"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Monday, 18 July 2016

Go Again

So this Pokemon app is getting bigger. this happened in Central Park recently when word got out that there was a rare Pokemon all over the area.

What I find interesting about this is the reactions of the public. They range from hilarity and jealousy over not having been there themselves to doomsday lamentations. Just in case you were thinking otherwise, the fact that this pointless game has taken over the world is not an indication of the de-evolution of the world.

I totally agree that the points this person raises are conversations that need to be had. But not all the time. The world needs just as much of this as it does of that. As soon as the balance tips too far one way or the other, that's when it becomes a problem.

Contradictively though, there's just no way I can get behind the popularity of the Kardashians.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Pokemon Go

I've managed to keep this blog going on a regular basis for two and a half years now. I've pushed through idea slumps, lack of readership and having 601 jobs and still managed to find time to keep this going. But now Pokemon Go has arrived in Australia and it's become the biggest threat to this blog since it started.

Any time I've got free time (and sometimes when I don't), I think to myself "I could be catching Pokemon now. I, like most of the players of the game, want to be the very best, like no one ever was. And I am doing pretty well. I'm at level 15 with a couple of Pokemon over 1000 CP. I've seen 65 Pokemon and loaded 63 of them into my Pokedex. That's reasonably close to half of the Pokemon that are currently available in the game.

I love this thing. It gets kids (and young adults) out of the house like nothing else has ever done. It's combined video games and fitness in a way that many have tried to do but ultimately failed (think the PlayStation Eye Toy, the X-Box Kinect and to a lesser extent the Nintendo Wii). And it's so much more social than I would have thought. On Monday I went to Unley with my friends Mitchell and Kelsey. We hung around the oval eating pizza, watching the Sturt Football club train and catching Pokemon as they appeared. After we finished our pizza, we got out of the grandstand and headed for the outside of the stadium, and we found it was surrounded by people who were also playing the game. They'd set down lures and were co-ordinating on which Pokemon could be found where or complaining about how hard some of them were to catch etc. There were dozens of them and I'm pretty sure I spotted some people I know.

I should have seen this coming. I've been intending to put some money in the stock market for a while. I knew this game would be popular, but it didn't click that its popularity would affect Nintendo's share prices. But in just the first week, the company's shares went up so much that the company as a whole became 10 billion dollars richer. That's right, billion. In a week. I certainly missed that opportunity.

Here are some pics  of my adventures so far.

Monday, 11 July 2016

History Is Repeating

Friday, 8 July 2016

Entering the Digital Age

There are different methods of periodisation - the tendency to separate human history into arbitrary, non-overlapping blocks of time. You've got pre-history, then the stone age, bronze age and iron age (often viewed together), then the middle age all the way up to the industrial age. From my small amount of research, it seems that these shifts in the times are caused by major advances in technology. The stone age began when early humans first learned how to make tools out of rocks and wood. The iron age came when we learned how to smelt, making weapons, building structures and trading in it. After we learned about the ways in which fossil fuels could be burned to create energy, we created the first steam powered engine and suddenly we were in the industrial age. Everything became faster and more hungry for power and things were produced at a rate never before imagined.

The general theory is that sometime in the mid-20th century, we left the industrial age and entered the information age. I think that's close, but not quite right. Because in the 1990s, there was an advent in technology that changed the whole direction of mankind just as much as the steam engine, the blacksmith and the wheel.

The internet.

Whether you're very young and have lived with smartphones your whole life or very old and complain about the young people's dependence on them, there's a very, very high chance the internet shapes your life in some way. I call this the digital age - the period beginning in 1990 when a computer scientist took a developing "network of networks" and turned it into the world wide web. Our dependence on the internet exploded after that, to the point that just a quarter-century later, we have toasters that are communicating with kettles, TVs that can download movies and supercomputers that have all of the world's knowledge in our pockets. One of my favourite stories is from 2012 when I took a trip to Perth, Australia. I went into a store to buy some new board shorts and couldn't decide which one to buy. So I took a picture of myself wearing each of them, sent them to my friends back in Adelaide (2700 kms away) and got a response from them by the time I left the changeroom. I love the digital age.

