"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

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

TED Talk Tuesday: Why Videos Go Viral

Kevin Allocca is YouTube's "trends manager". I had no idea what that was before I watched the video. Then I watched the video and it was the funniest and most insightful thing I've ever seen. But I'm still not quite sure what a trends manager is. Oh well.

Monday, 28 September 2015


Michael and Kelsey sat at the bar with their faces buried in their drinks. A sad-looking light flickered on the end of its cable above them as bikers glanced over from their games of pool. The bartender - a surly-looking, monobrowed man with dark hair - looked over occasionally, his face showing a curious mix of contempt and concern.

Danny walked into the bar, where he'd been told he could find the two boys. He saw them immediately, swilling their drinks and staring blankly in silence. He stepped cautiously up to them.
'Hey guys, how are you?' He asked. The boys grunted in reply. Danny tried again. 'What are you drinking?'
'Watermelon Cruiser,' said Kelsey.
'Pineapple juice,' said Michael.
'Woah, what happened to you guys? It's not like you to be drinking the hard stuff this early.' Michael sighed.
'Danny, it's a bitch of a story. I don't think you'll want to hear it.'
'Well, if you're sure, but-'
'It all started on the 29th of March, when Kelsey and I managed to find time to have lunch together. We had no idea what to have so we decided to go to Woolworths and see what we could find to put together.'
'We started finding a lot of things that we found... well, interesting,' continued Kelsey. 'We were making each other laugh with all the weird stuff we found on the shelves.'
'There were the tofurkey dogs,' said Michael.
'The exotic cheese platter,' said Kelsey.
'We tried quinoa for the first time,'
'And what were those little pancake things called?'
'Oh, the mini blinis.' A smile started to crack on Michael's face, which made Kelsey cheer up a bit too. 'Those things were awful. We decided to buy a whole bunch of things and name it "Kels and Mike's Weird-Ass Lunch." We sat at the coffee table making weird combinations like tofurkey wrapped in procciutto and watching footy.'
'Wasn't it the International Rules?'
'Yeah, that was it. We took a great photo of it.' Michael fished out his phone and scrolled through it.

'You look pretty pleased with yourselves,' said Danny.
'We were,' said Kelsey. 'It was so hard to finish, but we were talking about it for days afterwards. Then there was another night...'
'June 5,' Michael interjected.
'Yeah, THAT'S the night we were watching footy.'
'Yeah, Richmond vs Fremantle wasn't it?'
'The first game Fremantle lost!
'Well, it got to like quarter-past-nine when we turned to each other and said "Shouldn't we have some dinner?" We debated for ages on what we should have and it just built and built. I was wrapped in a blanket and just barely managing to stay warm, so I didn't want to go anywhere. I suggested Delivery Boyz.' Michael looked at Kelsey and winked.
'I'll give you a tip,' said Kelsey. 'If you ever want to Google "Delivery Boyz", make sure you spell it with a Z. Spelling it with an S gets you somewhere you don't want to be.'
'It was horrible,' said Michael.
'I'll keep that in mind,' laughed Danny.
'We went from wanting a bit of Chinese food, to Mexican, to pizza, then from a medium to a large. Then we decided to try the new type of pizza that had mini pies on the crust. Then we added the "triple dippers" pack. Then we added 3 caramel bites for dessert for $3. Then we noticed that you can get nine for $6, so we did that. We knew it was stupid, but we were proud of ourselves. We gave it a name. It became known as "Escalation Night."'

'I realised we were onto something, so I invited Mike back to my house so we could do it again - but this time, on purpose. We invited Jason and Sarah along and it became the first deliberate Escalation Night - third overall. We went to Woolworths and looked around for ideas. We all chipped in suggestions and by the end, we'd made these amazing Mac and Cheese burritos with bacon and barbecue sauce. They were so cool.'
'Cool is an understatement. Those things were divine. Every bite was better than the last. Except for the last, which tasted like sadness. Sadness that the wonderful experience was over. Then gladness once you realised there was another one. You'd eat the second one, then it was over for real and we just felt satisfied. It was the perfect meal.

'That sounds amazing!' said Danny, his mouth watering. 'Can I come along to the next one?' Michael and Kelsey looked at each other with a pained, meaningful look in their eyes.
'Yeah, I don't think there'll be a next one,' said Kelsey.
'Why not?'
'Because we flew too close to the sun.' said Michael.
'Oh... What'd you do?' Michael stared wistfully out the window until he realised there wasn't a window there.
'We had to go bigger. Escalation Night 4 was going to be our best yet. Jason couldn't make it, so we brought Mitchell along. He wasn't sold on the idea, but he's always up for an adventure.'
'Okay so here's what we did,' said Kelsey. 'We got chicken kiev. We wrapped it in slices of steak. We dipped it into a concoction of four different types of melted cheese. Then we added avocado paste and wrapped it all up in a rice tortilla for good measure.'
'That sounds... amazing!'
'That's what we thought,' said Michael. 'The cheese was the wild card. We should never have added the blue cheese.'
'I thought you knew the blue part was mold?'
'Urgh, don't bring up mold. It makes me queasy.'

