Tempered

Marcus Aurelius – The Philosopher Emperor.

For all of my strengths and weaknesses, there is none I value more than my temperance.

Life has a habit of taking away as much as it provides. I experienced such a transaction rather cruelly on Monday straight after the huge highs of Formula 1.

I won’t go into the details, but needless to say, it was of great personal cost, and involved the loss of personal property of which I have come to define a lot of my personality around.

Even now, as I am reliving the memory, I can’t help but sense a strange, surreal hollowness around it all. I know I am capable of processing huge emotional loads, but to continue working and be professional about it all, is surprising even for me.

I like to think that I am a very coldly angry person all the time. Some would call it passionate, but in reality, I know that I’m just venting excess emotion all the time.

To maintain a certain “calm”, I’m constantly fighting emotional build-up and letting it loose occasionally through things I like to talk about or my passions. I seem animated all the time, because I like create a controllable storm, so that my centre is calm, like the eye of an hurricane.

I think that is what has enabled me to move on so quickly, from losing something so precious to me. The years I’ve spent collecting, the money I’ve wasted on these items … they’ve been removed from my grasp in less than a hour. There’s nothing I can do to get them back, nothing I can control or really do.

There isn’t even the option of emotional catharsis through revenge.

It didn’t help that, ever since that day, there has been a slew of small shittiness that has marred every day of this cursed week.

Forgetting birthday presents, buying the wrong wedding card (it’s meant to be Mr. & Mrs., not Mr. & Mr.), book price stickers ripping off pieces of the book cover, struggles to find parking, travelling further than necessary because idiots forgot to tell me about a change in time to the rendezvous and dealing with irate customers at work … it seems that all my good karma has left and it is time to repent.

All of which I’ve deal with a cold, dispassionate amusement at how Lady Luck has seemingly abandoned me.

In these trying times, all I can do is really grasp a hold of my emotional state and try to wrestle it into a manageable state, which oddly, only took an hour after the incident, because I immediately entered a meeting for a project I was working on soon after, without any emotional outbursts.

That said, I am somewhat still reeling from the emotional whiplash I experienced in an 24 hour cycle. To come from such a high, then plummet down to such a low, is something I haven’t really been tested on before.

I can still see the after-effects of it all. I’m still sad, mourning the loss of them and I can see how my muscle memory is missing the feel of them. My usual energy is dampened somewhat, and I can definitely tell that I think too much about the question “How are you?” and struggle to answer it with my usual sarcastic attitude.

My bravado and cockiness has been taken down a peg.

96 Hours of high energy.

96 Hours of low energy.

That has been the week characterised for me so far. Incredible good luck, followed by calamitous misfortune.

Life giveth and life taketh.

Equilibrium.

Isn’t it amusing how philosophical one becomes after a great victory and loss?

I still hate philosophy, but I can’t deny that my personal unshakable belief in equilibrium is probably what allows me to move on quickly from sentiment and big emotional shocks.

The very next day, I was binning all useless items related to my hobby and collection, trashing a lot of stuff that have now become irrelevant without the key components.

In a lot of ways, I guess that speaks a lot about my ruthless and unsentimental nature. The moment something becomes useless, I bin it without hesitation. I retain a strong memory, but it is emotionally void, a black hole in which I don’t try to romanticise or look too fondly on them.

It happened, move on and find something else.

Don’t repeat the mistakes that led up to this moment and explore new ways to engage in the hobby or simply … drop it altogether.

I will say, that a psychologist would find me strange, mixing a somewhat spiritual belief in “balance”, with a cold professional pragmatism to every variant of sentiment and a ruthless attitude to emotional imbalance.

But that is how I deal with life for all its up and down. It is no secret that I ruthlessly purge my social media of extraneous friendships, because I like to know that the people I see, are people worthy of my time and investment.

Friends, like any relationship, need time, effort and money to last. Otherwise, they just become acquaintances.

It is that attitude that drives so much of my emotional control. The moment something becomes no longer worthy of time, effort and money, why hang onto it? Dismiss and move on.

Life is too short to get depressed over loss.

There are a lot of reason why I don’t have a lot of emotional baggage compared to everyone else I know. I just jettison a lot stuff in general. Rubbish can clutter the mind just as quickly as stress, if you aren’t careful.

I like to think that I empty my “trash can” quickly and efficiently before it builds up in my mind.

And in the case of this loss, I’ve purged it rather quickly, to ensure that I can still function in society and life, without any real detriment to my health.

Is it psychotic to think this way?

Perhaps there is a bit of that. I wonder if I am too quick to process difficult emotions, too emotionally detached, but then I always remember how my body language acts up around things I enjoy; how my heart-rate speeds up around exotic machines, or how the hairs on my arms stand up at the melody of a haunting song.

And I’m reassured that I am still capable of being moved, feeling and experiencing all the highs and lows of life.

I’m just quick to slam the visor down, and focus on my personal race, and ignore all the elements that don’t matter.

It’s hasn’t even been a year since I last experienced something relatively shocking. I wonder how many people would bounce back the way I have? Sometimes, even I have to question whether I’ve dealt with everything properly.

