"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

Friday, 29 January 2016

Wasted On the Young

George Bernard Shaw once said:

'Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world - and what a pity it has to be wasted on children!'

It was a very apt observation which has since been compressed into what is (in my opinion) the most sadly poignant sentiment I know - Youth is wasted on the young.

As a young person myself, the saying carries even more weight. I see it in way too many people who are older than myself. They look back and say they wished they could do it all again with the knowledge they have now. Those who are younger (try as they might) just won't understand the innocence and carefree lifestyle they lead until it's gone.

I know I've been guilty of it. I couldn't wait to leave high school and be rid of the torture that was assignments, detentions and expectations. I look back on some of the decisions I made and the beliefs I had and it makes me cringe violently. The worst part is that at that age, the youth believe wholeheartedly that they have life sorted out - again, a trap for which I certainly fell. Now I (and I assume others) look back on my 16-year-old self and think "You poor, misguided soul."

But let's be fair - I am really still in my youth. I feel still feel like I understand how the world works. The only difference is that I'm aware deep down that I don't. I expect to reach 35 and look back on today, chuckling, thinking "That was an idealistic part of my life." Isn't it strange how that works? We're never satisfied. When we're young, we can't wait to be older. When we're old, we wish we were younger. I can't really blame the young. They see the problems that they have to deal with - having to follow rules without understanding why, being excluded from things, having no authority etc. They see adults around them not having to deal with those problems. Of course adulthood would become appealing to them.

I have a bigger problem with the adults. Youth with wisdom is a paradox. The whole reason youth is so appealing is that it's a time we have almost no responsibility. The reason we have no responsibility is that we currently don't have the wisdom to use it. That wisdom comes from making mistakes - the kind of mistakes we're allowed to make when they affect the least amount of people. Without those mistakes, we don't have the wisdom we so highly praise.

So really, that quote is not always true. Youth can be wasted on the young. But only if - once they're old - they fail to understand the importance of their youthful ignorance. Forget "youth is wasted on the young". My new mantra is:

Adults don't appreciate adulthood.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Be the World

When I was young(er), all I wanted to do was travel. I was aware of how big and varied the world was and I wanted to see it all. It was such a driving force that I spent hours at a time collecting info on all the different countries - even the small unknown ones like Tajikistan. After high school, I went to TAFE to study retail tourism. I was going to be a travel agent. But when I discovered that becoming a travel agent just for the travel opportunities was a bad idea, I shifted my focus.

Now, at 24 years old, I've been to a lot of places around Australia. I've visited every state capital except for Hobart and Darwin, as well as The Gold Coast and a few country towns that no one's ever heard of. But disappointingly, I haven't been overseas since a family trip to Italy when I was 14. I used to lord it over everyone else with my superior travel experience - I'd been overseas three times before I could drive. But now all my friends, entering their twenties, are catching up to and overtaking me. I used to think that I just didn't yet have the money for a big overseas trip. But then I had this conversation with my friend Jerida:

Me: 'Oh you're going to New Zealand! That sounds awesome!'
Jerida: 'I'm so excited.'
'I'm jealous.'
'Why are you jealous?'
'I haven't been overseas in so long.'
'Well, why don't you take a holiday?'
That made me pause. Why don't I travel more? I do have the money really. I have enough saved up to spend three months in Paris if I wanted. So why haven't I been overseas without my family yet?
'...I guess I need a reason to go,' I mused.
'What do you mean?'
'Like, most of the time I've travelled, it was to see a festival or a sports match or for work. It gives me something to experience while I'm there.'
'Mike, if you're going to another city for work, that's not the same thing. You can't see the city that way.'
'That's not true. When I went to Perth to work for a week, I was only occupied between 9 & 5. In the evenings, I organised to do some stand-up gigs and meet friends that lived there.'
'But you didn't actually see the city, did you?'
'No, I guess not...'