'We were full of pride,' Michael continued. 'We thought we were invincible. Mitch had to run off to do a night shift at work, so he took his wrap to-go. That was a bit of a shame. We were about to taste victory and wanted him to be a part of it.'

'So let me guess,' sighed Danny. 'It wasn't as good as you thought it was?'
'Each bite was torture. The steak was all gristle and we couldn't chew through it. The cheese mixture was sickening. The wrap kept falling apart. At one point when we weren't looking, Sarah slipped some gummy bears into the wraps. That actually made it taste better.'
'I nearly threw up, it was horrible. We did end up finishing it, but we thought "Never again." Mike, show him the photos of defeat.'

'You know, Mitch told me he enjoyed it,' said Kelsey.
'Said everyone at work was jealous. He's keen to do another one. But I've learned my lesson, I'm not doing that again.
'Yeah, me neither,' said Michael. 'Not if I live to be a million.' Just then, he got a text message. He looked at the message, then paused for a long time. '...Mitch wants to go to a dessert bar.'
'Look, I'm not really hungry at the moment.'
'He is. He wants to order one of everything on the menu.'
'Mike...' pleaded Kelsey. He'd seen Michael's face snap from despair to excitement and knew exactly what he was thinking.
'Kelsey, think about it... Escalation Night 5 - The Dessert Round!'

Friday, 25 September 2015

My Sister's 21st

A little while ago, my sister turned 21. The whole family seemed to just expect me to do a speech. And what's worse, they all expected me to do a really good job. I was thinking about what to say for weeks, but I only actually put pen to paper half an hour before the party. While everyone was getting ready, I was sitting on the couch thinking "What can I say about a person with whom I have very little in common?"

And then it hit me.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

TED Talk Tuesday: The Nerd's Guide to Learning Everything Online

This is a talk given by best-selling author John Green. Like me, Green loves to learn. But where I love learning new skills and abilities, Green chases mostly after information and knowledge. Looking at the title of this video and then watching the first ten minutes left me wondering where the link was. But he got there in the end and the journey was quite enjoyable the whole time.

I did have to acclimatise to his voice though.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Canberra Stories #3: Good Samaritan

In July this year, I went on a trip to Canberra. It was a 10-day trip on which many exciting, strange or interesting things happened. This one comes under the "Interesting" category.

It was Wednesday night - day six of my trip. It just had my best day so far, what with the events of Maestro, a really entertaining workshop and a beautiful Segway ride around Lake Burley Griffin in the morning.

To finish off the evening, I was hanging out with the dozens of other improvisers at Digress - the official Indian restaurant of the Improv Festival. I saw someone eating what looked like the best fries in history, so I went up to order some myself. The chips were $7. I handed her some cash, got my change and then went back to my seat.

But as I was putting the change back in my wallet, I hesitated. In my hand were two $20 notes and $3 in coins - change from a $50 note. I could have sworn I'd given her a $20.
"Jackpot!" you're probably thinking. "How often does that happen?" And you're right, I did find that exciting. Handing someone a $20 note and getting two back in return is a good feeling, if not slightly unsustainable for the business. I brought up my discovery to the people at my table.
'Jackpot!' said one of them. 'How often does that happen?'
'Are you sure you gave them a $20?' said another.
'Well, not any more,' I replied truthfully.
'That's alright, it's their loss.'
'But I wouldn't be saying that if they'd under-changed me, would I?'
'But you don't know if they under-changed you.'
Reluctantly, I decided I should go back up to the bar to ask. I would love to keep the money, but it would play too much on my conscience. If they themselves weren't sure and said to just keep it, I'd be fine with that. If they said I'd given them a $50, then there wouldn't be a problem. Otherwise, I'd just have to give it back.

