The Wonders of June

Hello! Looking back over the last few weeks, June has been a very diverse month. We’ve had everything from the academic to the practical, the musical and the spiritual, and the pure esoteric – and that’s exactly how we like it.

As Melbourne crept into winter we kept our moods high and blasted the cold away with some fun and some soul. First of all, Rose Turtle Ertler filled the Little Mule with the happy sound of Ukuleles. We learnt how to tune up our instruments (very important!) and properly hold and play them before figuring out how to read chord charts. We spent the rest of the class plucking and strumming away, playing some classic tunes and generally having a really good time.

Keeping things musical, Anna Smyrk of Anna and the Appetites then got us using our voices in a Pop-Up Choir. Whilst lots of us may be Pavarotti in the shower, singing in front of people can be daunting. Anna showed us that there is safety in numbers and that singing in a group can be a fantastic experience. Before the night was through she had us lifting the roof right off the Little Mule with our glorious tones.

After we had had our fill of music things got a little bit silly. First of all, part time marketing speaker, full time John Hughes fan Hugh Gundlach took us on a trip back to the 80s and with clips, chats and quizzes we explored those iconic pop cult films. We started off with a little round of ‘tag-line trivia’, and then discussed the common themes and elements that characterise John Hughes’ movies, including adolescence, dysfunctional families and bullies.

Matt Lawson then earned the very literal award of ‘wettest Laneway Learning class yet’ for his class on Every Stupid Trick I Know. The bar trick extraordinaire showed off his skills and helped us master things from balancing chairs in the palm of our hands to flicking a match box so that one match gets lit and the box niftily lands in our front pocket. Unfortunately we also ended up with water all over the place when one of the tricks went a little bit wrong…

As the month moved on we got academic. First up was Speaking Proper: Phonetics with Stephanie Bellmaine who taught us all about phonetics. We now know how to read the International Phonetic Alphabet, how to make and hear some of the different consonants and vowels that are out there, and how to effortlessly switch between sounding American and sounding Australian. She also delighted in getting everyone to sit around staring into space whilst holding their fingers to their throat and making silly noises. All in the name of learning of course! Aside from now being able to correctly read the pronunciation guides in dictionaries we all went away with just a little more proof that English really is quite a silly language.

In Aerodynamics – I believe I can fly, Michael Patterson returned to the Little Mule to teach us about the flow of air over objects, the movement of objects through air, and the forces that can act on those objects. Focussing on aeroplanes we learnt all about pressures, densities, viscosities and we finished off with a paper aeroplane competition! We also learnt that Formula 1 cars can drive upside on the roof – honest!

Jerome Holleman made real life economics seem pretty easy in his class on Cash, Money, Debt and the Global Financial Crisis. He taught us one key thing: money is fiction. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing to be honest. Starting with the age old system of bartering we moved through time to look at the changing currencies, to the time of the first gold coins in 600 BC China, which pretty much brings us right up to the present day. Did you know that the US dollar has been the global currency since 1944 and it was only in 1971 that its value in gold was no longer guaranteed? This ‘Fiat Currency’ which doesn’t represent anything real or fixed takes its value from the collective agreement of its worth, hence the suggestion that money is fiction. After our brief philosophical sidetrack we discussed how money is made and how the credit system works, which leads nicely into explaining the GFC. Scary stuff really.

In Law huh? What is it good for? John Alizzi helped us to answer that very question as he talked to us about law, society and people. We began by defining ‘law’ and the different types of law and then looked at the relationships between law and society and how they influence each other. With some interesting discussions about what counts as a ‘reasonable person’ and whether laws should be flexible to take into account things such as age, race and inebriety of the defendant at the time of offence, we tried to understand some of the ins and outs of what can be a vast and confusing topic!

We also got in touch with our spiritual sides this month and for 75 minutes we all just sat. Yes, just sat. On comfy cushions in our spot of relative inner city peace we unwound and tuned in as we learnt about, and practiced, Zazen Meditation. Our goals were to establish a calm and open state of being so that we can increase our receptiveness and compassion. We learnt the basics about how to go about meditating and were surprised at the many little pockets of tension we all found we were holding. By the end of the class we found that we were feeling very relaxed, without feeling sleepy (well, some of us might have had a little nap…) and there were many vows to begin meditating more often.

Melbourne-based artist Kirsty Hulm then got us to let go of some of our artistic inhibitions and ‘explore the way we can use drawing to shape our own memories and communicate with our present selves’ in Drawing From Memory. She started off by talking about different artworks that speak to her in order to get us thinking about art and then moved on to some fun little exercises, designed to get us loosened up and thinking a little… freer. We spent the majority of the class on our own large charcoal drawing, each of us drawing an object that had some sort of meaning to us. There were special items of jewellery, a teapot and a candle among many others.

Olive oil expert and genuine Italian foodie Francesca Zaccarelli taught us that there is more to know about Olive Oil than we thought possible, and to become an expert taster takes on average two full years! However, since we didn’t have quite that long, in 75 minutes she discussed the different types of vegetable and olive oils, why they taste different and where those attributes come from. She then taught us how to properly taste olive oil and talked us through the various things we should be looking for, all whilst we tasted three different olive oils.

To finish off the month we decided to make a right mess of the Little Mule when Tim Denshire-Key from Neel Dey Furniture got us sanding away in Furniture Restoration. Working with cut off and recycled timber we learnt how to assess the damage to an item and plan our restoration before getting hands on sanding, staining and polishing. Everyone went away with a stylish heat mat for the kitchen, lovingly tended by their own hands.

All that was left was for us to clean up the chaos!