But what I find really interesting is that I'm at a weird age where I grew up with the very last of the analogue era. I'm just old enough to have held a cassette recorder next to the radio when I wanted to keep a song for future use. Failing that, the only music I'd hear came from the CDs that I bought, which I would listen to on my Discman. The same goes with analogue cameras. We would take holidays overseas with our bulky camera, looking through the viewfinder at the top to work out how it would look. I would be sternly warned "Don't open the back!" else we'd lose the last few shots we'd taken. I remember getting prints back from the chemist and only then would we know if the photos had turned out alright. My formative years were still in that time where you would call up your friend on a landline phone and talk to them (using your actual voice) for ages. If your friend wasn't home, it would be unlikely you'd be able to contact them until they got home and called you back.

I wonder all the time what it must feel like to have been born just ten years later than I was. People older than me grew up in a world where the internet didn't exist at all. That shaped their lifestyle in a certain way. People younger than me are growing up in a world where the internet controls and runs everything. That shapes their lifestyle in a certain way. Me, I'm in this weird half-half generation, where the internet existed, but hadn't yet taken over. It must be similar to how people feel if they were born after the first 9/11 or the first World War. Growing up in a world where events like that have already happened would have a vastly different feeling to being in a world where they haven't yet happened and are therefore unimaginable.

I've generally embraced the digital age like many who are older than me have not. I log into a lot of things using my Google account, I stream TV shows from Netflix right to my phone or to the TV with Chromecast, and the moment I driverless cars become a reality (and I can afford one) I'll get one. But on the other hand, I'm very slow to embrace most new technologies. My gaming console requires a separately sold device to be able to go online, I only discovered and bought my Chromecast a couple of months ago and I'm usually one of the last to try out a new social media service or app. It's a weird place to be. But it's also kinda fun.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Question of the Month: My First Literary Love

It's time for Question of the Month, where a small community of bloggers answers a thought-provoking question provided by a member of the group. This month's question is

"What was the first book (or book series) you fell in love with?"

It can be really hard to think back right to the very first thing that started our love of books. My mum tells me she used to read to me as a toddler and that I loved it. I remember reading a lot of Dr Seuss books and still have a ton of them in my cupboard. I recently unearthed a copy of Go Dog Go that was in such bad shape that the pictures on the front and back covers had been torn off and what was left looked like what you'd get when you try and peel a barcode off a new product and can't quite make it.

The story was in-tact though, and I found a lot of joy in re-reading it. But I'd say the first book I can remember finding, not being able to put down and subsequently sought out the entire series from start to finish was K.A. Applegate's Animorphs series.

It started when I was about nine years old and was watching the Animorphs TV series religiously. I had no idea it had started as a book series which even today is normal for me. Once I was given two of the books for my birthday, it began. I read them, loved them and made the decision to find all the books in order so I could read them as a complete story arc. I loved seeing each new cover, which showed one of the six main characters morphing into an animal. It would be a different person each issue, indicating who the narrator would be for that episode. The characters would take turns relating the story in a regular pattern starting with the leader Jake.


For those who don't know, Animorphs centers around five teenagers who are thrown into a situation where they're the only hop for mankind. A breed of parasitic alien named Yeerks had begun a silent, stealth takeover of Earth. Yeerks were basically slugs, with no sense of sight, smell, hearing etc. So they needed to crawl in through the ear canal of another organism and attach themselves to its brain in order to experience those senses. Once attached, the Yeerk controled the host completely. Five of the aforementioned teenagers (the sixth came soon after) happened across a crashed spaceship belonging to a different breed of alien (called the Andalites) who were sworn to stop the spread of these parasitic Yeerks. There was a lone Andalite in there who was hurt by the crash and dying. With his last act, he explained the situation to the kids and gives them a piece of alien technology which became their primary weapon in fighting the Yeerks - the ability to acquire the DNA of other living organisms and morph into them.

