"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

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 21: MMORPG

For those who don't know (and I didn't before I tried it), MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. It's one of those games you play on the internet where you create a character and travel through villages completing quests and battling things. World of Warcraft is the biggest one. It's also the only one I could think of. So on Monday, when I decided to play one of these as my new thing for the week, I first had to look up a list of games that were available.

Trusty Wikipedia came in handy here. It had a lists of all the MMORPGs online. When I got to World of Warcraft, it had a note next to it that said it required a subscription of $14.99 a month.

What??!! No thank you. I'll keep looking. Surely some of these medieval sounding words is a game I recognise. Ah, here we go. Runescape. Free to sign up, with an option to become a member. I don't think I'll be taking that option, but it's nice to know it's there.

I downloaded the game and opened it up to find a welcome page set out like a castle courtyard. I did the usual sign-up stuff - Name, email, username, password... When I clicked enter, an error message came on on the screen. "The password you've selected is one commonly used by scammers."

Really? A few things happened in my mind at that point. Who are these scammers? Are they people who make accounts and then try to convince other players to hand over real money? Are they hackers that break into your account and steal all your stuff? The last thing I'd want is to lose my Sword of Truth and my Magic Armour of Gargaroth after I've worked so hard to get it. Are they accusing me of being a scammer? If so, why would they warn me of it so I could just pick another password and get in anyway? And most importantly - How come all these so-called scammers make their password "Pokemon"?

I changed my password and continued. Now was the time to create a character. I don't know if you've had to create a video game character from scratch, but it's bloody hard. The only easy decision in the whole process was whether to make it a boy or a girl, and even then I hesitated. I had to pick between all types of hair, facial hair, skin colour, tops, pants, shoes and hats. It got easier as I went along and got more of an idea of what my character would look like. Finally I gave him a name. Kyle seemed appropriate. Nope, that was taken... How about Steve? Nope. I was going to have to get creative. I eventually came up with Diego Jones.

I wasn't expecting to become one of those guys that gets hooked and spends all day and night on it. I couldn't see how that could actually happen. But when it took me to the first world, where my adventure would begin, I was blown away by how pretty it looked. It was bright and sunny. The roads and buildings were made of white cobblestone with splashes of cloth and wood around the place. There were ships docked at wharfs, but rather than water, the whole place seemed to be floating in the sky.

A short plump man named Gudrick greeted me and told me I would be the next great adventurer. I needed to come with him to investigate some strange goings-on in the town. As he led me off, we were confronted by some zombies that appeared out of the cobblestone. It was my first experience with combat. Turned out it wasn't too hard. I just clicked on them repeatedly to hit them with my tin stick of a sword. It was later that things got more difficult, as the creature that had been raising these zombies - some kind of floating zombie sorceress - revealed herself. I beat her with some difficulty. I had to keep readjusting the camera as she moved around and then I'd move it too far and one of the walls of the building I was in would appear and block my view. But I got her in the end.

Gudrick then took me to another town where I met a guy that put me onto another quest. I had to go into a dungeon to perform three tasks in order to attain the Sword of Silverlight, which was the only thing that could kill the demon Delrith, who was being summoned from the demonic plane by Denash, the Zamorakian extremist. "Gee," I thought. "Why do people who play this game get called weirdos? There was nothing weird about that."

It was then that I looked at the clock. Holy... I'd been playing this for three hours? I felt like I'd barely accomplished anything. I have to get up at four in the morning on Tuesdays to produce a radio show. It was getting too late to keep playing. But hang on... Gudrick was back. He said there was a problem at the town where I started. Supply ships were returning with their cargo still on board and the sailors were saying there was a dark aura around the place. Well, I guess I had to check that out.

When I turned up at the dock, the sunshine had gone. The place was dark with fog hovering all over the place. I looked around for some clue of what was going on, but all the people had disappeared. I eventually found a girl cowering in her house. She told me about how these monsters had started to attack the town and drag people away. I had to go into the town sewers to find them.

When I went down there I found the monsters. They were these ugly blue-green man-sized hermit crabs that shot spit at me. I tore through them with my Sword of Silverlight. They were like "Woah, what's happening?!" Then I arrived at some underground caves and looked around at a small settlement of people who were all dead. I found a journal which described how these people were smugglers who turned up and found these lifeless little pods sitting in holes in the wall. As the smugglers settled in, they noticed the pods were growing. Then they started to move. A few days later, the camp was overrun and slaughtered. This was getting deep.