Later, our other friend Kelsey managed to round up a bunch of people to take a trip to Singapore and Thailand. I was invited along, but I hesitated. At the front of my mind was an audition for a touring kids theatre company that I'd just had. I didn't want to pay for flights and accommodation and then find out I'd got the job and have to cancel. But if I'm completely honest with myself, I have to admit I just didn't want to spend the money, period. It's taken me a VERY long time to accrue that money in the bank. I didn't want to blow half of it in one fell swoop. I eventually bit the bullet and joined in. I paid for my flights and accommodation while hanging out at Kelsey's house. Then, later that night, I had this conversation with him:

Kelsey: 'This is going to be so great.'
Me: 'Yeah... I wish I could get that excited.'
'You're not excited?'
'I am, just... not as excited as I used to be.'
'What do you mean?'
I'd had more time to think about it and realised I knew the problem.
'Travelling used to be the number one thing I wanted to do with my life, but it isn't any more. My priorities have changed.'
'Not me, I want to see the world. I want to open my mind to other cultures and learn what they're about.'
'Yeah I used to be like that too. But now I'm saving up for a house. I want to get into a position where I can support myself and a family. If I have to sacrifice travel for that, I don't mind.'
'Yeah look, I want to do that too. But you have to travel while you're young. See the world now because when you have a career and kids, you won't get to do it any more.'

Kelsey may not have realised it, but his philosophy is nothing new. While in the last generation you were seen as a success if you had a nice house, a nice job and a nice partner with nice kids, now success is measured by the places you've been and the experiences you've had. But just as a feminist is still a feminist, even if she chooses to be a stay-at-home mum, a new-age man is still enlightened if he prioritises a house and kids over travel. Don't get me wrong, I still measure my life by experiences... I just get my life experience elsewhere.

I was happy that I'd come to that realisation. It felt good knowing that I didn't have to dedicate all my effort to such an enormous task as seeing the world. Kelsey still didn't get it, but that was okay. He had his plan and I had mine. I wished him all the best.
But a few days later, I was thinking about it again. Something about my logic didn't quite add up.If all I care about is getting a house and family, then why do I still have a bucket list typed out on my computer? Why am I trying to visit every Australian capital city and why do I want to travel to every continent? When we were discussing what to do on our upcoming trip to Asia, I only had one suggestion and it was the only thing I got properly excited about - I wanted to go to a Buddhist monastery, experience that lifestyle and hopefully learn to meditate. I mulled that idea over, then it finally hit me.

I don't want to see the world. That's too sedentary for me. I'd much rather be the world.

If I'm going to Thailand, it's not enough to just see first-hind how they live. I want to actually live like them - to become a local. See the world through their eyes.
If I had a choice between going to China to see the Great Wall or living for two months in an Aboriginal community, I'd pick the latter.
When I was in Italy, my favourite memories included playing cards with the locals and attending a 21st birthday. It made me feel like I was a part of the group.
I was in Canberra for ten days with a large group of friends and each day I would text someone to come and have breakfast with me in Canberra Centre. By the end of the ten days, I knew my way around the streets of the CBD and that felt good.
Things like my new experience challenge, where I tried one new thin every week for a year - that was designed to help me really experience things that are outside my zone of familiarity.
I've taken dance classes, cooking classes, martial arts classes, guitar lessons and now I'm learning to write Java script.

Let's take it a step further. I feel like I have a good amount of world-knowledge. But everything I see comes through the point of view of a rich western white man. I want to find a way to get down from my perch and really learn what's going on in the rest of the world. I hear so much talk of how hard it is for some people to get by, but I'll never really understand until I've lived it. I want to know what it's like to struggle.

I dream of wearing a turban one year, camouflage gear the next and a spacesuit the year after that. I don't want Lonely Planet, I want Eat Pray Love. I never watched Getaway, but I couldn't get enough of Things to Try Before You Die. I don't want to see the world, I want to be the world.

Friday, 22 January 2016

When You're Really In Love...

   ...Do you remain in love during every waking moment? Do you continue to love that person or thing until you just can't love them any more? Or will there be ebbs and flows? Will there be days when you don't feel the same way, making you wonder what you ever felt in the first place?