Over the course of 54 books (that sounds horribly daunting, but each book was quite small; kind of like the Hitchhiker's Guide books), their story evolved in many ways. Their guerrilla missions, which started as abysmal failures, slowly became more and more successful. They were occasionally sucked into strange new places, from as close to home as Antarctica or the Amazon to as far away as whole other planets. They gained new allies in many species that weren't human. The catalogue of animals they could morph into expanded from just Earth animals to sentient alien beings. They discovered the reason the Yeerks had chosen to invade Earth in the first place and - probably my favourite development - they discovered what the Yeerk's real relationship was with their sworn enemy the Andalites.

The story went that before they were enemies, the Yeerks were confined to their own planet, helpless and pathetic, just as slugs are on our own planet. There was an Andalite Prince named Prince Seerow who felt sorry for the poor helpless parasites. So he decided to help them by giving them Andalite technology, such as the ability of space travel. In an amazing lack of foresight, the Yeerks said "Well thanks, now I guess we have the means to take over the galaxy." and began their conquest. Prince Seerow was was put to death and the Andelites passed a new law vowing never again to give Andalite technology to other races. They called this law the Law of Seerow's Kindness. And what it also meant was that the Andalite that had crashed into Earth and given our protagonists the power to morph (himself a prince) had broken his people's highest law to do so. He committed a form of treason with his final act so he could give humans a tiny fighting chance.

Recounting all this makes me want to read it again. I used to go to the library (back when kids still did that) once every couple of weeks to borrow the next three books in the series and return the ones I'd read. I wonder what they'd think if I turned up now as a 24 year old and started doing it again?

If you'd like to join the bloghop, enter with the list below. The picture used at the top of this page was created by hopper Olga Godim and I encourage everyone to use it if they'd like. The one I made was a screenshot from an episode of The Simpsons, so I'm not entirely sure of its legality :P

Friday, 1 July 2016

5 Suggestions for New Social Experiment TV Shows

It's a new subgenre of reality TV I'm seeing pop up a lot now - the social experiment. Shows such as The Seven Year SwitchKiss Bang Love, Married at First Sight and newest addition The Briefcase all center around a perverted premise and viewers watch as the drama unfolds.

I couldn't care less about these shows, but I do care about cash. And there seems to be much of it in the making of these shows. So I thought I'd have a go at creating some new social experiment reality shows. If you like one and want to see it made, call 1300 555 123 or SMS your name and the name of the show you like to 0464 242 353. Standard call and SMS charges apply.

Pant Swap
We follow five couples (some married, some just dating) as the partners in each couple agree to swap underpants for two weeks. Laugh as each male tries to master the art of releasing his wedgie without being noticed. Cry as each female despairs over the amount of holes in her pants. Will any of the couples decide they like the change and stick to it? Tune in to find out.
Disclaimer: We've been receiving your letters and for the last time, there will not be a gay couple on the show. That just defeats the whole point.

Big Ursa
You've heard of big brother? Now try Big Ursa - the show where we lock twelve contestants in with a house full of bears! Watch as friendships are formed and limbs chewed. The black bear will be attacked (emotionally) by the polar bear as we learn he's a white supremacist. The grizzly bear and the kodak bear will team up to get Bear Grylls voted out of the house. The teddy bear doesn't last long, as it and four of the contestants are eaten on just the first day. TV Guide gives this show two paws up.

There'll be celebrity appearances too.

Find My Phone
We take a phone from an overly social teenager and hide it in the place they're least likely to find it - a library. In the new show that authors everywhere are talking about, this young man or woman must decipher the strange text (it's like an SMS written on paper!) and deal with constantly being told to shush. Friends will contact them over the weeks ahead by writing them gossip-filled letters. By the end of the show, we'll have answered the question - has this teenager actually learned something? Now available for streaming on your smart phone.

It just... goes on... forever...

The Botchelor
A dating show where one man chooses a new bride from one of thirteen vain, conceited, malicious beauty queens. But there's a catch - each woman has had some kind of botched surgery. Will our Botchelor be able to keep his eyes off that one boob that's two cup sizes bigger than the other? Can he navigate around the scalpel that's still sticking out of that giant mole? will he figure out how to kiss the lady who can't move the left side of her face? At the end of each episode, the Botchelor will eliminate one woman by handing her a bandage and asking her to leave the sterilised area. And at the end of the series, the last remaining woman will be crowned "The Botchelorette". They'll run away together, but then the guy will leave her and marry the girl who came second instead.