I bustled to the front of the busy bar to find the girl who'd served me - a girl with a medium build, faintly freckled face and mousey-blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. I asked her the question:
'Did I give you a $20 or a $50 for my food?' Her face went blank.
'A $50...' she said unconvincingly. 'Is that what I gave you change for?'
'Well yeah, but I'm pretty sure I gave you a $20,' I said feeling ridiculous. I was sure she hadn't this conversation with anyone before.
'Um, well I'm not sure...' She seemed to be feeling just as ridiculous as I was. She opened up the till and checked inside. 'I did just put a $50 in there... Yeah, you definitely gave me a $50.'
'Alright...' I said. I still wasn't convinced, but as far as I was concerned I'd done my duty. I returned to my seat and enjoyed my delicious, delicious fries.

At the end of the night, I was heading out the door when that girl from the bar chased me down.
'Hey, sorry,' she said. 'You've gotten me worried now. Do you mind if I take down your number and if our till's out at the end of the night I'll send you a text?'
'Sure thing,' I laughed and wrote down my phone number on the napkin she's provided. As she ran back to the bar, my friend Jarrad passed me.
'See, I told you you'd get some action on this trip,' he said with a wink. I laughed and shook my head.
'Nope. She's talking to me because she thinks I owe her money.'

Sure enough, as I was sitting in the kitchen of my hostel the next morning, having breakfast and chatting with other improvisers, I got an SMS.
"Hi Michael, it's Lara from Digress. We checked the till last night and we were short, so I did give you the incorrect change. Will you be returning to Digress tonight so we can fix it?"
Well, it was fun while it lasted. I confirmed that I'd be back and, true to my word, I returned on the Thursday night to hand the money back again. She was very thankful and offered my a free drink. I don't drink, so I turned it down. Just happy to do the right thing.

But I mustn't have realised just how much of a good thing it was that I'd done. I went back on Friday night and one of the other waitresses recognised me. She offered me a free drink of her own and when I said I don't drink, she asked if I'd like something off the tapas menu. Being hungry and tight with my money, that sounded very appealing to me. So I enjoyed the rare treat of having a meal fully paid for by the restaurant that cooked it.

I would LOVE for that to be the end of the story, but it's not. There's more. Something happened after that that I haven't since told to another living soul. I'm not even ready to deal with it yet. I'll have to talk it out in the next installment of Canberra Stories. Until then.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Juan & Wendy

Ah Juan and Wendy. You were always the quiet achievers. You were never as active as the rest of our Gang on Facebook. You were a lot more selective of the triumphs and failures you shared with the group. But you were still a vital part of our carefully-crafted network of love and support.

You joined the Buttercup Gang at very different times. Juan, you were officially there at the beginning, on August 31st 2012. I had worked with you before, so there were no surprises - I already knew how fun you were. It was so easy being with you, it just seemed to make sense.

You've been there for some of our biggest moments, including that infamous trip to the Gold Coast. I remember that you and I were the only ones that didn't get sunburned. And you were the only one who didn't even need sunscreen. While the others were all aching and grimacing while they applied ointment, you were lounging around the pool without a shirt, rocking the most glorious tan in the southern hemisphere. You managed to avoid all the drama that came out of that trip, all because of your easy-going nature.

You've also been involved in stories on a much smaller scale. Just recently I heard the story of how you were driving Wendy and Mitchell in the car and had stopped at the traffic lights. There was a car beeping behind you and you got worried that the car was beeping you. You were so worried that you were annoying someone that you forgot the light was red and went straight through it. I hope that's exactly how it happened, because it's hilarious. but I did only hear it second-hand, so if you'd like to correct it, let me know ;)

Now Wendy... You came right at the end. You were the tenth and final member of the group. Once you arrived, I guess we felt we were complete. It might not have been you, it could easily have been someone else. Twice in the months leading up to your arrival, Juan had told us about a girl he met. We had all been super-excited to meet them, but just a few days later, it had gone south and Juan had to sheepishly tell us we wouldn't be meeting her. Then you came along and Juan got very excited. "I really like her," he said over Facebook, making us all giggle. Finally, we got to meet you and it was love at first sight. You're actually one of the funniest people I've ever met. Not in a wise-cracking sort of way like I try to be, but in a much more honest, personable way. My favourite memory with you was when I was with you and Juan at Burger Theory and a tall, well-endowed Latina woman walked in. She was flanked by two similarly attractive girls and as soon as they spotted Juan, they came over to him to chat.
"That's a friend of Juan's from uni," you explained. "They're doing the same course." Then you watched her chatting animatedly and playing with her hair and for a split-second, a dark look came across your face. "I hate her."

You also bring a unique perspective to the group. Having grown up in in Communist China, you have experiences that the rest of us can learn from. And with yours and Juan's knowledge of world affairs and Juan's ability to speak 400 languages, you both give our group a real depth that would be missing without you.

