"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

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

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

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

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

Monday, 28 March 2016

One Man's Interpretation of the UN Declaration of Rights

I've been reading a small book on philosophy lately and one of the chapters talks about rights. It splits the notion of rights into three categories - legal rights, which are those provided by a the laws of a state (the right to purchase alcohol at the legal age etc); Moral rights, which are those the we as people have agreed should be afforded one another (the right to a fair trial etc); And human rights, which are the basic rights the we've earned simply by existing (the right to feel safe etc). There are no hard and fast rules on which rights fall into which category, and many can fall into more than one (I would place the right to a fair trial in both the legal and moral categories). When I thought about what constitutes human rights, I decided that the rights to safety and freedom were the only ones that fit that mold. To me, human rights implies a more primitive, instinctive way of looking at ourselves, and anything after that comes from the society we've built up around ourselves. But then the book mentioned the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a doctrine set forth after the end of World War II to outline what they believed to be the absolute base level of rights - the starting point for the progression of humanity. I decided to look up the rights myself and I found them very, very fascinating. Here's the 30-rule Declaration, with my impressions added underneath in dot points.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Music and Words

One of the (if not the) best blogging friend I have is Cherdo at Cherdo on the Flipside. We've spoken outside of Blogger, worked on a couple of projects together and share a lot of common beliefs.

Okay, gushing over. She gave me an award a week ago and this is my post accepting it.

It's called the Music and Words Award and comes with some stipulations. They are:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 5 questions provided using words and music.
  3. Pass the award on to 5 bloggers who inspire you with their posts about music*
  4. Tag your post with #MWA so future winners can find this post.
  5. List these 5 steps and the award icon in your post.

*My rule is no matter what the award, I only ever pass it on to 2 people. Any more than that and it gets too big too quickly.

So here are the questions...

1. What does music mean to you?

Oh geez. What does music mean to me... Um... Ok, well... it's a way of stirring emotions or in other cases, articulating them. When people used to ask me why my last girlfriend and I broke up, I didn't really have an answer for them. Then I realised if I could just play them the song Breakfast At Tiffany's, I wouldn't have to explain - Deep Blue Something could do it for me.

There's been so many times that I've woken up in a great mood and played something upbeat and catchy. No matter how good a mood you're in, walking down the street to the tune of Walkin On Sunshine is always going to make it better. One time at an acting course, I had to become a really angry, stressed character for practically the whole evening. By the time the class finished, I was feeling equally stressed and so as I got into bed, I made myself a glass of warm milk and put on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Calmed me right down. For me, music is about emotion.

Q2. What's your first music related memory?

I'm going to answer with just enough words to fill that criterion. Then I'm going to play this.

Q3. What was the first album you purchased yourself?

I think it was Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any. As a sad little 9-year-old kid, their song Welcome to My Life was one of the first songs I'd ever heard that invoked all that emotion I talked about earlier. It was followed soon after by their previous album No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls (with the awesome songs Addicted and Perfect) and Green Day's American Idiot (still one of my favourite albums - can't say the same for Simple Plan).

Q4. What's the latest music you purchased?

Again, I'm unsure. But I think it was the album I bought when the latest adaption of Grease toured Australia - the one with Rob Mills as Danny Zucco and cameo appearances from Bert Newton and John Paul Young. My favourite song from the show was one that I previously hadn't known existed as I'd only ever seen the movie.

Q5. What's the last song you listened to? (be honest)

Well after I worked on that last question I had to leave and I decided to put the Grease soundtrack on in the car. Before that though, I got Mary J. Blige's Family Affair stuck in my head for days. It's a really catchy song, but the lyrics are quite awful. Check them out.

Here are two bloggers I'd like to see handle these questions:

Good luck!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Girls, You're Better than That

I came across this YouTube video and I felt the need to share it. At first the girl in it comes across as one of those fast-talking neurotic girls you see often on YouTube (that's not an insult, I love watching those people), but it turns out she's an empowering life coach with a strong message to share. The cliche of the wistful background music coming in at the right time made me laugh, but it still didn't take away from the message.