Do yourself a favour. NEVER Google botched surgery.

PM for a Day
We're taking political turmoil into a whole new electorate. In Australia, we've had five changes of Prime Minister in just three terms. So we've decided to throw our hat in the ring. Over the course of ten days, we give ten different people the chance to be Prime Minister. Chaos reigns as the boats are turned away, then invited back, then turned away again. Superannuation fluxuates from 9% to 12% to 1% and then to a million percent. Gay marriage is one of the first things to be brought in, but it's soon followed by marriage to pets, objects and abstract ideas (like Wednesday). The proponents of the "slippery slope" argument become annoyingly smug. The phrase "We have a plan" is uttered more times than in any other ten-day period in recorded history. There are hugs aplenty as one PM announces a stimulus package of one free puppy to every household. Nobody knows what happens to Medicare.

You won't believe what happens on the final day.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Each Act is New

I want to some interesting quotes I found online recently.

"He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future."

I feel this is quite accurate and intelligent. In each generation, whatever the youth believes or holds dear becomes the norm, and then that norm becomes the against which the next generation rallies.

"It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge."

Again, this seems like a very intelligent observation. Someone who deals in facts and logic can be convinced of their own inaccuracy. Someone who reasons with belief suddenly starts to ignore contradicting facts and fight harder for that belief.

"Words build bridges into unexplored regions."

As a writer (a blog writer but it still counts), I'm a firm believer in the power of words. The right choice of words can convey any idea and can literally change mankind.

All three of these quotes are wise and profound, and they all came from the same person.

Who was the person?

Adolf Hitler.

This is an example of how our own biases colour new information. If I'd presented the above information as "Here are three things that Adolf Hitler said" and then listed the quotes, they would have seemed much more dark and foreboding. The quotes would have been given less relevance simply because "it's Hitler". This attitude happens a lot. I hear from many people who no longer think Bill Cosby is funny and in some sort of 1984-esque mind trick are convinced that he never was. I see the same thing with Mike Tyson - they can't enjoy his appearances in films etc because they know he was once convicted of rape. I'm not exactly saying this attitude is wrong, but it's not how I choose to look at the world.

In the Australian legal system (and I presume those of other western countries), once you've paid your punishment for a crime, you're given a clean slate. In the eyes of the law, that crime is independent of the rest of your life and is only brought up again if you commit another crime. That's more how I look at people. As an example, I generally consider Donald Trump a bad person (as many do). But each new thing he says, I view independently of the other unrelated things he's said in the past. If I agree with something he says, I admit it. If he announces a policy I support, I like him a little more.

There was a recent incident in Australia where Matchbox 20 lead singer Rob Thomas said something at one of his concerts that was racist and frankly just fucking stupid. But when I saw the footage of it, I just thought "Oh man, I hope this doesn't ruin his life." He did a very, very dumb thing, but if you put it on the graph of good and bad things he's done in his life, it would be an outlier. I'd hate to hear people say "That Rob Thomas, what a racist ass-hole. Did you see what he said at that concert in Sydney?" Same with Michael Richards - I believe him when he claims he's not racist. I just think he made a very dumb mistake while trying to be funny. I know I'd hate to have done something stupid and then for that mistake to define me.

It happens on a much, much smaller scale too. I've seen it happen where someone says something and if the people around them like them, they laugh or agree. If the person is disliked by those around them, the exact same comment is seen as weird or unfunny. I try to view it the other way. I try not to let my opinion of an action be coloured by my overall opinion of the person who committed the act. Each act is new in my eyes.

Friday, 24 June 2016

New Experience Challenge Week 41: Pole Dancing!