   It wasn't a person that made me bring up this question, it was a city. The first time I went to Sydney, I fell in love with the place. I can't explain what it was exactly, but I just felt at home. I could quite easily see myself moving there, if only I had the means. I've been back many times since, mostly because circumstances had brought me there. And every time I've been, I've enjoyed it just as much. I was much more eager to go out and try all the cafes and restaurants, I was perfectly content just going for a walk and taking everything in - something I find boring back home.
   But recently, I found myself travelling there completely on my own. It was the first time I'd been that alone outside of Adelaide. The plan was just to fly in, stay overnight, attend an audition and fly back out that afternoon. I'd booked the cheapest accommodation I could find - a 16-bed hostel room above a pharmacy in Chinatown. None of the guests in the room knew each other, which meant that the hot, stuffy, rickety room had a permanent, uncomfortable silence. Practically the only people who talked were an overweight, balding Indian man with poor dental hygene who was very difficult to understand... and a stand-offish British girl who yelled at him for waking her up.
   Going out of the building, I suddenly noticed how hard it was to walk down the dirty street without bumping into anyone. People seemed in so much more of a rush and would get annoyed at you for slowing them down. In some places there was a smell of sewage in the air and when I saw signs taped up on lamp posts spruiking places to rent, they were going for four times more than what I'd remembered seeing in the past.
   I think it was after a shockingly poor night's sleep, stepping outside and finding an unhealthy-looking layer of smog in the air, that I finally realised that - at least for the moment - I wasn't in love with the city any more. So that brings me back to my question. When you're in love, are you in love permanently? Once you're out of love, is that final? Or can you be out of love for a moment, with the knowledge that it's only temporary?

   Of course, this applies to people too. Until now I've believed that once I find the person with whom I'm meant to be for the rest of your life, it would be like the end of a journey. I'd wake up every day and think "Wow, how lucky am I? I'm with this beautiful, strong, caring girl that I love and who somehow loves me back." I didn't imagine there'd be days where I wake up and think "This is the last person I want to see right now."

   People often talk about loving without being "in-love". Does it work the other way around? Can you be in-love without loving?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Starting Small

I've never revealed this to anyone. Some of my closest friends have a bit of an idea, but they don't know how far it goes. I've kept it to myself not because I'm ashamed or embarrassed of it, but because saying it out loud diminishes my capacity to do it...

Basically, I want to change the world. I want to get to the end of my life and have people say "He made a difference." Like Steve Jobs, who pursued the path that he thought was right despite the rest of the world telling him he was wrong. Like Martin Luthor King, whose every word was so loaded with knowledge and power that everything he said became a lightbulb for others. I don't know how I can help, or what I can offer that people will want to accept. but it's a feeling that I can't ignore.

Here's my problem... I think of that desire on a very global scale. And that means I ignore the things that need my attention when they're right in front of me.

I have an aunt. She has all sorts of mental illnesses. She's been in and out of psychiatric care and currently lives in government-assisted housing. She uses psychological manipulation to try and get money from her mum and her brothers. She'll call them eight times a day and ask them to drive to the other side of town and take her cat to the vet. She's a hypochondriac, but refuses to do anything about it. She just uses her supposed illnesses as excuses for not being able to mow the lawn - which is why we should come around to do it.

She has religious hallucinations and delusions of persecution. She talks all the time about the flashes of light God sends her, the planes that are circling her house and the people that hate her because she's a prophet. She believes that God has given her the ghosts of all the cats she's had in the past and now they follow her everywhere she goes. She's stopped taking the bus because the drivers get impatient when she stands in the doorway for three minutes, calling for her cats to come in. Oh, and she smokes. Can't forget that one.