I've been in a position where low self-esteem has gotten me in trouble romantically, so I can start to process what it must be like for women all the time. She's right - that kind of treatment does tend to work a lot and I'm not sure why. Like Amy, I'd like that to change.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Price of Speaking Your Mind On the Internet

Among many other things, the biggest point of this blog is to examine the way I think and behave, and to examine the behaviour of the world around me. On Monday, I decided to do something that I considered to be quite brave  - I publicly examined a thought process I have that I was worried may be racist against Indigenous Australian people. I have a very optimistic belief in human nature, so I believed that if I could explain intelligently and compassionately how I came to have this thought process and ask for advice on whether it's indeed racist, I could not only work on fixing it, but could encourage others to think about their own thought patterns. It sounds very cliche, but in the end I was trying to break down barriers and make the world a better place.

Well, I should have been prepared for the reaction.

At first it was fine. Regular readers commented exactly how I wanted them to - things like "Yeah, I think it is" or "It's hard to say, it depends on the circumstances. Great, I could use that. They understood. But then, some local stand-up comedians got a hold of it. They started hurling vitriol at me, calling the whole article "disgusting" and "fucked" then they moved on to just cheap ridicule - commenting with photos of people of that race with captions like "I'm sad Michael. Why you make me sad?" It's frustrating that they don't see the hypocrisy of calling me racist and then doing something like that. But then, they're the worst kind of person - someone who does and says terrible things because they think they have the moral high ground.

I initially caved in and took down the post, because being labelled as racist/sexist/homophobic/otherwise bigoted is like being sprayed by a skunk. No mater how hard you scrub, you'll never get that smell off you. But after getting private messages of support from people on Facebook, including some of the Indigenous people I'm supposed to have offended, I've regained courage. I've blocked the offending people on Twitter and Facebook and I'm trying again. I've made some very small changes to the syntax to try and minimise any misunderstanding. I've also spoken to an Indigenous Australian friend, a friend that's studying social work and a nurse that's had to treat a lot of Indigenous people to get their opinions on the matter. The result of those conversations is in the last two paragraphs.

If you have an opinion to share on this article, please make it constructive. Share your feedback on the question I've asked, but don't attack me for trying to address it. I've written this because I want to be a better person. If you choose to ignore that, then you're not going to achieve anything. You'll just be outing yourself as a troll. I'll delete the comment before reading it all the way through. If your comment is constructive however, I'll absolutely take it on board.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Trump's America

I really hope this become's a thing. Share these photos or come up with your own #TrumpsAmerica hashtag and present it to the world.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Question of the Month: Meeting an Idol

Hi there! Once a month, a bunch of us take part in a bloghop called Question of the Month. It's where we answer a question... of the month. Does that make sense? This month's question is

"Have you ever met a hero/idol/major influence? How did it go?"

I pick these questions every month and yet I've somehow picked a question that I find quite difficult to answer. Idolising people is not something I tend to do, which I think is sad.

I'm actually jealous of those people who can find ecstasy in something like that. I'm also jealous of the people being idolised, but that's a psychological analysis for another day.

I can think of two situations when I've had contact with someone whose work I really admire. The first came in about 2010 when I want to a talk by the man who's by FAR my favourite author, Matthew Reilly. The story of Reilly's first novel is well-known among his fans. Rejected by every publisher in Sydney, Reilly decided to self-publish it. Then, a short time later, most of the copies were stolen from the back of his car. These days, if you find a first-edition copy of Contest that book will be worth hundreds of dollars.

During his talk, Reilly mentioned that he had three copies of the book left to his name. It gave me an idea. After the talk, when Reilly was outside doing book signings, I asked him for a favour.

'Mr Reilly, I'm raising money for Movember.'
'That's great!'
"Thanks! But I was wondering if I could buy one of your remaining original copies of Contest so I can auction it off and donate the profits to the cause?' There was more to it than that - I was certainly going to do what I said, but I also wanted to be able to say that - at least for a little while - I owned a first edition copy of Contest. Reilly smiled at the question.
'That's a very gutsy question and I admire that, but I'll have to say no. One I plan to keep forever and the other two will have to go to very important people. But again, well done for asking. That's very gutsy.'
'Thanks,' I chuckled. 'It was a pleasure to meet you.' I started walking away, then turned back around and with a host of fans and attendants still watching, I asked 'Would you like to make a cash donation?'
The surrounding people laughed as Reilly sighed and fished out his wallet from his jeans pocket. He slammed a $20 note down on the table with an annoyed but amused "Here."
'Thanks, would you like a receipt?' I asked, being way too bold under the circumstances.
'No, that's fine,' said Reilly turning back to the line.
I kind of wish I'd kept the note he gave me and replaced it with a 20 of my own. I'd love to have it framed and put on my desk - the cash that I bugged a celebrity into giving me. But that contradicts my I don't idolise people" claim.