I do want to apologise for being mysterious. A lot of people read this blog and will be wondering what the hell I am talking about. What was taken from me? Why am I in such a state over the loss?

If you desire more context, I will simply say, it is a private matter, but is related to one my key interests and there is quite a lot of furore over them.

How much of a furore, remains to be seen, as of the writing of this post.

I may have had absolutely rotten misfortune in the past 96 hours, but I doubt the venerable goddess known as Lady Luck has abandoned me completely.

Even in time of crises, I know she’s always helped me escape with relative ease, even if I get a little singed in the process.

After all, life is a constant balance. Sooner or later, things will be fine again and I’ll be mourning the lack of excitement in my life once more.

It’s just a shame that the wonderful memory of my first volunteer gig Formula 1 is now bittersweet.

The happiness of your life, depends upon the quality of your thoughts. – Marcus Aurelius.

Good thing I don’t have that many in a day.

I hear you can lose yourself from overthinking.

~ Damocles.

The Batman (2022) – Cinema Review.

Y/N? Yes.

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffery Wright, Colin Farrell & John Turturro.

Review by Damocles

I’m Vengeance.

Batman isn’t really a character that needs any introduction. I’m not the biggest comic-book nerd in the world, but I’ve played enough of the Arkham games, seen enough of the Batman animated series and watched all the Batman films to know when something is right and something isn’t.

At his core, Batman isn’t a particularly complicated character. He’s violence personified without the murderous intent and he’s your classic noir detective motivated by revenge. It is the city around him and the villains that live within the borders of Gotham that make him compelling, because his struggle is endless and almost in vain.

In this film, we are introduced to a Batman who is only just starting his vigilante career. I thoroughly enjoyed this approach, as we get to enjoy some of the more popular Arkham styled beat-downs on criminals, whilst trying to establish his unique intellect and emotional issues.

This is a Batman who is still a bit untested, a character who doesn’t quite know where he fits in Gotham yet and is still trying to work through his grief in the most unhealthy way possible: violence.

Pattinson is remarkable in this film, his acting mostly done through highly expressive eye movements and careful measured movements. Whilst there could have been more done to his character of Bruce Wayne, overall, the portrayal of Wayne, as a haunted and scarred man was performed admirably by Pattinson.

I particularly enjoyed the sequences where he was not in costume, relying on all black clothing, a hoodie and mask to blend with the environment. Something about the image of a masked, hooded figure moving through Halloween celebrations stuck with me, long after the film and there was such a great emphasis on realism, on how Batman wouldn’t be relying solely on his suit for reconnaissance and infiltration.

These details can be attributed to Reeves, who wrote the screenplay alongside Peter Craig. In The Batman, they have created a wonderfully dark and noirish world, with elements of Se7en (1995) and Taxi Driver (1976). Whilst the plot did muddle a bit near the middle and in parts of the third act, the pacing was excellent and immersive throughout the entire run-time, never really feeling its 3 hour length.

The dark, realistic nature of the film was offset beautifully with the more classic noir elements that have always been a strong part of the Batman’s mythos.

In Selina Kyle, we have a classic femme fatale, whose costume changes I thought were an intriguing take on the ever-changing chameleon nature of the archetype.

In the Penguin, we have the classic noir decoy character, Farrell disappearing completely into the role, unrecognisable and brilliant as one of Batman’s classic mobster characters.

In Gordon, we have the sole beacon of goodness in the film, a man who just wants to do his job, but understand that he needs Batman’s unique take on justice to hang onto the city. Wright shines as a cynical but honest man who just want to see the good guys prevail in a city as dark as Gotham.

Finally, in the Riddler, we have a fun and twisted performance by Paul Dano, who hams it up, in many ways, resembling certain online personalities that I couldn’t help but smile at the reference.

If you can see a trend, it is that all the cast involved were excellent in their roles, despite some of the more muddled parts of the plot.

Cinematography wise, The Batman boasts incredible visuals that perfectly captures the dark moodiness that has always been associated with Gotham. Whilst I’ve always loved that Gotham has had a more Gothic architecture in some of the earlier Batman live-action films, I am willing to sacrifice that aesthetic for a modern take, with a strong emphasis on darkness. There was a real sense of despair and decay that could be seen in every frame of Gotham, from the nightclub, to the crime scenes and train stations.

In having such a prevalent dark aesthetic, I thought the cinematographer, Greig Fraser (congratulations on the Oscar win!), really employed the use of colours brilliantly, with red lighting being a particular highlight throughout the film.

As for the sound, the foley in this film was ridiculously over the top. The entrance of the Batmobile in particular was enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up, a very rare sensation for me to experience in a cinema. Everything that involved the Batman, had a horror focus to his foley, from the footsteps to the score.

Speaking of score, Michael Giacchino nails the atmosphere needed for such a dark film, with a haunting, nightmarish sound that is eventually elevated to something more heroic for Batman, a sweeping, romantic but dark melody for Catwoman (excellent use of the piano) and a twisted version of a child-like melody for the Riddler.