(Originally published on October 20, 2014)

This is part three of what I'm deciding to call the Crash Course Trilogy - three situations where a friend of mine has brought me along to a class she's taking part in. Part one was a Zumba class with my mum. Part two was a salsa class with Jerida. This week, Sarah took me to The Pole Boutique, where she'd been taking pole dancing classes for the last few months. I wanted her to come with me for emotional support, but we couldn't find a beginner's class when we were both free. So Sarah had the fantastic idea to book a private lesson.

'Ask for Olivia,' she said to me. 'She's my instructor at the moment, she's the one I told about your situation. Or Rosie. She was my first instructor and she's a little firecracker, she'll give you tough love if you need it.'
'Is there anyone named Charli?' I asked.
'No, why?'
'That's a shame. The last couple of classes I've taken have both had really hot instructors named Charli.'
'Oh yeah, I read about that. Sorry to disappoint you Mikey.'
'That's okay, I'm sure we can get their names legally changed...'

When I called up the place to ask for a private lesson, the girl on the phone sounded confused.
'So wait... You want to book a private lesson?'
'Yes please.'
'...And you're male?'
'Last time I checked.'
'Do you want a male instructor?'
'Do you have one?'
'A female's fine. I've been told to ask for Olivia or Rosie.' This was starting to feel like I was hiring an escort.
'Have you been told how much it costs?' Not helping.
'I sure have.'
'Alright, I'll have a chat to them both and see who can book you in for that time. We'll give you a call back.'

The next day, I got a call from a much less confused-sounding person.
'Hi Michael, this is Olivia from The Pole Boutique. I heard you'd like to book a private class?'
'Yes please. Weird question, is it okay if someone's there taking photos?'
'Oh, are you the guy Sarah was telling me about?'
'Yeah, that's fine. So we'll book it in for this Wednesday at three.'
'Sounds good, can't wait!'
I broke the news to Sarah over Facebook.
'All booked in. This Wednesday at three.'
'Yay! I'm so excited for pole!' she said.
Mustn't... make... jokes...

When Sarah and I walked into the studio on Wednesday, all I could see was a desk and a giant curtain blocking off view from the street. I guess they'd get a lot of gawkers who want to see women in hotpants dancing. Olivia greeted us and took us behind the curtain.There were two rows of poles, one along each wall, and a mirror facing each one. One pole at the end was being used by an incredibly toned woman who seemed to be working on a routine. She was playing some slow music from a speaker that was set up near her and getting into all sorts of crazy, gravity-defying poses. She was very good.

I got changed in the bathroom. I'd been told to wear shorts so that I could use my skin to grip the pole. But I only own two pairs of shorts and they both come down to my knees, so I wasn't sure how much help they'd be. When I got out, Olivia and Sarah were already waiting in their gear.

'Hi, I'll be teaching you a few tricks today. I'm Olivia.'
I wondered how she'd feel about me calling her Charli for the next hour. I wanted it to be a hilarious through-line for my trilogy. I'm weird like that. Olivia continued, pointing at the woman on the pole.
'And that girl in the corner is the owner of the studio. Her name's Carlie.'

...Oh, snap!

'Were there any particular tricks you wanted to learn?'
'Not really, I don't know any tricks to begin with.'
'Well if you're doing this new experience thing, I'll give you a taste of a whole variety of tricks. That way you'll get the best idea of what it's about.' That was unusual to hear. Up until now, my friends and I were the only people who'd known about the challenge. This was the first time a person had been forewarned about it. It was nice.
'Good idea,' I said. 'Sarah, better get out the camera...'

The Warm-Up
So naturally, the first thing we went through was the warm-up Olivia took me through a series of weird stretches I'd never done before, a lot of which used the pole for support.

The Pike
As the last part of the warm up, Olivia got me to grab onto the pole and tuck my knees up to my chest, then drop them and kick them almost above my head. Sarah gave me a little bottle of solution that was meant to make my hands sticky so I could grip the pole. I think the sweat on my hands melted it off, is that possible? I grabbed onto the pole and instantly slid down a few inches.

'Um, this isn't going to work,' I said. I tried washing my hands and reapplying the solution. Still slippery.
'Maybe try without the solution,' said Olivia and she grabbed a rag and spray bottle to wipe down the pole. For the rest of the afternoon, I had to use that rag to wipe down the pole (and my hands) so I could actually keep hold of it.