I guess that brings us back to the fact that you're both quiet achievers. See, while the rest of us run to the rest of the group, bragging about every small achievement we make, you guys just go about your business, getting your straight-As and setting up your future. It was only a matter of time until your success took you to much bigger places. The day Juan came to us and said he'd been accepted for a graduate position in Sydney, I nearly cried. I knew this gang wouldn't be preserved the way it is forever, but I was hoping the day it changed would never come. This Monday, you'll both be leaving to live together in Sydney and you'll become the first members of the Gang to leave. You're going to leave a huge hole that we'll never want to fill. We might build around it, but the space you leave will be preserved like Ground Zero and we'll always remind ourselves to "Never forget."

Not only will we lose that depth you bring. Not only will we become just a group of white kids who sing 90s songs in the car. But it'll will also make me the most ethnic member of the group, and I'm not sure I trust a group where that's the case.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

TED Talk Tuesday: Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear

I first saw this talk from Dave Isay a while ago. I found it thoroughly moving and it made me want to go and interview my grandparents to find out their life-stories. Unfortunately, I only have two grandparents remaining and one of them is no longer able to hold a conversation. But maybe I could start with my parents and begin a history of my family from the moment we arrived in Australia?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Game Show!

I'm so pumped.

We're less than five minutes away from the debut of The Chase Australia,

In a world where game shows are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, Brittish game show The Chase stands out like a beacon. It must must be something to do with the format. It's a show with characters, tension and lots of laughs.

The way it works is a team of four will come onto the show. One at a time, the players will come out and answer two minutes of questions to build a cash kitty. Then they'll face off against "The Chaser". The Chaser is one of the show's resident quiz masters and while they each have a unique character, they all come out with arrogance and cheek. The Chaser's goal will be to answer the following questions at the same time as the contestant and try and get more of them right. If the contestant can get enough questions right, they'll win the kitty. But if they get a few questions wrong and the Chaser gets them right, the challenger will be hunted down and lose the money. To add an extra element of danger, the contestant can choose to make it easier or harder for themselves in exchange for changes to the kitty.

Once all the contestants have played and the kitty has been tallied, the contestants that won their battle with the Chaser can play in the "Final Chase". They answer another two minutes of questions, their correct answers are tallied, and the chaser has to chase that tally down.

Today, The Chase debuts in Australia and I haven't been this excited about the premier of a TV show in years. It's coming with its own characters, but they've borrowed The Governess (seen in the first video) direct from Brittain. I hope that unlike the rest of the game shows that have tried to force themselves on our screens lately, this one lasts for years.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

AFL Shenanigans: Best Of

Well, the regular footy season's over. We stumbled over the line, with Matt and I just doing the last two rounds by ourselves. We thought for the final week we'd compile a best-of video - just to remind ourselves we we should think before making big commitments like that again.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

TED Talk Tuesday: When to Take a Stand - and When to Let It Go

This talk comes from Ash Beckham. She's an amazing speaker. She tells really fascinating stories that tie in with each other and contain important lessons which she herself learns throughout the course of the story.

This talk is about our modern tendency towards polarisation and how we can beliefs that seem contradictory. It also covers some of the struggles she goes through as a non-straight woman that in a way that made me reconsider the way I look at those demographics.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Question of the Month (September 2015)

A monthly bloghop where you answer a question. Pretty self-explanatory. Don't know why I bothered...

Anyway, this month's question is:

"What's the best job you've ever had?"

Now I've had a lot of jobs. I mean a lot.

So it would be unfair of me to just list one. I think I'll need to write a separate post in the future to break it all down.

For now though, I'll give you three. The first job which ever caused me to say the words "This is the best job I've ever had" came in the lead-up to Christmas in 2013.

Myself and two other guys were contacted by a man in Sydney. He was recruiting for a promotional job for Hahn Superdry beer. The job was simple - travel around to a series of pubs in Adelaide. Visit three pubs per night for a week and spend an hour in each one. Approach tables, give them a spiel about why Hahn Superdry tastes as good as it does, and then shout them a schooner. I got paid $50/hour for that job.

It wasn't without its problems. One of the two guys I worked with was a real alpha jock and took charge at every pub we went to. He didn't care about the spiel, he just wanted to give out the beers, take his money and run. When I confronted him about it, he argued back and the other guy sided with him. Looking back, I take it as an example of why western society is losing everything - we were being paid 50 dollars an hour and yet these guys still couldn't be bothered doing the job properly. But the fact that we were so popular in every pub, and that fact that we were paid so much, meant that I'd do the job again in a heartbeat. In the end it was very enjoyable.