A few years ago, this aunt called me up. We hadn't spoken since I was very young.
'I'm wondering if you'd like to be my friend and come over to my house every now and then,' she said. 'I don't have any friends and I get very lonely.'
'Sure!' I said. I loved having an opportunity to help someone out.
That was a mistake.
She added me to her list of the people she could call non-stop. She'd keep me on the phone for ages, repeating the same two sentences over and over about how she was going to publish an anthology of all the letters that she writes and I should help her publish it. She'd ask me to come come to her house every week - an hour's drive there and another hour back. And she wouldn't understand that taking two hours out of my day for driving is a very hard ask.

The kicker is that I could see no way of dealing with this. My Dad has a motto when it comes to this aunt - "Give her an inch, and she'll take a mile." For a short while I was visiting her once every two weeks. Then she asked me to live with her. I looked at the cat vomit that had been sitting on the floor uncleaned since the last time I'd come and told her as politely as possible that it would be too hard for me.
Eventually the fortnightly visits became monthly. Then every other month. I'd tell her I was way too busy to come. It was true, but I'm sure I could have found time if I'd wanted to. Eventually, I started ignoring her calls. Sometimes I was working and couldn't take them anyway. Other times I was getting ready for work. Sometimes though I was just watching a movie and felt that answering the phone would mean quitting the movie halfway through. I don't know how it looks to you reading this, but to me I felt justified in ignoring her calls.

Yesterday she called me again. I was driving to work at the time, so I ignored it once again. I needed to play music from my phone for work, so I switched it to flight mode so she couldn't call me again half way through and sabotage it. After work, I got back in my car and switched my phone back to normal. Sure enough, she'd called me again. Like always, she'd left a half-hour voicemail on my phone.
'L-l-look Michael,' she said. 'Don't bother coming over this is Wednesday. I think you're just like your Dad and your Mum and you're Uncle. You abuse me and neglect me and I'm trying to keep away from all the people that abuse and neglect me. So, don't bother coming over on Wednesday because you abuse and neglect me. I know you see my number and ignore my calls. I know you get my messages. You abuse and neglect me and I don't want to talk to you anymore. Or, um... ever again. So don't bother coming over this Wednesday because you know what Michael? If you don't like me, that's fine. I'm trying to get the poisonous people out of my life, so that's fine by me. I feel a lot better, I really do...'

I listened to this for the whole car ride home. I felt horrible. Not exactly because of what she was saying - like I said, she's manipulative. But because I have this grand, romantic desire to help the world and to make it a better place. And yet here, right in front of me, is a problem in which I can play a direct part. And I'm ignoring it in the hope that it will disappear. Imagine (just hypothetically) that I did become some Martin Luthor King version 2. How could I expect anyone to believe what I say? I have no right to turn my attention to other people's problems while ignoring someone who's within arms reach.

I still don't know how to deal with her neurosis. Maybe all she needs is attention. But I'm going to have to sort it out before I even dream of sorting out the rest of the world.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Argh, Snape too??

Aw man, I think these two will forever be linked. Five days after one of the world's greatest artists - David Bowie - died of cancer at 69, one of the world's best actors - Alan Rickman - goes and does the exact same thing, at the same age.

Alan Rickman was underrated. But I don't say that in lament - I think as an actor, being underrated is a wonderful thing.

Think of the biggest names in Hollywood. Chris Hemsworth, Morgan Freeman, Scarlett Johansson... When you go and see a movie starring any of those people you think of it as a "Bruce Willis" movie or a "Meryl Streep" movie. As brilliant as those actors are, it makes their job a lot harder to do. It's hard to watch the as their character and not just think "Hugh Jackman is beating up those bad guys".

Rickman is different. When I watch him, I only see Hans Gruber or Professor Snape. He's a true actor in the most British, thespian sense of the word. The way he creates a character is so complete, it impresses me no end.

The fact that he's left us in the same week and at the same age as one of the other great artists is cause for sorrow. And as a friend of mine pointed out, have you ever noticed what the zodiac sign is for Cancer?


Monday, 11 January 2016


So here's my experience with Bowie.