Further on, I had to sneak around to avoid detection by these bigger hermit crabs with big, thick armour. Finally I arrived at a big ship that was parked at the moor. I climbed on board, wondering what was going to be up there. Then two enormous tentacles slithered out through the portholes on the side and started attacking me. I started ramming the attack button repeatedly and trying in absolute vain to avoid getting hit. I finally beat the two tentacles into submission and the slithered back into the boat. But then two tentacles appeared on the other side of the boat and I had to take them out too. When I did... That's when things really went to shit. What was essentially a kraken burst up through the deck of the ship and tried to take me out. In hindsight, I should have seen that coming.

It took me a few goes to take it out. I died a few times in the process. The first time it happened, I turned up in the office of the Grim Reaper. He told me it wasn't my time to go yet, I'd have to step through a portal to get back to life. But I came back and eventually beat it. I'd like to know how it reacted to being in Death's office.

Ok, so by this stage it was past midnight. I had to be up in under four hours. I reluctantly shut the lid and went to bed. Tuesday morning I was off my game.I couldn't wait to get home and play some more Runescape. It was hardly the same as yesterday. I was at a point where I just had to wander around looking for more  quests. The one I found required me to find ingredients for a pie and feed it to a fat slob. It took me six hours. I couldn't stop. I was addicted. I was meant to head back to the station to read the news report for the afternoon. I called up the other news guy and asked him to cover me because I was pretty sick. I kept playing for another four hours. Then my mum walked in and said 'Are you ready?'
'For what?'
'The viewing. My uncle died, remember?'
"Oh, I can't, I-'

That's when I snapped out of it. I shook my head and shut the laptop lid. I don't think I should open it up again.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 20: Careers Expo

We had a bunch of expos on in Adelaide this weekend. But somehow, I didn't think the Club X Sexpo was a good idea, so I went with the most sensible option instead - the Adelaide Careers Expo.

It took place in the Wayville Showgrounds. We turned up and walked in to find an endless ocean of school children. Tons of them. It was like in scarab beetle infestation from The Mummy. I was expecting to try and walk through a pack of them only to be set upon like piranhas. It took us a while to figure out that we'd gone on the Friday - of COURSE that's when all the school kids go.

Artist's Rendition of a school kid attack.

Our first discovery upon entering the building was the Master Builders stand. It had a model of the frame of a house and a tacked on question - how many meters of wood go into a standard three-bedroom home? There were five options; 500m, 1000m, 2500m, 5000m and 10km. Jerida and I love a puzzle. We stood there for ten minutes trying to figure out logistics and variables. We knew that it had to be more than what you'd initially think. But 10km seemed like way too much and 500 meters wouldn't have even covered the outer frame. We measured out in our heads what the other distances look like, and I decided to go for 2500m while she went for 5000.
'Nup, both  wrong,' said the guy behind the stand. 'It's 1000 meters of wood.'
So we trudged away disappointed, but impressed.

Next we came across the defence force section. That seemed to be the most popular space in the expo. I don't know if it's the same in other countries, but in Australia, they make it pretty appealing to join the defence force. They not only pay for your tertiary education, they give you an annual salary in the mean time. And it's enough to live off of by itself, especially if you're in the later years of the course.

We were watching a speech by a defence force representative who had worked on some pretty cutting-edge technology. He seemed really excited by what he'd been through and what we could do as well. He talked about the great camaraderie - how people could just get together a group of people and say 'We want to start a volleyball team,' and you'd get funding for it. He mentioned how many different pathways you could take - I believe there were 180 of them, divided into seven categories. And he described what it takes to get accepted. This is my favourite thing about the defence force. They're one of the few places in the world that don't just look at your school marks to decide how good you are for them. They do all sorts of aptitude tests and find out who you really are. As someone who clashed with everything high school stood for (there's a very long, separate post in that), I really appreciate that. They obviously prefer you to have excelled in high school, which I understand. But their absolute minimum requirement to enter any area of the force is to have completed year 10 and done at least one maths and English subject (and a science subject for some areas). I came away thinking there was no harm in taking their free aptitude test to see where I would fit best. Joining the army would certainly be a new thing I could blog about.