The other person I can think of whose work I really admire is Wil Anderson. He's an Australian comedian who's known for being a rebel and a voice for the progressive side of politics. He's intelligently provocative and forever evolving. And he's also achieved the amazingly difficult task of being at the top of mainstream media while also retaining indie credibility. The only other person I can think of that sat in both extremes so completely was Kurt Cobain.

I had two very small but embarrassing encounters with him. The first came shortly after I got Twitter for the first time. I realised that Twitter may be a way to reach celebrities and had a go at Tweeting a few of them. When I got to Wil Anderson, I said this:
"Hey Wil, I'm about to see a Batman Dark Knight triple-feature. It'll be a nine-hour love-in. Jealous?"
This was a day before the release of Dark Knight Rises in Australian cinemas and one cinema had arranged to show all three Batmans in a row, finishing with the premier of the the third one at midnight. I knew from listening to Wil's podcast that he absolutely loves the Christian Bale Batman movies, so I figured that would be a good in.

The movies we watched the movies and I forgot about the tweet. Then the next day I met my old friend Rusty.
'Hey, I saw you got a Tweet from Wil Anderson. Good job,' he said.
'I did?' I asked. I hadn't been notified. I had to do some searching, but I eventually found that he had indeed sent me back a reply.
"I saw it already at an exclusive viewing at iMax. Jealous?"
"Really? You saw it before it came out?" I tweeted back. I was jealous - the iMax in Sydney I believe is the biggest theater screen in the world and it's curved to give you a more immersive experience. It also has the best sound technology available.
"Yep," was all he tweeted back.
"Did you notice that you and Charlie were almost spot-on about a back-story for Robin?" I ventured. On an earlier podcast, he and his co-host had speculated that if Robin were to be introduced to the series, there would have to be a certain way it was handled. They came up with an origin story that ended up being remarkably similar to what Joseph Gordon-Levitt did in the film. They would have been ecstatic about that.
"Look, I don't want to spoil anything now," said Wil. "But we'll definitely talk about it on the podcast."
That's when I made my mistake - I tried to be funny.
"Go on, tell them how he kills Alfred!" I said. The next time I looked back to see if he'd replied, I couldn't find the conversation. He must have deleted it. Woops.

A few years later, I bumped into him in person. I was looking after the front desk at a community radio station called Fresh 92.7. It was during the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the second biggest arts festival in the world after Edinburgh. Fresh had been getting acts to come in for interviews during the festival and on this day in particular I learned that Wil was coming in. I stuck around for an extra half-hour after the front desk closed so I could meet him in person and say hi. He came in with his manager and humbly, even somewhat nervously said
'Hi, I'm here for an interview. My name's Wil.'
'Oh really?' I said in a confrontingly sarcastic way, implying that I of course knew exactly who he was. There was me trying to be funny again.
He gave a fake laugh and I took him through to the studio. I tried to tell him I was a big fan of the podcast, but he seemed quite uninterested. Either he was very tired or he decided he didn't like me after that sarcastic comment. Either way, it ended with an awkward "Well... enjoy." And I left to go home.

If you want to join us on this Question of the Month campaign, there's a list you can join below. Next month happens to be the A-Z challenge, so I thought I'd make the next question a weird one that ties in with it. You can participate in both at the same time.

"What's your favourite thing that begins with the letter C?"

Friday, 4 March 2016

Second Stage

Back at the start of October last year, I put in an application to go on The Chase Australia. Five months later, I assumed they'd passed over me. But this week I received a very exciting email.

Eek! I had to film a 1-2 minute video so they could see how I am in front of a camera. I had to figure out a way to stand out. I thought of just the thing...

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