I first heard the Ziggy Stardust album many years ago while making my way through Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of all time. I'd never heard anything so psychadelic and with such a fascinating story. The songs Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City shot straight into my most loved list.

When I heard the album Just Dance, I was blown away by how different it was to the former. I was compelled to look into it further. It turns out Bowie's been a master of reinvention. From the beginning of his career, flitting around as a well-presented man in a suit named Davey Jones, to the androgynous, messianic Ziggy Stardust, to uncaring showman the Thin White Duke.

I saw an exhibit on Bowie at the Australian Center for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Seeing the way he collects influences from all sorts of sources that you wouldn't think had anything to do with music. The one that stuck out most came from the release of the first ever colour photo of Earth from afar. It's such a weird idea to me that before that photo, nobody knew that the Earth was blue. Bowie saw this photo and made a note in his journal that said "Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do." It became one of the most famous lines in his entire discography.

Bowie isn't my favourite singer. If given the choice, I'd rather listen to 90s punk bands like Green Day and Blink 182. But he's without a doubt my favourite artist The one thing I can take from him is his incredible knack for creativity and the way he takes influence from everywhere to create crazy, new, unique ideas.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Obama's War On Gun Control Made Simple

Monday, 4 January 2016

Question of the Month: New Year's Resolutions

This is a monthly bloghop where we answer a question set by a mysterious stranger. I don't know who the stranger is or what he wants from us, but we answer the questions with no further questions ask. We don't want to make him angry. This month's question - I assume in honour of the new year - is:

What are some new year's resolutions you've had in the past?

I don't usually do new year's revolutions per se. I believe if you're going to make an attempt to start a new project/improve your life/be a better person, you may as well start straight away. Don't wait until the end of the year to take action.

One Spring, I was so excited by the warming climate and the reappearing sun, I decided I would go out and do something every single day. Ninety-one days straight of going to friends' houses, going to the movies, visiting relatives... something. The fact that I didn't have my own car at the time (or possibly not even my license) made it harder, but I managed to find a way to get it done. One thing that happened was that I discovered pub poker for the first time. Every Monday and Wednesday, I'd ride my bike down to the Glynde Hotel where they'd have a freeroll game and on Fridays I'd do the same at the Payneham Tavern. The games would be free to enter and you weren't betting with real money, but if you bought drinks and meals at the bar, you'd get more chips to play with which would increase your chance of winning the real cash prizes up for grabs. Both venues were quite close to my house, which meant that riding my bike there wasn't a problem. The first time I actually won a tournament, I ended up coming home with $200 - a lot of money for a teenager working at KFC.
I did this and many other things for 75 days, surprising myself and my parents. They kept trying to convince me to include work as my thing for that day, but I saw that as a huge cop-out. So as well as work and school, I managed to juggle a heavy social commitment. But on the 76th day, I was sitting on my couch watching TV at 8:30pm, when suddenly I sprang up and yelled "Oh crap!"
I'd just plum forgotten to organise something. Completely slipped my mind. What a sad end to the streak. But like I said, I was happy with what I'd achieved, so I moved on.

In March this year, I was working at a show that featured popular children's characters The Octonauts. I got to see the show for free and I wanted to show my friends on Facebook that I was working for them. Then I realised that I lately, I'd been doing a lot of things that friends would find cool. That gave rise to a new resolution that I called "Daily Michael", Every day since March 20, I've uploaded one photo to Facebook that has me in it. Most of my friends love it, some hate it. I enjoy it, and that's all I care about.

And of course, in 2014, I began what may be the only proper new year's resolution I've had - the New Experience Challenge. Every week starting on the first of January, I tried a new experience that I hadn't had before. I took salsa classes, started football umpiring, went on a tour of a dolphin sanctuary, hosted a show called Bogan Bingo, stage-managed a major production at the Fringe Festival, hosted my own show at that same festival and I capped it off with the amazing experience of skydiving. If you want to look up some of the awesome stories from that year, I blogged about it each week. Just go to the 2014 section of "The Attic" on the right-hand side of this page. They're not all pearlers, but there are some great stories there.