One of the navy speed boats

We kept looking. Most of the stands seemed to be dedicated to universities and colleges. Nothing I was interested in. But there was one stand that caught my attention. The banner said Camp America and was manned by a couple of good-looking young people. We went up to enquire. Turned out it was one of those summer camps they have for school kids in America. They were asking for applicants to be teachers and minders there. They'd have their accommodation and meals paid for as well as their J1 Visa (whatever that means). Then at the end they'd get paid a bunch of money and be allowed another 30 days on the Visa to travel around America at their own discretion.

Very enticing. I had a think about whether I could do something like that. I have no problem working with little kids, so that's no issue. Could I uproot my commitments for the three months required? I've got a casual job which isn't giving me a lot of hours at the moment, so that probably wouldn't be an issue. I have radio commitments on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And footy umpiring is now on Thursdays and Saturdays. I'd just be taking a three-month chunk right off the end of the season. They can certainly deal without me, but I've been waiting so long to do that that I wouldn't want to disrupt it now. And here's another thing, spoiled as I may seem... I'm incredibly lucky to have gone overseas three times in my short life. But it annoys me a lot that two of those times were not only the same country (America), but exactly the same cities (Los Angeles and Las Vegas). It was with my parents at a young age, so I didn't have a choice in the matter. If I ever get to go overseas on my own, it's going to be somewhere new.

On the other hand, if it's good enough for this guy...

There was a makeshift cafe set up in the corner, so we had a quick break for a chai latte. While we were drinking it, we noticed the stand for Aussie Home Loans. Jerida and I are both saving up for a deposit on a home, so we thought we'd go over to ask them what it takes to get a loan.

The nice man named Andrew told us there are two factors that banks consider above everything else - serviceability and sustainability. Serviceability is the person's current ability to pay the loan off. Or in simplest terms, what's the person's income? Sustainability is the person's likelihood of staying that way. If the person is on a salary of $50 000, but is on their third job in a year, the bank will see that as high risk. Who's to say the person won't lose their job or their earnings? This also covers people who have part-time or casual jobs. They're said to have low sustainability.

So I asked Andrew this question - I'm getting into radio as a career, which has a high serviceability, but low sustainability. How would that affect my chances?
'Look, it's all just risk assessment,' he said. 'If the bank looks at your circumstances and decides you'll be able to pay the money back, they'll give it to you. If not, they won't.'

Another factor to consider is whether you have a credit rating. If you've got a credit card which you've always paid off without any issues, that works in your favour. The standard deposit they look for is 20%, but if you come to them with 30% of the money you plan to borrow, they like that. It means their own fees will be lower, such as insurance etc. It was all very helpful.

He also told us to stay away from this guy.

But in the end, as the expo closed down for the day, I hadn't had any major revelations on a new direction in life. Jerida is already on her path, so of course there was no change there. There was one stand I found there that seemed to fit my skill set the most. I think it may be where I'm headed in the future.

Monday, 12 May 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 19: Footy Umpiring

I've been trying to get into footy umpiring for five years. To be an umpire, you have to be available Thursday nights for training and Saturday and/or Sunday for games. For the last five years, there's always been some reason why I can't do it. In my last year of high school I had a subject which went after school hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I left school I entered a part-time TAFE course which took place on those same nights. The next year I joined a footy club as a player, which meant not only Tuesdays and Thursdays were taken up, but Sundays too.  Shortly after I left, I fell into a part-time job which required me to work Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. I still have that job today.

However, this job had been very sporadic with its hours lately. The client we're working for had been constantly changing their minds about what they want and postponing things, which meant that shifts were constantly put off or cancelled. To make matters worse, the work I was getting during the rest of the week had completely dried up. So I was spending my days just sitting on my computer, wondering what to do with myself. It took me a week to realise... The new footy season was just starting and I now had all the right days free. The time was perfect. Sure, it meant I wouldn't be able to continue with this client. But let's be honest, it was time to move on from that job.

I did some playing around with my schedule to make absolutely sure I was free for training on Tuesday night. I wasn't sure what time training would be, but I figured it would start any time between 6:00 and 7:30. So I turned up to the oval at 6:00, parked the car and stared at over the completely empty, dark valley. I sat there playing with my phone, watching the occasional car turn up and then leave again a couple of minutes later. It got to 6:40 before I realised that no one was going to turn up. The lights still weren't even turned on. I couldn't have gotten the venue wrong, could I? Did they still train on Tuesdays? Did this umpiring panel even exist any more? I was pondering these questions for five minutes when I heard shouting behind me. I craned my next to look out the window of the car and behind the car there was a second oval with some people passing around a football. I moaned and get out of the car, walking up to the group of people. I saw a smaller group of people sitting out to the side, so I decided to ask them for information.