The other two jobs are jobs that I currently have. 2013 was also the year I joined Quiz Meisters - a company that runs really fun, over-the-top, multimedia pub quizzes. At first I was just a fill-in if any of the regular hosts fell sick or went on holiday. But just less than a year ago I was offered the opportunity to be the regular host of a pub in the hills. It's probably the smallest venue in the family, often getting under 20 people. And part of the problem was that they had to keep changing hosts. But since I became settled in, average crowd numbers have gone up. I broke the attendance record at 45, matched it again a few weeks later, and then smashed it a month ago with 60. I love going in, greeting all the regulars, being funny for two hours, making friends and getting paid $120 at the end of it. I have lots of in-jokes and running gags with the regulars. And it's led to a lot of fun situations.

Our state rep made this photo of all the current hosts on our roster.

Last year, for the first time, I got to attend the Ultimate Trivia Challenge Grand Final - where the best one or two teams from each pub in South Australia play off for a $1000 worth of pub vouchers. The hosts all wore matching orange ties and four of us performed live for a game called "What's the next line?" It's below. Forgive the watermark.


The most recent poster for the quiz.

The regulars were asked to draw their host.

One of our regulars had to miss a week for the first time ever, so I made this photo up as a tribute.

Months later, he doctored up this comic cover, making fun of my short height.
The other job I have which I absolutely adore is my football umpiring. I love being active, but only if there's a reason behind it. I just can't bring myself to get up and go for a random jog. So umpiring fills the need for me to get up and run around. Not only that, it turns out I'm really good at it. After just one year, the coach approached me and told me he'd like me to return in a leadership role next year. I also won an award that year, a kind of runner-up for umpire of the year. And I also get to work with kids, which is often fun. At one point I was going through a hard time about something, and was upset for weeks. One Saturday during that time, I went out to do my usual morning umpiring, and after the game I walked off the oval feeling oddly rested. One of the coaches was there. e told me something which stuck with me: "You look happy when you're out there." It was then that I realised just how good umpiring is for me.

I've gotten a lot of great opportunities from it. I've umpired at Adelaide Oval at half time of big games. I was offered the chance to do the same at the Grand Final of the SANFL. And even better, I've been put into a draw to do it at the AFL Grand Final in Melbourne - a game that typically attracts 90,000 people.

If you'd like to join the hop, join the Linky list below. You can answer this one, or start with the next one. Next month's question will be

"Who would play you in a movie of your life?"

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Bonehead Bloghop: September 2015

Cherdo from The Flipside hosts a monthly bloghop where we celebrate those moments we should have been smart enough to avoid.

When I was quite young (five or six), I first learned how to do a cartwheel. I fell in love with the move and did it everywhere I could. But that included many places where I shouldn't.

At one point, I had a friend over and he asked me "Can you do three cartwheels in a row?" I wanted to find out for myself, so I made my way to the nearest corridor to test it out. The corridor was incredibly narrow and on one side was a big glass cabinet with lots of crystal dinnerware inside. I line up at one end of the corridor...


Easy enough.


Almost there.


I straightened up and turned back to my friend with a look of superiority. 'I sure can!' I said.

A few days later I was at school looking at the metal balance beam on the edge of the oval. What a challenge that would be, huh? Without notifying my friends, I walked up to the beam and stepped on. I raised my arms into the air...

And executed a perfect cartwheel. I had enough of a footing when I landed to ensure I could step off the beam rather than fall. And I went back to my friends as if nothing had happened.

We all know the third time's the charm.

There was a low brick retaining wall - maybe a foot high - separating the walkway behind the classrooms from the oval. I decided it would be awesome to cartwheel onto the retaining wall. I stood at the back of the classroom building with the path in front of me and the wall beyond that. I was brimming with confidence in my six-year-old gymnastic abilities. I took a run up...

...And ended up in the first aid room with an egg-sized bump on my forehead. I'm not even sure how it worked logistically. I would have to have had enough forward momentum while upside down to have smacked my head into the side of the wall. But somehow I achieved it, and it put an abrupt end to what could have been a very promising cartwheeling career.

AFL Shenanigans Round 22: Tongue Twisters

Matt and I drew. We had to attempt tongue twisters. I thought I did pretty well, except for when I had to do "S" sounds.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

TED Talk Tuesday: How to Make Hard Choices

I thought I'd give this a go. Anyone who's read this blog for a while shouldn't be surprised that I'm a HUGE fan of TED Talks. Their mission to spread ideas and share stories is one of the few things that is genuinely making the world a better place.

Te first TED Talk I want to share comes from philosopher Ruth Chang. She talks about why we find it so hard to make big life choices and how we can approach them in future to make them less daunting.

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