"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, 24 September 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 38: Roller Derby

My sister Christina (being the ultra-mega-feminist that she is) found a place in Adelaide that holds roller derby bouts every Friday night. I (being the type of guy who loves skydiving out of his comfort zone) decided to go and check it out. It was being held at the Campbelltown Leisure Centre, where I used to play basketball in primary school. Christina was going with some friends of hers from work, one of which (named Caitlin) had a friend who was competing. I went along with Jerida, who had wanted to see a roller derby ever since she saw the movie Whip It.

It was $5 to get in, which isn't bad for an hour of entertainment. We found Christina and her friends and sat down on two of the very few chairs they'd bothered to set up. Caitlin turned to us and said
'Hey guys, so you're going for the Dames of Hazard.' Seemed fair. I liked that name a lot better than the Valkyrie Storm anyway. To be honest, I was more preoccupied about looking like I fit in. Whenever I'm in a strange new place, I wonder if people can tell I don't belong there. Generally the more alternative the situation, the more I can picture people looking at me and thinking "Hey... He's not one of us..."

Anyway... On the court in front of us, there were two large teams of women lined up while the commentators introduced them. The Dames of Hazard wore red singlets and the Valkyrie storm wore blue. Each singlet had the player's name printed in different fonts on the back. One of the most unique things about roller derbies is the names of the players. They pick playing names, which are usually either violent, clever or both. And I was delighted to find that even the referees had their own names. They had them printed on the backs of their black-and-white prison bar shirts. I saw "Quiet Riot", I saw "Staine", and I saw "Bear Grilled". Buy my favourite name of the night come from the referee called "Brutus Incorruptus". Not only was it violent and clever, but it was also a statement on his ability as a referee.

Five players from each team lined up on the starting line of the makeshift track. A referee blew his whistle and the players jostled off. Within seconds, a girl in a blue singlet had pushed her way in front of the pack and left them behind. A referee blue his whistle and pointed to her, and the rest of the pack stopped and waited for her to do a lap and rejoin them at the back. Suddenly the scoreboard on the wall showed that the Valkyrie Storm were up 7-0. Jerida and I looked at each other with blank faces. We'd both just had the same realization - that we had no idea what a roller derby was. I tried unsuccessfully to get an explanation from Caitlin, who seemed to just repeat the word "jam" a few times and motion her finger around in a circle. So I got out my phone and we looked it up there.

So a roller derby is played in two 30-minute halves each half is played in short 2-minute bursts called "jams" One person on each team is named as the  "jammer" and is denoted with a star on their helmet (we looked up and realized that one person on each team did indeed have a nylon cover over their helmets with a picture of a star on it). The rest of the players are "blockers", whose aim is to stop the jammer from progressing. The jammer will try and get past the blockers (which is pretty easy since they're not allowed to use their arms) and do a full lap around them and try and pass them again before the opposing jammer can do the same. The jammer who does this (called the "lead jammer") will earn a point for every opposing blocker she can successfully lap during the jam. If the opposing jammer is close behind her, threatening her leading position, she can choose to just pass a few blockers and then call the jam off early by repeatedly tapping her hips as a signal to the ref. If she fails to do so and the other jammer overtakes her, she loses all the points for that jam.

So, hesitantly comfortable that we knew what was going on, Jerida and I looked back up from the phone and realized our team was quickly getting obliterated. The Storm were something like 40 points up. We couldn't understand why they were doing so much better than us.

Then, just before half time, a tussle happened. The jammers from both teams broke away at the same time and began an intense race to complete their lap first. The crowd was getting into it, cheering their own player on, and I found myself raising my voice too. Afterwards, Jerida asked me what had just happened.

'Well, only the jammer who's in the lead can get points. the second one gets nothing. So they were both racing to be the lead jammer, and when "Mad Hala" from the Storm got there first, she called off the jam and took the minimum three points.'
'Oh ok, I get it now!' she said, and I realized that I was really getting into it. I was comfortable with the rules and was enjoying watching the Dames try and whittle back their enormous deficit.

In the second half, it was my turn to ask questions. Something had happened on the far side of the ring and I couldn't see it because there were too many players in the way.

'Both of the jammers were fighting over the chairs in the sin bin,' said Jerida. 'I don't know why.'
Caitlin had the answer. 'Only one jammer can be in the sin bin at once, so if there's one there and the other one gets sin-binned, the first one gets to rejoin. Both of the jammers were just sin-binned at the same time, so whoever got there first got to come straight back in.'
'Oh, that's cool!' I said. 'We just paid to see a roller derby - now they're treating us to a free game of musical chairs!'