Overall, the Batman is a worthy interpretation of the famous comic book character. It was nice to see a satisfying arc to what is normally the dullest part of the Batman universe, Batman himself and done right without any transgressions on his famous rules.

And that, in the world of Hollywood, where there are so many little things that the screenwriters get wrong about beloved characters whilst adapting them for film, is something to be celebrated.

A scene to recall: The moment Batman popped the flare and become a proper hero for Gotham, was such a satisfying character arc for the character. Also I copy this moment way too much, when I do my urbex stuff.

Yeah, the Batsuit in this film is my favourite version so far.

Fanboy moments:

To quickly cap off my inner fanboy, I would like make a shot list of the things I really liked in the film. I tried to be a bit more objective in my review, but I will confess, I left the theatre smiling and liking the film a lot.

  • The BATSUIT
    • What a thing of beauty. It’s a brilliant take on modern plate carriers and armour. I particularly loved how the Bat symbol is actually a tactical knife and magnetically clamps onto his suit, and the various gadgets that he has on his forearms and legs.
    • The green medical syringe insert, was a brilliant touch, showcasing how Batman would use any medical tools, whilst maintaining protection against NBC agents.
    • I’m a big sucker for thigh bags in general, so to see Batman sport one, was a weird aesthetic that I couldn’t help but adore.
    • The camera lens in the cowl was a neat touch and really showed how Batman would be able to analyse crime scenes long after he had left them.
    • Overall, I applaud the designers for their more modern, military take on the Batsuit. I can easily see that the utility belt is a lot more akin to modern warbelts worn by modern operators, and I liked the idea that Batman could zip up his cape to create a modern wingsuit for emergency exfiltrations, along with his parachute.
  • The BATMOBILE
    • An angry, jet-powered muscle car. What’s not to love?
    • I love the low-slung nature of the car, as well as the incredible sound design behind it. I got such a huge thrill, when I heard something akin to the V12 era of F1 cars in the sound mixing. Cars aren’t just an aesthetic, they’re also auditory porn when done right.
  • The Iceberg Lounge
    • Such a cool location, with flashing red lights and industrial aesthetics.
    • The sequence where Batman fights his way though and tosses a baseball bat at a gun-toting goon was brilliant. In fact, so many of the fight scenes clearly showcase how this Batman doesn’t care about himself, he is only out for blood, despite the danger he is in. It is only right at the very end, does Batman start to care a bit more about self-preservation.
  • The Funeral Sequence
    • Easily my favourite part of the film, the funeral sequence was so brilliantly executed and really serve to heighten the paranoia one felt on the streets of Gotham.
    • I loved the neck-bomb, the chilling riddle and the eventual failure of Batman to save the victim. I liked the vulnerability, the mistakes Batman made, trying to do his best in a shitty scenario.
    • Especially in the aftermath of the funeral, I got to see Batman do his best to escape, using all his wits, and gadgets to flee.
  • Overall … this was probably my favourite interpretation of Batman put to live-screen and I’m eager to see more.

Professional.

Collateral (2004)

What does professionalism look like to me?

Beyond basic competency in your job, professionalism is an attitude that I think is lacking in a lot of people.

It is something that you need to train and work continuously to maintain.

Just having a job, doesn’t make you a professional in my eyes. Everyone can get a job. It doesn’t matter what background you have or what field you chose.

A consummate professional, in my eyes, is someone who espouses getting the job done, above everything else.

There is a certain ruthlessness that comes with being a professional. It’s not about being an arsehole all the time, or kiss-arsing everyone you deem above you.

It is about checking your ego at the door, acknowledging problems for what they are and being pragmatic in how you find and apply solutions. Some solutions require you to bring out your inner arsehole. Other answers may be found from stroking the egos of people above you.

Professionalism means that you don’t let emotions cloud your judgement or criticisms and apply them fairly without being malicious. It means that when you are confronted with an uncomfortable co-worker or even a friend, you can disassociate your personal feelings to your professional duties.

So much of being a professional is swallowing your ego and ideals for the sake of the job.

No matter how much you might hate the rules, your boss or even your co-workers, you need to put it aside for the objective.

Complete your mission, no matter the cost.

Which is where I want to touch on the personal cost of being a professional.

No matter the job, no matter how much you might enjoy or hate the environment, there are going to be people you don’t get along with. Ideologies, morals and personalities clash all the time. I know that in my current retail role, I don’t have an ounce of respect for any of my bosses. They’re hopelessly out of touch with the situation on the ground, incredibly overbearing and controlling and I suspect, they don’t take very kindly to my maverick attitude to authority.

That said, I know that I am professional about my role. I recognise the one major benefit of this job … that I can write on this blog during dull hours of work and that I’ve somehow managed to carve a small niche, in where I am actually getting paid to write and do retail work.

This small solace, amidst all the terrible mismanagement, is what keeps me from snapping. I can tolerate a lot, as long as I can write.

Which is why, despite personal cost, I can keep a professional demeanor at work and towards my bosses. This one benefit, trumps all the negative aspect of work.

I think that is the key to being professional. You have to view everything as objectively as possible and consider what are your limits.

Knowing your limits … that leads me into something that I think all professionals should have … high emotional intelligence.