'Hey guys, is this the umpiring panel?'
'Nah, this is the Greenacres Football Club. I think the umpires train on the lower oval there.'
'Yeah, but I think they've skipped training this week because the league has a bye round.'

Urgh. Do you know how much effort it took to get here? I went home and the next day I went on the internet to see if there was a number I could call. I found the number of the man who runs umpiring in South Australia and gave him a call. He informed me that they only do training on Thursdays now and that this had indeed been a bye week. So I was going to have to wait another nine days.

Now knowing me, any number of things could happen in those nine days which meant I would no longer be able to attend. I spent the next week in a fret, convinced that something would pop up. Lo and behold, I got an email saying that our client at work had finally, absolutely, 100% sorted everything out and that shifts could recommence that weekend.

"Well I'm going to have to turn up to training anyway," I thought. "They're expecting me now, and I've already decided to quit this job. But wait, if I've decided to quit, how come I told them I could do the shifts? Because I need the money, that's why. Okay, here's what I'll do. I'll give them about a month to find a replacement, and that will give me time to find a new job and learn the basics of umpiring before my first game."

I turned up on the Thursday, much to my relief. I'd been told training was at 6:00, and there were indeed people at the ground. But the people I was meant to train with seemed to be missing. Eventually one of them turned up and I saw him doing some stretches in the distance. Graham - the man in charge of training - told me to go introduce myself and go for a lap around the oval with him.
'Hey Daniel!' He called. 'This is our new boy (what was your name?) Michael! Make him feel welcome!'
As I approached him, he came out of the darkness and I discovered that in fact I already knew him. Daniel was my cousin. One of my favourite people in the world since I was two years old. He'd told me he was interested in umpiring, but just hadn't found the time, like me. I had no idea he'd sorted it out and signed up. We laughed and high-fived, confusing Graham back on the ground.

Only three people turned up to training that night, myself and Daniel being two of them. The third guy was a nice kid named James who I think was the most experienced. Anyway, I trained hard for half an hour before Graham called us inside to talk theory. It was there I met Paul, one of the coordinators. He was eager to get me going on a game - he was running short on umpires at the moment. I had to tell him I couldn't quite start on games yet. There was just one more thing I had to sort out with work before I did it.

Heading back to the car, I had a chat with Daniel.
'How much money do you get for games?' I asked.
'It depends on which grade you do. For a while, you'd get about $30 a game.'
'I see. I'm in a situation where I have to choose between this and my weekend job. I've got a couple of other little sources of income here and there, but this weekend job is my main source of income at the moment. Maybe if I quit that job, the lack of income would spur me to find something concrete in the entertainment industry, like I've always wanted.'
'Have you ever thought of... you know... getting a normal 9-to-5 job?' He asked.
'I have, but I just couldn't do it.'
'I think you might have to,' he said a little patronisingly.
'Well, thanks anyway.'

I kept going to training and also kept losing heart to tell work that I'd quit. I'd get emails asking me for my uniform size or to attend training sessions and I'd keep responding to them. Paul kept trying to get me onto games and I had to tell him I was working. Then on Thursday we were back in the club rooms taking care of administrative things, when Paul came up to the group and said
'Congratulations to Nathan, he'll be umpiring his first game on the weekend.'
The group clapped in that obligated way that most groups clap. Then he said
'And also Michael! He's umpiring his first game too.'
More obligated clapping as Paul handed me a schedule and failed to notice the stunned look on my face. The schedule detailed the games that would take place on this oval on the weekend. There was a slot highlighted which said "Grade 2s & 3s. Oval 2. 9:00am." I went up to Paul after the meeting and said
'How long does a grade 2/3 game go for?'
'It's four 10-minute quarters. You should be out of there by 10:00'

What an interesting turn of events. Work didn't start until 12:00. And the ground was already half way between home and work. I could do the game, go grab some Subway for breakfast, get changed and be ready to start by 12:00 easily. I spent the rest of that night and all of Friday boning up on the rules and all the signals I'd have to make.