Children's party games aside, the Dames were still getting their butts kicked. They showed a lot of spirit, fighting back every now and then to score a run of points in a row. And in these sorts of competitions, isn't spirit held in higher regard than actual results? After one such run, in which the Dames scored 11 points, I turned to Jerida and excitedly said
'That was a good jam!'

She stared at me blankly for a second, and then we both pissed ourselves laughing. Christina and her friends turned to see what was so funny.
'Michael reckons he's got the game all figured out,' laughed Jerida. 'I think he'll be buying a membership soon!'

It was true, I was definitely on board. I felt like Channing Tatums's character in 21 Jump Street when he's exploding bottle rockets with the nerds and he's yelling "This is awesome! Why didn't you nerds tell me this science shit is so cool?!". After the game finished, everyone rushed to the side of the ring and players from both teams skated along and hi-fived them all. It was apparently a tradition and I could see that both the players and the spectators had huge grins on their faces because of it. I loved the atmosphere and I hope that roller derbies get the exposure and support that they deserve.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 37: Sex and the City

I'm heavily into TV shows. It's become ritual for me to set my sights on a series, start watching it from the beginning and move all the way to the end, most often watching episodes over breakfast in the morning, which is the only time I have free. In the past I've worked through Supernatural, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The A-Team, Friends, Seinfeld, Scrubs, Futurama, Family Guy, Pokemon, Lie to Me and Boston Legal (twice). There have been other shows that I've started because I had a season or two on DVD, but never gotten around to completing. A couple of months ago I finished the most recent season of Supernatural, and since then I've been on a bit of a hiatus. So when I visited my friend Sarah last week and the conversation turned to her all-time favourite show, I was intrigued.

I'm the kind of guy who appreciates good work, whether it's targeted at me or not. So Sex and the City had always been one of those things that I knew I had to get onto some day. I knew it would be an eye-opening experience and something I could certainly learn from. Sarah asked me if I wanted to borrow the first season from her and I knew the answer had to be yes.

I watched the first episode over breakfast the next day. I was instantly shocked at how crude it was. I knew it would be confronting, but to have a sex scene during the opening monologue? Really sets the tone for the rest of the show...

Being a guy who's spent a lot of time around passionate feminists, I wasn't sure how I was meant to react to the show's portrayal of men. They seemed to be treated a bit like the enemy - Bad people who always had to be navigated so that the women could get what they want. But the show was clearly onto something. They unapologetically called attention to a lot of very harsh truths that people were either too afraid or too politically correct to admit. My favourite example was the introduction of Skipper, the show's resident "nice guy". He had none of the traits that women say they find frustrating in men. He always endeavoured to treat them with respect and affection. And the girls found him the most boring person they knew. They had no real respect for him, they just saw him as "the nice guy". Welcome to dating.

I was on Facebook talking to Sarah straight after the show.
'I told you it objectified men a bit,' she said.
'Yeah, not that I really mind. It was just interesting to watch.'
'I think it sorts itself out by season two. Stops being so crude and really starts to identify with its audience.'
'I look forward to it. I didn't expect Mr Big to come into it so soon!'
'Pay attention, because the first and the last episode are linked really closely.'
'Ok then. The two things that stood out to me were that he had absolutely no interest in Samantha and his reaction when Carrie asked him if he'd ever been in love.' (he'd stood up and quite forcefully said "Abso-fuckin'-lutely," and then the episode finished)
'A ha! I knew that would stand out to you!'
'So I was right to take note of that part?'
'Yes. Yes you were.'

After watching the second episode on Friday, I was back onto Sarah again.

'New York City is twelve hundred square kilometers big. How on Earth do Carrie and Mr Big keep bumping into each other? Either it's a ridiculous coincidence or we've got a stalker on our hands.'
'Or it's a genius plot device about destiny ;)' she replied.
'.....I withdraw my statement.'

By the third episode, I was really starting to enjoy it. I could already see the transition into a more observational style of storytelling and it was definitely less crude. The fourth episode came around and I was starting to laugh out loud at some of the jokes. When Carrie woke up in the apartment of a twenty-something guy and realized what a disgusting slob he was, I couldn't stop giggling. The same was true in the fifth episode with that artist who'd developed an intense passion for painting "the cunt". And in the sixth episode I was back to watching the relationship develop between Carrie and Mr Big. I wasn't exactly screaming at the TV for them to fall in love and run away together. I was more just fascinated to see where this relationship would go.