Any idiot can be a professional. It’s not hard to learn skills, once you are getting paid to do so or forced to learn them. A monkey can use a hammer, just like a university graduate with no life experience can be taught how to calculate the trajectory of a rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and it’s most likely impact point.

What is often not taught, is how to communicate effectively with people you dislike, how not to be the arsehole at work and what are your personal limits.

Some people don’t have any concept of work-life balance. Which is incredibly detrimental to their professional life. Balance in all aspects of life is crucial to success and mental health. You enjoy work more when you spend the money you earned on things that matter to you … fine dining, sports, art galleries, concerts, racing or in my case, guns and books.

Understand and explore what your limits are. Don’t be the person that clock offs from work and immediately go home every night of the week. Expend a little bit more energy into living after work. Flirt with people, interact with your bartender, dance the night away …. have good conversation or just exercise with your dog.

When you discover that you actually have a lot more energy than you think, that work isn’t everything to your life, you’re going to find out more about yourself. And when you know yourself better, your emotional intelligence is going to rise, because you’ll see everyone around you, suffering from the same difficult acts and tribulations that come with work, life and play.

When you are a true professional, you’ll find it easier to manage your work-load and can even help others out.

I’m a firm believer in the concept that everyone is born with a “backpack” on their shoulders.

In this backpack, you are going to fill everything in it. Work. Relationships with strangers. Good memories. Bad experiences. Friendships. Lovers.

Often, without realising it, we fill this backpack with stuff that we don’t mean to take on.

Our bosses’ angry tirade at us. Our lover’s trauma. Parental expectations. False ideas about who we are.

Sometimes we forget to lighten this load and it creates a huge burden on our shoulders. I like to think that everyone can carry their backpack at 80% capacity comfortably. But too often we over-extend and end up shouldering 90%, or even 110%.

If you have a reasonably high emotional intelligence, you’ll know exactly when you are exceeding the weight limit in your backpack and you’ll start dumping things that you shouldn’t be carrying in the first place. It could be as innocuous as taking a bit of time off work. Or it could be as drastic as having a conversation with your partner, about how they need to learn to shoulder their 80% better, because goddamnit, you’re already loaded down, you don’t need to be carrying their arse along as well.

This is what I mean by exploring your limits as a professional. Your personal affects your professional life as well. By being pro-active at managing your limits, you can do your job better. Less things annoy you, work becomes a bit easier to handle and you can instinctively know when you can take a little bit more than 80% on your shoulders and when you shouldn’t.

More importantly though, you possessing a high emotional intelligence means you can manage people around you better, no matter their personalities and be more flexible in how you cope with difficult situations. You will find it easier to tap into your sides of your personalities and be more pragmatic in how you approach problems.

That ability to adapt, improvise and overcame any obstacles, regardless of personal strife or ideology is what makes you a professional in my eyes.

It is such a pity that more people aren’t taught the importance of balancing all aspects of their lives. Too many people experience the same pitfall of working becoming their existence, without realising that they can exist as individuals outside of the business grind.

If you are going to work hard for your whole life, do something that makes you happy. But more importantly, don’t make that happiness only be tied to work.

Explore yourself and you’ll find that being a professional can also apply to yourself.

You can be a pro at being yourself.

~ Damocles.

Unlikely Inspirations.

I still adore Tron Legacy.

What is the strangest thing that ticked your mind over?

I want to dive into some of the strangest inspirations and left-field concepts that have been stuck in my mind since I’ve developed critical thinking.

So without further ado, I present:

– The End of the Neon Club.

Ever since I first watched Tron Legacy (2010) I became obsessed with the idea of electronic music, neon lights and bodysuits all mixed together in a special club. It became such a focal point in my imagination, that I actually designed one for my economics assignment in high school.

The idea of owning a club, even to this day, still entices me.

It’s strange that a guy, as introverted as I was back then, would consider owning a club. But I always liked the idea, which was only further impressed upon me, when I played The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009) and found how much fun it was run errands for the business and be embroiled in the tumultuous lifestyle of a nightclub owner.

It didn’t help that years later, during my quest to become a one-percenter in GTA Online you had an option to run a nightclub as a front for your illicit gains. In came GALAXY, the hottest club on Vespucci Beach and something I still regularly maintain in game, before I do any other missions. It’s fun entering the club via the back entrance, and walking into the VIP room where you can inspect cameras and take shots on the bar whilst listening to pulsating club music.

I also loved the fact that one of my favourite shows, Lucifer features the devil himself owning a nightclub and I immediately went out of my way to ensure Galaxy had a special black convertible to apt the devil’s smooth style.

Other notable influences on the club life, has been my recent involvement with an events company called Untitled, the famous sequence in The Red Circle of John Wick (2014) fame, the equally cool sequence in Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004), and the ridiculously bloody introduction to Blade in Blade (1998).

If we are talking games, how can I forget the scenes in numerous Yakuza games, the Club Bam Bam in Sleeping Dogs (2012), Afterlife on Mass Effect’s Omega and the other big neon influence, The Hive in Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011). The Hive especially, was a notable example of club design right, with all its honeycomb aesthetic and incredible atmosphere.