The Shoulder Tuck The first actual trick I did, it involves standing with your back against the pole and using your shoulder to roll yourself upwards into another trick.
The Forward Spin I had to stand next to the pole, wrap my inside leg around it and kick off with my other foot, bringing my feet together in a point and spinning for a while. It made me dizzy. Meanwhile, Sarah busied herself with a few tricks on the pole next to me. She was amazing. She has a long background as a dancer, so her form on all her tricks was pretty much perfect. Not to mention that she's made of muscle and bone, so she could hold herself in  the air for minutes at a time. Anyway, here's my spin.
The Reverse Spin This one was a little harder, because I had to start spinning before I left the ground. Watch in the mirror how quickly and effortlessly Olivia does it, then watch how pathetically I fail.
But I think I got it in the end.
The Climb It's amazing how many times she had to repeat it. 'One foot hooking around behind. The other foot in front. Knees together. Use your elbow to lock yourself in place, then lift the feet up and move your lower hand to the top.' No matter how many times she said it, I kept just trying to pull myself up with my arms. My feet were in an uncomfortable position and the shorts were stopping my knees from being able to grip. The shorts had to go. 'Would it be weird if I took my shorts off and just did this in my underwear?' Sarah and Olivia looked at each other and I realized they'd practically been in their underwear the whole time. So I took them off. Much easier.
The Twirl Now I had to use that same leg-grip to twirl around the pole. You can hear Sarah's tiny celebration when I got that one right.
Olivia paused and thought to herself for a second. 'Do you want to go upside down?' she asked. 'Nothing would make me happier,' I replied. Going Upside Down Going upside down basically involves just holding onto the pole and kicking yourself into half a back flip. Here's what happened on my first attempt.
It didn't get much better from there.
And then it got downright weird.
But I think I got it in the end.
The Flagpole This one's a staple of anything gymnastic. It's the ability to hold yourself in the air horizontally. I've always struggled with this one. My attempts ranged from this...
...to this.
'Well done, that's great!' Olivia said. 'You're doing things that it usually takes three months to work up to. Not many people have that kind of upper body strength.' I grinned, embarrassed. 'Hahaha thanks I guess. I don't know how, it's not like I work out or anything...' 'Oh, so you're just gifted. I hate that,' she said, making Sarah laugh. She looked at her watch and then at Sarah. 'We've got a few minutes left, should we show him the Hello Boys?' Sarah perked up and grinned. 'Ooh, yes! Show him that one!' The Hello Boys! Olivia stood facing her pole. 'So here's how it's done,' she said. 'Grab the pole with both hands, take the top hand, arc it behind your back and with the thumb pointing straight up in the air like you're about to stick it in your bum, grab the pole again from between your legs. Once you've done that, kick your legs up into a V over your head. It looks like this.' She did the trick and I almost had to look away. They were right about the name...
Disclaimer: Her legs went ALOT further back.
Time for me to give it a go. 'So... how do I do it without crushing my... um...' 'Oh, right,' she said. 'Well, just be careful I guess.' 'Thanks, I feel better now.'
So that was everything for the afternoon. Olivia congratulated me again and took me through the warm down. 'How do you feel?' she asked. 'Sore,' I replied. I'd slightly pulled both of my hips during one trick and the tops of my feet were peeling off from when I climbed up and slid down the pole. 'Yeah, since you don't work out, you'll really feel it tomorrow,' she said. 'Have fun with that.' 'Do you think you'll be back?' asked Sarah. 'No way,' I replied. 'It was really fun, but I can't keep taking pole like that. I just feel too rooted.' Couldn't resist sneaking one pole joke in there ;)


This post was republished as part of the Flashback Friday series. Participants use the last Friday of each month to repost an old post that either needed more attention or that you're very proud of. This particular post was big for me because it marked the point that my readership exploded (in comparison to what I'd been getting previously). If you'd like to join in, add your name to the list below.

Monday, 20 June 2016

10 Sentimental Thoughts that Are Kind of Bull

The single mum that looks after her kids and works two jobs to make ends meet, while very admirable, is not a hero. Aquaman's a hero.