I've definitely gotten on board with this series and I'll carry it out until the end. With only half-hour episodes, it'll be much easier to fit into my day than the hour-long shows I've been watching lately. I get the feeling I'll learn a few things too while I'm at it. And for anyone who's wondering, I'd say I'm probably Carrie.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

New Things Left to Do

With 16 weeks left to go this year, there are still things I'm waiting to tick off my list. I've been struggling to find the time for them, and may not  get around to them at all. But as a way of spurring me on, here's a short list of new things I want to try and things that my friends have implored me to try. If you have any suggestions to add to the list, maybe you could name them in the comments section. It would help me out a lot!

Bungee jumping
GROB flight
Pole dancing
The slingshot
Roller derby
Charity work
Sumo tournament
Dance class
Cemetery tour
Mechanical bull

I'll cross them off as I go.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 36: What Do You Think of Me?

A little while ago, I read a post from Fredulous about his friend who had an account on Spillit. Spillit is a social networking site where you can leave anonymous messages to each other. That's it. Nothing more to it than that, you just have a page and people write stuff on it. You never find out who it was.

Fredulous took full advantage of his friend's trust in the internet. He posted message after message pretending to be a secret stalker who was obsessed with him to a cultish level. I read the messages and thought they were hilarious, so I decided to give it a go myself. I wanted to see what crazy things people could come up with on my account.

I created an account by signing in on Twitter. A few seconds later, there was my photo with the question "What do you like about me?" written underneath. The rest of the page was blank, waiting to be filled. But now was the hard part - how do I get people to come and vandalize it? I was able to answer that question immediately. I've been doing stand-up comedy for ages and I've met quite a few people who love to troll people. Generally, the more they troll you, the more it means they like you. Or they could just think you're a tool. Either way, they were the perfect people to entice onto my page of vandalism. So I took my link and sent this message to practically all the comedians I knew...

I speedily left the conversation and sat back satisfied. Now all I had to do was wait. I posted the link on Twitter and Facebook for good measure and forgot about it. The next morning I checked back to see what inventive, hilarious things they had said.

There were just two responses. Here was the first one:

You're a good guy, but you really need to stop caring so much about what people think of you/ needing to be liked by everyone

Ouch! Right off the bat, someone said something that hurt. It didn't hurt because it was mean, it hurt because I completely agree - I DO care too much about what people think of me. Good call sir or madame. Well played. The next one simply said


That was a bit more like it. Not very creative though. But was that it? Was that all the comedians could drum up? Oh, of course. Do you see what my problem was? I'd forgotten to post the link! Those two messages had come from the link I put on Twitter! How stupid of me. So I readded every comedian on the list and wrote this new message.

There, hopefully that would do it. I didn't think about it again until Friday morning, when I checked for new messages. There were a few...

I think you have great potential to be an amazing entertainer

Aw, really? Someone knows I want to be in entertainment! Ok, everyone who knows me knows I want to be in entertainment. But someone thinks I have potential! Potential!

You seem really smart

That had to be sarcasm. I'm not smart, I'm slow. Really slow. I would be a lot further in my entertainment career if I could think of snappy things to say as soon as I need to.


Hey man.

I didn't understand what was going on. No one was posting anything mean! How could that be? Did I misjudge my comedy friends? Maybe they just didn't like me... That would explain why they weren't saying hurtful things. Obviously this comedian thing wasn't going to work. I had to expand my audience. So I went around looking for new places to share my link. I needed to find a place where a lot of hateful people could see it. And since this is the internet, that shouldn't be too hard. I typed the word "chatroom" into Google and looked at what came up. The first option was a list of chat rooms with different themes. Hm, let's see... Chat room for lovers of horse riding... Chat room for Italian immigrants... Chat room about moisturizer... Ah, I've found the perfect one. Chat room for bisexual or bicurious women. I dove in.

Where next? My sister Christina knew the answer to that.
'What about Tinder?' she said. Genius! I created an account and put the link in the "about me" section.

There. If that doesn't get some hate, I don't know what will. On Saturday I checked back to see what had been written.

youre always fun to be around!

I wish i had your confidence

You are lovely, I have known you for 15 years ^_^

More niceness. Disgusting, infuriating niceness. It shit me. And who was this person I'd known for 15 years? Let's see, 15 years ago I was seven. Who have I known since I was seven? There's my cousin Julie... No, she was born when I was eight. I had a friend named PJ who used to live down the road from me. I hadn't seen him in probably 14 years, but I have him on Facebook. I was trying to calculate how long ago I met my Mum's English cousin for the first time when it hit me - the writer said they'd known me for 15 years, it didn't say I necessarily knew them. Maybe I have a stalker!