– The Rhythm behind Desperados in Boots

There’s no real reason why I love mariachi style music so much. But when you’ve seen as many of Robert Rodriguez’s filmography as I have, you grow to love it. It’s so energetic and jolly, with just a hint of sadness underneath. The rhythm is infectious and makes you dance and it perfectly off-sets a wild action scene with Antonio Banderas blazing away with dual pistols.

It is hard to argue with the magnetism of Banderas, when he is singing Cancion Del Mariachi and knocking out some dirtbag with his guitar.

But my first real taste of addicting Mexican music was actually found through Puss in Boots (2011) with the score mostly comprised of Rodrigo Y Gabriela shredding every string on their guitar. I’ve been in love with their style ever since and was delighted when they scored Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), even though I was less enamoured with the film itself.

Other notable films that have made me create a Latino playlist has been the unforgettable Machete (2010), the hilariously over-the-top telenovela Casa De Mi Padre (2012) in which Will Ferrell only speaks Spanish throughout the entire film and I fell in love with Genesis Rodriguez and my first real introduction to Latino music in the form of The Mask of Zorro (1998) which I still dance to regularly.

That and the 1986 classic, The Three Amigos.

So as you can see, I have a plethora of inspiration for Latin music.

Architectural Studies as seen through Heavy Rain.

Heavy Rain (2010) was one of the first proper experimental games that made me question the medium in which stories can be told. I viewed it as the first real Choose Your Own Adventure video game and have had a love for it ever since my brother and I did our first play through.

But what really got me was the main character, Ethan Mars’ profession: an architect. In our first introduction to him, you get to see him work on a large sketch-board in his contemporary office, and it opened my eyes to building design. Ever since then, my interest in buildings have been a a quiet appreciation in what I like and a silent judgement on what I hate.

This quiet observation habit only became much more pronounced when I went on my first overseas trip to Japan, with a very anthropological viewpoint to the trip. Urban planning and aesthetic suddenly became a big deal for me, and on my latest holiday, where I hit every capital (except Canberra) on the East coast of Australia and was critiquing every city along the way.

Much like any art critic, I see building designs the same way and will judge my emotional and critical reaction to them. If I had to judge all 3 cities, against each other, Brisbane was probably the most boring, Sydney the most eccentric with some of the ugliest and prettiest buildings and Melbourne is far too contemporary.

Which is to say, Sydney is the worst of the lot.

I will say, that I am largely a fan of contemporary styles, but only if it’s done in the style of Zaha Hadid (RIP) with plenty of strange curves and evocative lines. I just like a lot of glass, ceramics and steel mixed together.

I know, I’m such a prescient person, but I can’t help but think that now is the best time to live. I don’t really glamourise the past, except of course for when the Romans ruled and the age of Napoleon.

And yes, I do like their building styles back then too, not just the military.

The Skyfall behind my Fashion Study

Skyfall (2012) was the first film where I made a proper study of men’s fashion. The film both horrified me and inspired me.

First the horror: poor Daniel Craig’s suits. I’m not sure how you can fuck up Tom Ford suits, but the designer for the film, somehow gave Craig the slimmest cut for all of his suits. The material stretches far too much over his muscular frame and I remember being aghast at how tiny his legs looked, and how the blazer looked like it was about to rip apart under the strain.

But then we get to the Scottish third act and the same designer gives me the most beautiful blue jumper and Barbour jacket combination I have ever seen on screen and I forgot all about the poor fits, that dominated so much of the film thus far.

Skyfall was the first real whiplash I felt about Bond’s fashion, especially since I really started noticing better male fashion in Casino Royale (2006).

I mean, the scene in the Bahamas where Bond is just casually wearing a black Sunspel polo and light chinos was so accessible for a guy like me, that for once in my life, I felt like I could look like Bond, despite lacking Craig’s piercing blue eyes and granite masculinity.

Really diving into the fashion world, has made me more conscious of what I wear, my style and even colour palette. I borrow from all sorts of men around the world, but my staple has always been the Peaky Blinders style haircut and wearing my watches on the inside of my wrist.

Being aware of fashion, has made me glad that John Wick is always so impeccably dressed in all of his films, including bringing back tie bars. Other great examples of male fashion done right, is the timeless style of Jason Statham, who always looks perfect no matter the occasion or film or the original inspiration for Craig’s style, Steve McQueen whose eye for clothing is still influencing men to this day, long after his passing.

The in-game radio behind my DJ’s House sets

That damn nightclub expansion in GTA: Online. Not only did it scratch the itch I had over owning a nightclub, it also introduced me to the intoxicating world of European DJs. Solomun, Dixon, Tale of Us & Black Madonna. These talented desk jockeys became the source for my current obsession with house music.

I began to listen to the new in-game radio more and more, until it spilled over into reality and I was soon researching left, right and centre for new DJs. Currently, I’m loving the sets by Monki, Sam Divine, Archie Hamilton and Idris Elba, all of whom are incredible English DJs working for the Defected Records company.