I rocked up to the ground half an hour early. Graham and Paul were already there, among others, just starting to set up the grounds. The big reserve was to be split into four different ovals by a series of small cones. I helped them set it up while the droves of kids in their little footy guernseys and parents who'd been dragged out of bed started to turn up. As 9:00 approached, I found the coaches of the two teams I'd be officiating and introduced myself, making sure to tell them it was my first day. I get through a lot in life by telling people it's my first day. It's especially useful if it's true.

The siren went and the game began. I threw the ball up in the air and the two appointed rucks contested it. The grade 2 & 3 games are designed purely just to introduce kids into the game. As such, there's no tackling, smothering, bumping or anything like that. When a player gets the ball, all the other players can do is chase him until he gets rid of it. Once he kicks it, all another player has to do is touch it with both hands and we'll call it a mark. As all the players dove in on the football, I had to clear a path for the person who grabbed the ball and watch them throw it haphazardly onto their foot to tumble it forward.I was pretty nervous about making any decisions - you know how bad the kids' parents get - but I don't think I did too badly.

Quarter time came around and Graham stepped out to give me some advice. Apparently I was standing too far outside the contest and I wasn't confident enough with my whistle. Easily fixed. The players came back out and stood on opposite ends of the oval to what they were before.
'Do you guys swap ends each quarter?' I asked the one girl on the team. She nodded quietly. Probably because of the big red mouthguard that was impeding her speech. The second quarter started and for the life of me I couldn't remember which way the teams were heading. At one point a player kicked it out of bounds and I turned to the coach and said
'Was that out off the blue team?'
'What, no! It was out off brown!'
'Gotcha. You! number 12! Your ball.'

There was one kid - number 20 for the brown team - that didn't really get the idea of letting the player with the ball get a kick away. He kept chasing after them and trying to knock the ball out of his hands. I had to keep calling him away. At one point he took a mark within kicking distance of goal and as he was lining up, he turned to me and said 'Can I play on?'
In the big league, this is allowed, so I assumed it was the same here.
'I'f you want,' I said. He ran around the man on the mark and kicked a goal. Afterwards the coaches came up and had a quick word with me. Apparently it's not allowed. Whoops. Luckily, they don't keep score in the 2/3s.

At the beginning of the third quarter, the rucks lined up to contest the ball. There were two kids on opposite teams who were chasing each other around the centre circle.
'Careful boys,' I said. 'Eyes for the ball, we don't want any injuries here.' The kids in the middle giggled and I felt a lot more comfortable from there. That's lucky, because I also had my first problem with a parent in that quarter. It wasn't much - the players had dived on the ball and I was waiting to see if it would come out before calling a ball-up. I guess I waited too long for this one dad, who yelled "Come on ump!" I wasn't fazed.

The third quarter ended and as the fourth quarter began, we noticed that everyone on one end of the ground was doing the same thing of chasing each other around.
'I think they're playing kiss chasey.' I said to the kids in the middle.

Loved it.

They laughed for ages.

It was comedy gold.

Does it say something about me that that was almost more rewarding than the game itself? The game finished and the teams lined up and shook hands. I chatted to Paul and Graham for a bit before they gave me a crisp $30 and I went home to shower for work.

The whole experience was very rewarding and I'd like to do this for as long as I can.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 18: Voice Over Workshop

Late in 2011, I went to the Australian Radio School run by Sean Craig Murphy. It was a twelve week course that broke down the radio industry into all its individual parts and taught you how to utilize your personality to become a good presenter. A year and a half later, I decided to give their voice over workshop a go. It was a one weekend course about working in the voice over industry, particularly in radio ads.

The workshop was run by successful VO artist and producer Eddie Bye. He was a nice, funny guy who was passionate about his industry and eager to share in it. There were eight people there - one of them was Eddie's father-in-law, who had gotten in for free. Gah.

So here's what we learned on the first day:
Types of voice over - There are different types of voice over within the industry, such as

  • Retail (think Woolworths specials etc)
  • Natural (Have you ever bought or rented a video that wasn't quite right?...)
  • Soft sell (The timeless allure of a Zamels bracelet...)
  • Hard Sell (Come down to Harvey Norman for their Super Saturday specials!!)
  • Conversational ('So what was that number again?' 'It was.......')
  • Promo (Tonight on channel 10...)
  • Corporate (Welcome to ANZ. To apply for a home loan, press 1...)
The importance of pronunciation and how to breathe with your diaphragm.
How to improve the quality of your voice (acidic fruit juice, avoid dairy etc)
Taking direction
How to voice act (as distinct from other voice overs)
The types of voice agents.
How to be picked up by an agent.