It matters whether you win or lose. It's perfectly okay to lose, but if you don't care at all about winning, why take part in a contest?
"To get fit!"
Hit the gym.
"To meet new people!"
Join a book club.

You can be MOST things you want to be.

Most people already are "being themselves". Trying to please somebody so they'll like you isn't "not being yourself", it's just "not being a dick".

I don't care one bit that there are people in worse off positions than me. That doesn't make my situation any better.

You can stick your "A for effort" up something else that begins with A.

Clouds don't have silver linings. Shit things are just shit.

Nothing happens for a reason. It's all random. You were an accident.

On the rare occasion, violence can solve things.

"Respecting others opinions" would be a great one if anyone actually did it.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Elitism Is Addictive

I've always hated elitism - the idea that one is better than another because of the school they went to, the clothes they wear, the money they make, the company they keep or the privileges they have. I've talked before about my struggle with what I choose to wear. I feel judged whenever I wear anything other than a suit to a milestone birthday and upon trying to get into a nightclub, I've literally been told "Those shoes have laces, I can't let you in." Despite how proud I am of the work I do for a living, there's always people that give me a blank expression when they discover I'm not studying anything at university. And I've been a part of systems that are run by an exclusive inner circle of people, where the only way to succeed in that system is to find a way into that circle. As someone who tries hard not to feel like I'm better than anyone else, these attitudes deeply frustrate me.

But something happened recently that challenged my whole perspective of elitism. It happened during footy umpiring. In South Australia you've got the SA National Football League (SANFL), the state's professional level of football, and the SA Amateur Football League (SAAFL), the premier non-professional comp. When I started goal umpiring, by a stroke of fate, I was put straight into the SANFL system. I only ever umpired the lowest level of that competition, but I still had to adhere to the league's strict standards. There was an exact way I had to wave my flags, there were no phones allowed in the change rooms, I had to get to each game at least an hour early wearing a shirt and tie and there were protocols including the colour of boots I had to wear, the way I wrote down the scores, the speed with which I went to confirm the scores with the other umpire after each quarter and even the way I held my flags as I first walked out onto the ground. After a while, that particular competition ended and I was shifted down to the SAAFL. Suddenly all those protocols were gone. Umpires were allowed to turn up five minutes before game time, wave their flags in any manner they felt comfortable and do whatever they wanted with their scorecard. An I'm sad to say I very quickly developed an air of superiority.

Although the two leagues have different sets of uniforms, the SANFL umpires are allowed to wear their professional green uniforms in the SAAFL comp. That means that immediately as you walk out onto the field, players and officials get an idea that the guys in green are at a higher lever than the orange and white dressed people around them. I really enjoyed having that recognition. In the very first game I did at that level, the other goal umpire turned to me and said "Just so you know, I don't run into the middle at half time." I'm embarrassed to say that I thought less of him as an umpire at that point. And the worst bit was a couple of games later, I was confirming the scores with the other umpire and when he realised that I hadn't written my scores the same way he did, he said "The best way to do it is to put a little tally mark in each quarter, for goals and one for behinds, and add them up at the end." I got annoyed and passive-aggressively replied "Oh okay. I'm just used to the way they do it in the SANFL." That statement got the effect I was hoping for and I went back to my post and continued putting in way more effort than was required at that level. And that was the moment I realised I was being the elitist that I'd hated so much.

Maybe the only reason I hate elitism is that I've got nothing to be elitist about. Maybe I get aggravated by rich business people in suits because I'm just jealous that they have money and respect and I don't. Maybe the reason I refuse to go to university is that I had such a crappy time in high school and assume that tertiary education will be more of the same. I don't like to think that that's the case, but the fact remains that the moment I had something I could hold over everyone else, I did so.

Or maybe I do hate elitism like I first thought, but like cigarettes, alcohol or junk food, elitism is just something you can become hooked on. We all like to think we're better than others in small ways. That's where the concept of keeping up with the Joneses comes from. Maybe once I have more things to be elitist about, I'll become that thing against which I've rallied so hard.

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