House music is a true anomaly for me. It simultaneously makes me want to dance and move, whilst also giving me enough of a tempo to study and work to. It’s very bizarre. Something about the repetitive lyrics, thumping bass and smooth transitions into the next song, just relaxes me and soothes my mind to the point that I can write and work better than I have ever done in my life, to other genres of music.

It is definitely one of the most interesting facets about me and a big factor into why I am currently working casually for an Australian events company called Untitled Group, whose sole goal is to bring as many house-heads into one venue and get them vibing for 9-10 hours straight.

It’s a very recent phenomenon, and honestly, it’s been a great journey exploring a whole new genre of music that I previously, never experienced live or otherwise.

Cowboy Up.

Yellowstone. What can I say about this show, other than, I started watching it because I inherently trust Tyler Sheridan with any of his American frontier projects.

I wasn’t proven wrong. Yellowstone is one of the best epics on television right now. It’s bloody, clever and endearing. It tackles how the modern cowboy tries to make a living in today’s modern world and is an incredible spin on the age old 3-Way conflict between Native Americans, Land Owners and Corporations. Kevin Dutton shines as the Patriarch of the Dutton family, whilst Kelly Reilly stuns as the cold, complex daughter who will do anything to keep her family’s legacy alive.

I was particularly inspired by Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), whose character embodies everything I aspire to be: tough, sentimental and stoically silent. Upon seeing him, I immediately went out to a Levi store and bought a similar denim jacket, a light shade of blue jeans, and my own cowboy hat.

Watching that show, I am now inspired to take up some horse-riding lessons and I want to learn how to lasso something. The impact of that show, isn’t lost on me. It has made me long for the frontier, where nature and people are equally savage to one another, but the fleeting moments of beauty make it all worthwhile.

Thanks again, Yellowstone for being a brilliant drama and getting me in touch with my inner cowboy.

My interest in cowboys was first really piqued by the incredible Korean action film, The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) and my desperation to cosplay as the Good character. The cavalry charge the bounty hunter made against the Japanese Army, whilst slinging bullets with his lever-action rifle on horseback is easily one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a Western setting.

Also Red Dead Redemption 2. Enough said.

The Yakuza behind my first cosplay and tattoo wish fulfilment.

Having never really watched a lot of world cinema, to say that I was astonished and enraptured by a Japanese drama, showcased by my nerdy friend, is an understatement. I fell in love with how Japanese cinema tends to weaponise nostalgia and their strange sense of humour.

One of the big takeaways I got from My Boss My Hero (2006), was how cool the Yakuza style was and a fixation on Japanese styled tattoos. For my final day at high school, I came equipped with a wooden sword slung over one shoulder, a dragon tattoo drawn on my arm by my Dad, a black suit and fedora I picked up somewhere. I loved it even though no-one else got it.

I’m not sure if I would ever get a tattoo, as everyone seems to ink their bodies nowadays, but I know that if I did ever pull the trigger, it will most likely be related to the military.

What type of design you ask? Well of course it has to be related to Starship Troopers (1997).

That movie not only scarred me as a eleven year old kid, but it has now become a formative part of how I view satire and comedy.

I’m from Buenos Aires … and I say, kill them all!

End.

That’s all for now, but expect another part soon!

What has inspired you randomly in your life?

~ Damocles.

The Silent Tram

The tram rattled it way through the darkness of Melbourne suburbia.

The iconic whir and grind of the tram lulled everyone onboard into a strange stupor, of boredom and listlessness. For Jordan Bordeaux, this daily purgatory was his only way home, after a long stint at the office.

An unassuming man in every way, Jordan was boring and single. A man in his early 30s, he had no future aspirations or career options. He was the classic loner, happy to work in a dull accounting firm, and then head home to his humble abode and play video games for the rest of the night.

Tonight though, he had an important task.

Even now, as he stared out at the dark suburban landscape of Melbourne, the houses blurring by under weak, amber lights, and cars racing by underneath him, Jordan was still grappling with the unexpected task that has been thrust upon him by his boss.

Jordan, it’s very important to me that this briefcase be delivered to this client. He will meet you at the Burwood One Shopping Centre. Don’t worry about meeting this client, he’ll see you.

When you meet him, just hand it over and go home right away. I would do it myself, but I have to tie up a few things here at the office. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure this is part of your overtime pay. I really appreciate this mate.

Jordan, knowing deep down, he couldn’t refuse, had meekly responded and after work, had hopped onboard the 75 Vermont South Tram that would take him to the shopping centre.

Ever since that incident, his boss had been a bit colder. Today though, he seemed a bit warmer. Perhaps forgiveness was coming. Jordan was eager to keep the peace, so he decided to run this errand.

Having never possessed a car, let alone venture outside of his Richmond area, Jordan was nervous. He was used to the tram itself, as it took him home, but he had never been this far along the line.

As it was, Jordan was sitting in his usual spot, at the rear of the tram, the brown briefcase on his lap, his laptop bag underneath. The briefcase was oddly heavy, but Jordan didn’t dare open it, for fear of losing his job.

From his spot, Jordan had a door in front of him that he could exit out of, and see the whole length of the carriage.