After all that, we were asked to pick three ads from a room full of scripts and they would be the ads we voiced in our demo for tomorrow. Here were the ads I picked:
  • One for the Animal Welfare League. An emotional piece where I had to act as a volunteer who was really sad about the state of the animals and put the call out for volunteers.
  • One for the Ultimate Bloke's Expo. Because I wanted to have a go at being the blokey voice that told people about beer and utes.
  • An A&R computers ad. I was sucked in by the opening line about Santa, where it said 'Give the fat guy the sack and come down to A&R computers.' But I didn't realise that the rest of it was full of ridiculous computer jargon until I started practising it. I went back into the room and swapped it for
  • An ad for Remove All. Pretty much a garbage company. It was a listing of useless facts followed by more useful facts which involved the company.

On Sunday we went in to record our demos. There were five of us there and we took turns doing an ad at a time. We had to start by saying our names. I was the only one who was asked to do it again. I did the AWL ad first and I knocked it out of the park. I had them eating out of the palm of my hand. It wasn't until I got out of the booth and heard it back that I realised I had in fact not knocked it out of the park. It was decidedly unknocked. Gone through for a strike and my career was looking in doubt. I just have a really drawly voice and I don't think it suited the ad.

The second one went better. It was the Bloke's Expo one and despite the fact that I have a bit of a higher pitched voice, I pulled it off.

The third one was fun. I managed to put on a really grand voice and pronounce "Useless fact!" like I was Pete Smith in Sale of the Century. I felt I did that one pretty well too.

I've been told the completed demo will come in an email around the end of the week. I'll post it here when it does. But I wouldn't get my hopes up.

Monday, 5 May 2014


I've grown up in a world where no one ever gets parenting right. I've never seen parents actually control their kids. No matter how they do it - they can be strict, permissive, distant, overbearing, understanding or not, but in every case I've seen, the kids either fight endlessly with their parents or grow up to be bad people.

So all that had convinced me that you can't actually get parenting right. I'd come to accept that all you can do is make sure the kid doesn't die and send it on its ungrateful way when it's old enough. Two things have made me reconsider that:

  1. Everybody tells me that I'd make a good dad. I've been told I treat kids like actual people, that I have a caring nature, that I'm great at dealing with problems and even that I should become a primary school teacher. I try not to believe them, because as soon as I start believing I'd make an awesome dad, I'll probably become less qualified.
  2. I met my girlfriend Jerida. Jerida comes from a family of four kids and they're something that I only ever expected to see in The Brady Bunch. They're all very successful at school and uni - one of them just got accepted into the defence force academy. They outwardly show affection for each other. They don't play video games or spend all their time on Facebook, rather they'll be outside and play with lacrosse sticks, ride a bike, go for a run etc. They know all of each other's little quirks and how to deal with them. And they're pretty much on the same page with every moral value you can have.
So now that I've started to see that good parenting is possible, I have to figure out - how is it done? By studying Jerida's background and her relationship with her parents, and by picking up a few other things here and there, I feel like I've begun to figure it out. But it's led to a situation and I feel really guilty about it. I need your opinion, because I'm not sure if I'm in the right or wrong.

I have a little god brother that used to act out, talk back and ignore his parents a lot. Whenever he was over at my house, I would clash with him something shocking. He'd be playing with something he shouldn't be and I'd yell at him to put it down, trying to be authoritive. He'd ignore me and suddenly I'd be wrestling with an eight-year-old kid and as soon as I took the item off him, his mother would tell me to just give it back. It took me a while, but I eventually learned the seemingly obvious lesson that you never EVER interfere with somebody else's raising of their kids.

But on the weekend, I was at a family party. There's an adorable two-year-old boy in the family who's just starting to form full sentences. He would get all the attention whenever he was in a room, but it's made him a bit spoiled now. His dad came in and jokingly told us about how his two year old son had told him to get out of his life.He would ignore anything his parents told him to do, or just flat out tell them no. I found myself looking after this boy as he played around that night.

