perfect vehicle for retelling Bible stories. The lyrics remain the driving force behind the song, so craft them carefully but just realise you are unlikely to get a parody onto the next EMU cd, so write accordingly.
    7. Follow the metre of the original
      Most popular songs aren’t modern poetry. Some are, most aren’t. That means lyricists often squeeze in extra words, change the length of lines, occasionally change the rhyme pattern. Wherever possible try to work off the same number of syllables sung with the same staccato as the original. (Apologies to those who know anything about music and realise I’m using technical musical terms without actually knowing if they’re appropriate.)
    8. Rhyme like with like.
      It’s hard to strike a balance between rhyming with the original rhymes and telling the story you want to tell. Wherever possible try to rhyme with the original sound,. If there are multiple rhymes within a line, work extra hard to include them. A lot of the humour in a song can come from rhyming closely to the original. My version of Little Lion Man isn’t overly humourous – but those who know the original hopefully appreciate the effort I went to replacing the repeatedly dropped F-bomb with “Luck”, “just”, “stuck” and “plucked”.
    9. Production values count
      There’s nothing worse than writing a parody only for the hearer to be unable to recognise the original. If you are recording try to be as close to the original as possible. Personally, I would never sing on a recording if I had the choice, but seeing as most of my recording is done using my MacBook set up at home when Sarah is busy I am left with the devices and skills that I have. As most people don’t have the budget to accurately record or proficiency to play live close to the original, it is important to understand musically what is the hook to the song. It was too difficult to learn and record my Missy Higgins parody on piano, so I played the piano riff on a harmonica over my guitar to make it stand out and the song instantly recognisible.
    10. Arrogantly overstate the history of parody songs in the Church
      Having written a number of parodies, a few of which I’ve recorded I like to exaggerate the history and importance of parody songs. I think I heard somewhere once that many old church songs were written to famous tunes such as “God has spoken by his prophets” to Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. But more than that, a number of songs were written to famous pub tunes. Though on reflection I’m pretty sure the lyrics to pub tunes I’m referring to were by the heretic Arius. Hmm… this is an awkward place to finish.

    Mad Skillz: Dave on how to argue with me…

    I meant to post this yesterday – I think I may have mentioned that Dave Walker was contributing two Mad Skillz. Here’s his second. It’s timely – perhaps – given some of the discussions this week. And I didn’t even bag out U2.

    If you have a Mad Skill and would like to contribute I would be happy to keep posting these as long as material keeps coming in – feel free to go for a second bite of the cherry.

    Anyway, here’s what Dave has to say. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it – but I’ll let the disagreements slide.

    Nathan is one of the best people I know to have an argument with. You cannot argue with Nathan without being forced to think about what you’re saying and to consider fresh, creative, and insightful ideas. But arguing with Nathan can be a bit of an art form! Having been a sparring partner with Nathan in the North for the last four years, here’s my 5 tips for friends ‘down south’ on how to have a good argument with Nathan:

    1. Don’t. At least sometimes. Arguments with Nathan sometimes end with (metaphorical) blood on the floor on both sides, so a level headed assessment of whether it’s sensible to enter the fray is well worthwhile. Nathan will argue for arguing’s sake, so a release valve is important.
    2. Remember that the thinner the basis for Nathan’s position, the more strenuously he will defend it. You might think it’s stupid, but he really likes to do that. It helps him work out whether there’s anything in his position that he wants to hang on to, and whether your criticisms of the idea have any merit to them. Nathan’s whole philosophy is to test ideas to their absolute limits — so rather than be exasperated by that, just enjoy watching him defend the (sometimes) ridiculous. But don’t think that just calling an idea ‘ridiculous’ will somehow cool Nathan’s enthusiasm for it — it will do quite the opposite!
    3. The better the point you make, the less likely Nathan is to acknowledge it out loud. This is related to #2 — he’s not looking to agree with you, he’s looking to test ideas. So when you make a good point, he’ll ignore it and argue his point on different (and sometimes only loosely related) grounds. This can be very frustrating, but don’t bite on the deflection unless you think it’s relevant and call him on it if he needs it.
    4. Tell him to pull his head in every now and then. Nathan needs good friends who can see through his obstreperousness and self-confessed moments of arrogance, and remind him that there are often real people attached to the ideas he’s arguing against.
    5. You can never end an argument with Nathan. He is not interested in finding a position of agreement (see point 3) and he is psychologically incapable of letting you have the last word. So when it’s time to finish, make your point, let him have the last word, and either shrug your shoulders at him or say ‘thank you for highlighting that we don’t agree’!

    Mad Skillz: Ali on being poetic

    Ali writes a poetic blog. Which by default means it’s deep. It’s not necessarily all about poetry but it’s the type of blog where just reading makes you feel more artistic and creative. That’s her milieu (to steal an artistic French word). To my knowledge we’ve never met – but we’ve both lived in Townsville. Ali is a former “Steve Irwin” style animal wrangler (as indicated by her link). This gives her some sort of credibility with those who don’t like poetry…

    Here are Ali’s tips on how to be, or appear, poetic.

    Let me first just say, I don’t get around calling myself a ‘poet’ so I feel like this is something of a joke, and there are those out there who with more credibility than me, so feel most free to comment/differ/add stuff. (My other option was editing, which might have been more use to some but would have been just as farcical. However, if you would like to know how to catch a koala, read here.

    I supplemented this with some material from a course I did with Judith Beveridge, so you get something from a real expert.

    1. Read poetry. Read lots of it, and read the great poetry so your bar is high, but also read contemporary poetry (they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but a lot of the known greats are actually dead). Having said that, the thing that actually started me writing poetry – even though I’d read it since school – was a friend giving me a poem they wrote for me, and it suddenly came within the realm of possibility, when I had never really thought about it before.
    2. Find out what sort of poet you are, your sympathies and approach. Then learn by imitation. It is actually the way to learn all art forms.
    3. Know the elements and rules of poetry. Read a book like “Rules for the Dance” by Mary Oliver (otherwise this post will never end). Only when you know the rules (rhythm, metre, line, form, sound, image, metaphor etc) can you break them effectively and do the “freefall” (as Mark Tredinnick called it) nicely (same goes for grammar might I add – that’s what MT was actually talking about). As with all creative writing, show and don’t tell. (So mostly don’t use abstractions – eg a word like “beautiful” is an abstraction so describe the elements of the beauty instead – or else interpret the concept/abstraction with an object eg “quiet as a house in which the witch has just stopped dancing” – “quiet” is the concept, the rest is the object (and obviously the whole thing is a metaphor) – I snitched this example from Judith Beveridge.)
    4. Work hard on language and find the language appropriate to the experience, and the appropriate form. The style and the content are inseparable. With the language you want the reader to feel like they are going through the experience and to be engaged on a sensory level. The vocabulary doesn’t need to be sophisticated necessarily but using ordinary words in different ways is good. (This is a kind of summary of stuff from the Judith Beveridge course.)
    5. As with all creative writing or creativity or skill, keep practicing and writing and also revising and editing and be prepared to fail along the way. (Seeing some drafts from the masters is enlightening – we tend to think poetry just rolls effortlessly off the tongue of the greats – not so, so be encouraged.)
    Scroll to Top