Few souls were on this tram this late, most of them staring emptily out the window, waiting for their ride to end.

Near the middle of the tram, was an old couple muttering about a film they had just seen, the husband acting out scenes to his wife’s amusement. Their interaction filled Jordan with a envy he had not felt in a long time.

Only 2 booths in front of him was an attractive hipster girl, her classy white dress offset with black booties. Jordan found himself invariably drawn to her. Her head rested on the window, and there was something beautiful about how the light played across her face.

On the other end of the carriage, near the driver’s cabin, sat Jordan’s twin, another quiet, bored businessman in a suit, his fingers dancing his phone screen as he communicated with a flurry of friends in a group chat.

The last two occupants in the large tram, were young. A nursing student in her blue slacks was watching K-drama on her phone, her headphones blocking any sounds from the outside world.

Across from her, on one of the standing seats, was a bored teenager, his skateboard in one hand, his other supporting his schoolbag. The teen did nothing but look out the window and occasionally tap his board against his leg.

Jordan felt himself lurch forward, as the tram decelerated to a stop.

The doors slammed open, and no one got off.

Instead, a hooded man step onboard.

Decked out completely in black, the hooded figure had a balaclava that covered the bottom half of his face, sunglasses that obscured his eyes and a military styled backpack slung on his shoulder.

Scanning the length of the tram, the blacked out man silenced the tram with his presence. The old couple stopped talking and the husband defensively held his wife’s hand in reassurance. The hipster girl moved her bag across her stomach, wary and unsettled. The teen looked down, and avoided eye-contact. Only Jordan’s twin and the nursing student ignored the newcomer, unaware he was onboard.

With a blank stare at Jordan, the hooded man moved away and without hesitation, sat down with the old couple, looking at them silently.

Expectantly.

The old man swallowed, whilst his wife moved into the corner. Reaching up deliberately, the hooded man pulled the string that signalled for the tram to stop at the next station.

The old man nodded in acquiescence and minutes later, the old couple was disembarking, holding their belongings close. The skateboarding teen, seeing what was going on, also immediately jumped off, the sounds of his board skittering across the concrete pavement, a distant echo of panic.

Without any sound, the hooded man moved towards the attractive girl, and stood in the centre of her seat booth.

She looked up at him in abject fear, shaking slightly.

The blacked out man raised a single finger up to where his mouth would have been and nodded mockingly.

The girl grabbed her shoulders in fear, as the man leaned over and put his face close to hers.

Jordan watched in horror, straining to hear anything as the girl, tears streaming down her face, nodded obediently to the man’s quiet commands. Then in a burst of fear, she ducked out from under him and ran away through the carriage, frantically pressing the button for the next stop.

The hooded man didn’t move, instead he sat down in her place and placed his gloved hand over the still warm seat, as the tram shuddered to a stop and the girl ran outside into the darkness of a strange neighbourhood, nearly getting hit by a careless driver.

Jordan looked on in abject horror as the masked man ran his hand over the seat, lingering and savouring where the girl had just sat.

Run! screamed his mind. But what about the briefcase? inputted his logical side.

The indecision froze Jordan in place. He didn’t know what to do. He was an accountant for god’s sake. Sweat pooled underneath his arms, and across his forehead.

Once the seat cooled, the masked man stood up unerringly and made his way to the nursing student, her back to him. He moved smoothly and silently, his dark presence only amplified by the lack of sound coming from him.

In a freak coincidence, the tram rumbled over a piece of debris, causing the electricity to short out for a second, casting the carriage into darkness.

In that second, the masked man placed a gloved hand over the student’s mouth and slammed her head into the window of the tram.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

Blood slowly trickled down the glass and temple of the poor girl, as she lolled listlessly with the movement of the tram.

It happened so swiftly, so viciously and violently, that Jordan’s twin barely had any time to do anything before he was pounced upon by the masked man.

No! No! Urk! ….. Pleaseeee ….

The masked man was coldly efficient. Using the man’s tie against him, he wrapped it around the man, and as he twisted and choked the man, the dark figure bought his knee up and slammed it repeatedly into the twin’s head.

As the man slumped to the floor, the masked man, in a strange frantic state, scrabbled through the man’s pockets, and bag and briefcase.

Jordan, his mouth agape, began to furiously pull the string for the next stop. He couldn’t peel his eyes off the man, who was kneeling astride his twin, his hands rummaging and pulling all sorts of things out from every pocket.

What the fuck is in this briefcase?! screamed Jordan internally.

It was at that moment, the masked man took of one of his gloves. Jordan eyes widened as he beheld a blackened, claw of a hand, with viciously long fingernails and open sores. He clamped his hand over his mouth, stifling the scream that died before it come out, into a whimper.

The tram kept moving. A ghostly vehicle, amongst quiet suburbs and homes.

The masked man, ran his hand along the unconscious man’s cheek, stroking it, in a perversion of care, as his nails drew a line of blood.

Why isn’t this working!? thought Jordan as the plaintive peal for a stop kept being ignored by the driver.

Then he froze.

The masked man was now looking directly at him.

Rising to his full height, the masked man stared at the terrified Jordan, clutching the brown briefcase tightly to his chest.