Now, I'd heard someone on a podcast just that day complain about parents who try and negotiate with their kids and that according to him, kids are like dogs - they need an alpha to give them boundaries and direction and that they respond well to that. I'd also heard that getting angry was just like advertising to your child that you're not in control. So as this boy went around grabbing stuff around the room, some of which shouldn't be touched, I would say with a lot of warmth and calm 'Nah, put it down.' I kept repeating it until he listened, which he eventually did. It's lucky - I knew that if he didn't listen, there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn't going to have another situation like my god brother.

But then I left and went back into the room that his mother was in. The boy came out with a recorder he'd found, blowing away on it and blasting sound around the house. I wasn't going to do anything about it, not with his mother there. His mum came in and started saying 'Hey, stop that! There's a baby sleeping over there! Come on, put it down... Put it down...' Before I could stop myself I turned and said 'Hey!' and he stopped blowing for a second, as if to say "Yes, can I help you?" I turned back around with red cheeks, guilty at what I'd done. But his mother turned to me and said 'Yeah Michael, can you get it off of him?'

I was surprised, but I did it. He'd started listening to me now. For the rest of the night, I was basically in charge of the kid. If he wanted to go outside, his parents would hand me his jacket so I could get him to put it on. If they wanted him to eat, I'd be the one making him do it and making sure he'd finished chewing before he went back out to play. On the one hand, I feel very happy with myself that I was able to successfully handle this kid. On the other hand, I feel so guilty that I undermined his parents' authority. Was I doing the right thing?

Friday, 2 May 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 17: Art Project

This week I decided to paint something. I consider myself pretty creative when I need to be, but in terms of visual art, I'm useless. I still draw stick figures instead of people. But I've always wanted to develop that creative side of myself, and there's nothing more creative than taking a blank canvas and putting something on it.

Ok, so I decided to paint something... but what? What on Earth could I do? The worst time to make a decision is when the possibilities are limitless. There's literally an infinite number of things I could do to that painting, how was I supposed to pick just one? Should I just start playing around with a paintbrush until something takes shape? Should I pick something that matters to me and recreate it? Should I grab some crayons and draw more stick people? I went around the house looking for anything art-related I could find. There were some oil pastels, some coloured card, a pack of coloured pencils, some connector pens and some old, dirty-looking crayons. No actual paint. So I went down to Officeworks to pick up some paint, paintbrushes and a canvas. It turned out the canvases they had in the size I wanted came in packs of three. That helped me make a decision. I picked up the coloured paints that I wanted and some very cheap paintbrushes and set myself up at home.

Now I'd been watching old episodes of Art Attack to get the ideas flowing. You may or may not remember that show, but it was an amazingly awesome kids show from the 90s with this Brittish guy named Neil who would show you these neat little artistic tricks and projects you could do at home, as well as large-scale stuff that you couldn't even dream up. I loved revisiting old episodes and it did give me ideas of what I wanted to do.

Like most artists, Neil was stuck a decade behind everyone else.

For the first canvas I decided to make a replica of the Port Adelaide Football Club logo. If you read my post from a few weeks ago, you'd know how much I enjoy the AFL and Port Adelaide specifically. And the canvases were the exact right dimensions for it, so it seemed perfect.

I brought the logo up on my computer screen and did some careful measurements with a ruler. I sketched out the outlines of what I needed on the canvas. The lettering was absolutely the hardest. The logo is full of vertical bars and boxes, which are easy to measure out. But the letters that say 'Power' at the top are a bit more complex and harder to measure. Once I was satisfied, I got out the paint and the brushes.

I was already feeling pretty proud of myself at this point.

Painting proved to be a tough task at first. The brushes I got were terrible for sharp edges and at first I couldn't stay inside the lines. I fixed that by using my ruler to place over the edge and prevent overlap. Sure, I couldn't read the numbers any more, but who needs numbers on a ruler? To do the tittle corners around the lettering, I grabbed one of the little wooden chips that came with the canvases and are used to hang them up on the wall and dipped it in the paint. When I was done, it looked like this:

Uber-proud is a word, right?

I had to wait for the paint to dry before I continued, so I started on my second project. Did I hear somebody say "3D Superman logo?"