If you want to join in on the bloghop, put your name on the list below. It happens on the first Monday of each month but make sure you don't forget - you don't want to make the Question Master angry.

- See more at: http://www.alifeexamined.com.au/p/blog-page_26.html#sthash.Kdt6Z3hQ.dpuf

Friday, 1 January 2016

It's Time

I've mentioned before on this blog how 2012 was this big, life-changing, up-and-down year for me. 2013... not so much. In 2014, I rebooted this blog and began the New Experience Challenge. I went skydiving, flew a plane, performed my own show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and did all sorts of other crazy things. I also began umpiring and hosting pub quizzes, the two jobs that are by far and away the best I've ever had. That year was a crazy year too. In 2015, I had some interesting experiences, but it just wasn't a big stand-out year like the last. I'm hoping that this is a pattern that continues. I hope that 2016 will be as big and life-changing as it was two years ago and two years before that. Here are some of the things that are coming or that I hope will happen in the course of 2016.

A Trip to Asia

Kelsey's the tastemaker of our group. There have been multiple times in the last two years where I've tried to enlist the Gang to take a big holiday with me. I'm always met with complaints of "I'm way too busy" or "I'm broke". Two months ago however, Kelsey brought up the idea of going to Asia and a bunch of people jumped on board. Oh well... We got there in the end.

So at the end of January, myself, Kelsey, Jerida, Jason, Brooke and a new friend named Nikeisha will be travelling through Singapore and Phuket. The others have already found some incredible things to do including things like a treetop canopy tour, elephant tracking and of course, Universal Studios. We also want to tour the Buddhist monasteries etc.This will be an amazing experience that will be unlike any I've ever had.

RAW Comedy

My first entry into RAW Comedy was a big way to kick off an eventful 2012. I did very well on the night, but I wasn't accepted into the State Final. At the time, I was perplexed - sure, my act was confronting, but I was without a doubt one of the funniest people there on the night. Why didn't I get through? It's only now, four years later, that I understand. The judges weren't just looking for the funniest person. They were looking for the person with the biggest potential for a career in the business. My act certainly didn't give that impression.

RAW Comedy rules state that a person is allowed to enter three times. I was so adamant that I wanted to get past the heats that I decided to put off re-entering the next year so I could get some more experience. Then I put it off again. By the time 2015 came around, I was so out of practice it wasn't funny... which I guess is the point. So I've taken the plunge and registered again for 2016. If I fail, I'll have to learn to live with that. If I succeed, it could get the ball rolling for me to get back into stand-up more regularly. Either way... I'll get something out of this.

Build an App

My family doesn't really do "tradition", but one tradition we absolutely have is that on Christmas Eve, our extended family will have dinner at my aunt's house and we'll have a game of Trivial Pursuit. We always bring other boardgames, just to give it a bit of variety. But we always end up with Trivial Pursuit as our game of choice.

The problem that presents is that sooner or later, we're going to run out of questions. They only give you a finite amount of cards. We once tried to buy a new version of the game with new questions. But the questions were bad and the board was modified, so that now lies in the cupboard, collecting dust.

Coming to that realisation this Christmas, I had the idea to look on my phone for an app that would give us some new questions to answer. I couldn't find one. All I got were a bunch of cheap, amateur games. There were no apps that could provide us with just general, all-purpose question that we could apply to this game. So I decided to make one.

I've already drawn a spreadsheet on what the app would look like, including design, functionality and customisation. I've bookmarked some articles that will help me to learn the right code. In places where I can't get the app to look or do what I want, I might get a professional to fix it. And by the end of this year, I'll have put it out on the Android market. iPhone too if I get the hang of it.

Publish a Book

I've written the first draft of a children's story. It's very short, but so far the feedback has been pretty consistent in that it goes a bit above the head of my intended audience. By the end of this year, I want to sort out that problem, hire an illustrator and self-publish that book.

And of Course...

Pokemon Go. This, if nothing else, is certainly going to change my life.

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