But that thought didn't have time to permeate. The next post caught my attention and held it for a long time. It said

Not going to lie, I miss talking to you

I see. Someone, somewhere, was sitting around, wishing they could talk to me more. Who could that possibly be? Maybe I was finally getting trolled? No, if that were true, the comment would have been a lot weirder. Maybe the troll is some kind of subtle genius? No. It wasn't a troll. I narrowed it down to two possibilities in my head. One of them I had been trying to distance myself from. The other I was trying hard to keep in my life. Both were people I cared about.

I decided to post the link on Twitter and Facebook again, taking a different approach. I said
'This started out as a joke, but it's starting to get interesting! Please comment!' On Sunday morning I checked back again.

8====D -- - -- - ;-(

Aha! That's the kind of thing I'd been looking for! A penis shooting stuff over a very sad man who for some reason was still winking at me. Hopefully I'd get more of that in the next couple of days!

Your fashion

I liked that one. It was undoubtedly sarcastic, I have no interest in fashion whatsoever. I wear exactly the same thing every day - a t-shirt (most often with a rock band on the front), jeans that are a size too big for me (or shorts in summer) and running shoes. It was making fun of me, but for something I knew and liked about myself. So good call.

You're awesome ok?

Clearly someone who was fed up with my constant spruiking of the page. Well if you don't like it, just keep ignoring it! I'm certainly not going to stop.

You r easy to talk with. U r nice.

Aw, that's sweet! That's something I've always worried about, my ability to hold an interesting conversation. I'm glad at least one person in the world likes talking to me.

I've always found you attractive, just never been able to say it

...How do I take that? At first I was excited that someone was thinking of me that way. That was replaced by a sinking feeling when I realized I'd probably never know who it was. Then came apprehension at the thought of finding out who it was and having to tell them I'm not interested. But then I went back to excitement when I realized that someone might be trolling me again. If it's real, and if the person who wrote it is reading this now, just know that I'm thankful and I probably think you're a great person.

I made one more last ditch attempt at getting new comments by putting up a sign at work. I was working in JB Hifi, a place with lots of tattooed, alcoholic, apathetic and/or cigarette smoking people. They might be the kind of people who would give me material.

On Monday I came back to find three new comments on my page. The first one said

you are always right

Hm, was that sarcasm? That's certainly not something I think of myself. The only other option was that someone thought I had all the answers that they didn't. I guess that could be true...

your knowledgeable about a great many things

Same story as the last comment. I guess if I'm to be honest, having knowledge on as many topics as possible is something I do aim for. Most topics that I don't already know about, I'll constantly ask questions about it until I do.

Your smile is awesome

Hahaha thank you. Any time anyone says that to me, they bring that smile out. But I've got bad news. Generally to get a smile that's warm and welcoming, you have to be hurt. Many times. My smile is one of those smiles that says "I've had some pretty dark stuff happen to me in the past, but it's made me a stronger person and I love my life now that it's behind me." That and I brush my teeth pretty thoroughly.

Tuesday came and went and I received two more comments for the week. The first one said

Why cant things be simple between us

Okay, I was pretty darn sure I knew who that was. To that person, I say this - I'm sure you've got dozens of relationships in your life that are simple. I'm happy to let this one stay complicated for a while, as long as you're okay with it too.

The last one was a lot longer.

You're getting better at asking about how people are and caring about what they say. Also you're seriously motivated and a real laugh to be around. BFFL. Sound's corny but I'm serious. Love you always x

I also thought I knew who that one was. There's only one person in my life who would call me a BFFL, knows about my troubles with empathy, talks about motivation and points out that the stuff she says sounds corny but is all true. Now that I think about it, she's the only person in my life outside of my family that says "I love you" when we part ways. I actually saw her today and showed her the message, asking if she wrote it. She giggled and said 'Yeah, I did. You know me well.'

If anyone else wants to own up to any of the messages they sent, that would be a load off my mind. You could say so in the comments section below or shoot me an SMS or a Facebook message if you'd like it to be more private. Some unexpectedly great things were said about me this week and despite the fact that it's against the whole point of the website, I'd love to know who said them.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 35: The Ice Bucket Challenge

I started an acting course with my new agents on Tuesday. It was great fun, and in the very first lesson I learned some great skills and discovered some talents I didn't know I had. But unfortunately, I'll be absolutely flat out busy over the next three weeks, so I'm not going to have time to write about it. Instead, I'll show you the video I took after being nominated for the ice bucket challenge.

For one of my nominations, I decided to go with a Blogger friend. My three obvious choices were Jimmy Fungus - the first friend I made through this new blog, Gorilla Bananas, Because it would be hilarious to watch a gorilla pour a bucket of water on himself. And Cocaine Princess - because I try commenting on her blog all the time and it keeps giving me error messages, so I'm not sure if she gets them. I just want to let her know I am reading them!

Find out who the winner was by watching the video ;)

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