I'd been to Lincraft and picked up some blue, red and yellow card. I stuck the blue card on the canvas to make the background. Then I cut the diamond shape out of the yellow card. I used one of the pieces of cutoff to bend into a little shape so that I could put it between the diamond and the background. The raised diamond gave the logo a more 3D feel. Then I carefully traced the same sized diamond on the red card and an S into the diamond. I had to get a stanley knife to cut around the pencil marks. It wasn't great. And I ripped it at one point. But it was nothing a little sticky tape wouldn't fix. I'd also cut little tabs around the edges so I could bend them down and stick it onto the yellow part slightly raised again. There. Done. Simple.

I might hang it up in my bedroom - sometimes known as the Fortress of Solitude
So this was proving pretty easy. I was starting to think I had this whole art thing downpat. I started to make plans for quitting my job and doing it full time. I'd make my living making sub-par replicas of logos and insignia. Because one thing was for sure - I was bloody good at this.

But oh how wrong I was.

Heading back to the Port logo, it was time to get to the hard stuff. The logo contains a silver arm brandishing a lightning bolt and it's a lot harder to measure properly. I knew how wide it had to be, and that information was enough.The shape I cut out of the silver paper I had looked pretty spot on. The next step was to put a half-inch-thick border on it in black texta and do the same thing to create fingers and a palm. I was completely blown away by how steady my hand was. If you've seen my handwriting, you'd know that I'm useless with my hands. And yet, by making a lot of short, sharp lines instead of one long one, I managed to make it look uniform the whole way around. But that's where the problems started.

I grabbed out the gluestick to try and glue it to the canvas. It wouldn't stay stuck. I tried smothering the back with it. Still nothing. So I started applying it to the front around the edges. And that's when I realised that texta smudges just as easily as paint. Smudged texta went all over the arm and ruined it. I'd have to do it again. But it'd gotten too late - I'd have to do it tomorrow.

On Tuesdays I get up early to produce a breakfast show at a community radio station. I got up at 4am as usual this particular Tuesday and when I got home at 10 oclock, I was ready to go back to sleep. But I couldn't - I had work to do.

I used the original fist to trace a new one out and spent forever using the texta to outline it again. This time, I waited for it to dry by watching the next episode I was up to of The Walking Dead. Then I gave the gluestick another go. Nope, not enough time. It smudged again and it still wouldn't stick to the canvas. Somehow this small amount of work had taken me three hours to do and it was time for me to leave to go back to the radio station. I resolved that once I was done there at 7:00, I would head down to Officeworks again to find out which adhesive I should use. Seven oclock came around and I went in.

The guy I asked for help was very helpful. I asked him which adhesive would work best for sticking paper on canvas and he said,
'Oh, I reckon spray-on adhesive. Because canvas is a weird sort of material, spray-on would be the best for it.'
He handed me a bottle from off the shelf to look at.
"Ah, perfect," I thought. "A big bottle of spray-on adhesive... For $23..."
The employee noticed my hesitance and looked back at the shelf.
'Or you could use superglue. That should work.' And he motioned to a tiny squeeze bottle that was $2. Yep, that's the one.

I took it home in to the warmth of my house and set to work making arm number three. Once I'd spent the time doing the outline, I took a deep breath and unscrewed the cap on the superglue. I placed the arm facedown on one of the offcuts of card that I'd used for the Superman poster and began drizzling the glue around the edges.
"Ok, I'm done. Now to carefully place it on the canvas... Oh no."

It wouldn't lift up off the card. I'd superglued the arm straight onto it! I tried to jimmy them slowly apart, and when I heard the disheartening rip I screamed and threw the tube of glue down in disgust, frightening my Mum and sister, who were watching My Kitchen Rules at the time.

Well... what could I do? I made another one. It was probably 11 oclock at night when I finished the fouth one. I made sure that the superglue didn't come to the edges this time. It stuck on perfectly and finally that part of it was done. Now all I had to do was make the lightning bolt.

That ended up being just as easy as the rest of it. I went back to my laptop and took another look at the original Port logo, then I blew it up so it was the same size as the canvas, flipped the laptop onto its back and traced the lightning bolt using printing paper. I cut the paper out, making sure to adjust for the slightly different size of my home made arm and stuck it on using the superglue as well. Relieved, I took a picture of my final product.

I'm delirious with joy and fatigue.
So those were my two pieces of art that made up my new thing for this week. It was frustrating and time consuming, but it was worth it. Huh? Third canvas? What third canvas? I don't remember mentioning a third canvas, what are you talking about?

Oh, fine.

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