Recognition of the prize, shone in the masked man’s eyes.

There was nowhere to go. The tram was not stopping. Jordan didn’t know how to fight.

End of the road.

The masked man walked slowly over to Jordan, his pace measured and agonisingly slow.

The lack of noise was terrifying. It was like seeing a shadow come towards him. It was impossible not to stare at the claw of a hand.

The masked man stood before Jordan, who was now quivering in apoplectic fear.

He stretched out his hand towards the briefcase.

Jordan, bravely or stupidly, held on.

The cut that appeared on Jordan’s right cheek was so fast that he didn’t even have time to register it, before the next one appeared on his left.

Blood oozed out from the pair of cuts and Jordan felt, rather than heard, a scream of pain erupt out of his lungs.

He sank to his knees, dropping the briefcase, which never hit the ground, because the man caught it in an blink of an eye.

Jordan Bordeaux wet himself in fear, before his eyes lolled into the back of his head, in a stupor of anxiety.

Just before darkness completely engulfed him, he could have sworn he felt something pierced his neck …

~

The masked man ripped open the briefcase and exposed the contents within to the world.

Under the flickering lights of the tram, the briefcase yawned open and the masked man pulled out what he really wanted the whole time.

3 blood bags, with a needle and catheter.

Behind him, the nursing student rose up on her haunches as did the business man clone of Jordan.

Their movement were worthy of a contortionist. From the floor, the female student stood with her legs first, before lifting her upper torso into the correct position. It was like seeing a yoga pose in reverse, and all the more unnatural because of it.

As for the clone, he merely just crawled forwards. The lower half of his body was left behind. The bizarre image of only half a man, without his legs, just using his arms to propel himself forward eagerly was something that would only be normal amongst the three of them.

The pair of them gathering around the masked man, their mouths open, teeth bared in anticipation.

The masked man stroked Jordan’s cheek in a bizarre parody of care and tenderness, sensing the strong heartbeat underneath. He scooped a drop of his blood on a long fingernail and lifting his mask, savoured the metallic taste.

Nodding approvingly, he stepped aside to let the student work, who immediately started searching for a vein to insert the needle and start the process. The Jordan clone flexed his muscular arms and began to massage Jordan’s arm intensely.

The first blood bag was filled in 15 minutes.

The second, was over in 10.

The final one, was in a record 8 minutes.

The masked man, nodded approvingly at his associates and they nodded back, their teeth still bared in anticipation for the final order.

But he shook his head and gestured to the front of the tram.

Disappointed, the pair of them retracted their fangs and sullenly returned to their seat, to pack their items, each of them clutching a precious blood bag.

The masked man looked over at Jordan, his pale features, now a sickly shade of marble.

There was just enough in there.

Leaving behind the briefcase, the masked man looked at the note written hastily, with a nervous hand.

Jordan Bordeaux // AB+ // Sentence: Voyeurism on his employer and mistress.

Snarling with amusement, the masked man pulled the string.

Minutes later, all three creatures had disappeared into the night, into the surreal suburban landscape of Melbourne.

The tram rattled on, this time quicker, as it neared a junction.

Pressing a button, the tram’s yellow text flashed red momentarily, triggering a switch in the rail.

Diverging off its normal course, the tram made its way through a darkened alleyway, where it was immediately swallowed up by a shed that opened its door when the tram came close.

Red light flooded the interior of the shed, and the tram driver stepped out from his cabin, to stare at his prize.

Like the other creatures, the tram driver had a disfigurement that needed blood to prolong his life.

The nurse needed blood to stand properly without slumping over. The clone needed blood to continue to use his legs. The masked man needed blood to cure his skin.

But the tram driver needed blood to keep his eyes.

They were incredibly bloodless. So much so, that they were nearly rendering him blind. He drove the tram almost by feel, recognising every bump, every jostle on the road.

The tram driver walked through the tram, blind and his teeth bared.

Jordan was now barely alive. But he was conscious enough to know that it was over. His boss had sent him on this tram ride to hell, to get rid of him, for being an innocent bystander.

All because one night, he forgot his keys and had to tram back to get them.

That one night, was when his boss was having his secretary from behind and they were caught mid-peak when Jordan walked in.

As the tram driver bit into his neck and began to draw the last of his blood out, Jordan didn’t even have the energy to scream, all he could do was despair silently, as he knew no one would miss him.

In a strange way, he felt a sense of relief that his lonely existence was over.

The tram driver could see again. His eyes pulsed furiously, as blood rushed around his pupils and his eyesight was restored to a familiar red tinge.

Grabbing the bloodless corpse, the tram driver opened the door to the iconic public transport vehicle and began to start up the incinerator.

The ashes would be spread in his garden later, and when the opportunity was right, the boss would be charged a significant fee for their services.

The vampiric tram driver got back into the seat of his tram, licking his lips, and wondering when the next victim would come aboard. Flicking the tram line text from red to yellow, the tram driver settled back into his role, sated and happy he could see properly again.

Within minutes of the schedule, the tram was clattering along the streets of Melbourne, none of her citizens the wiser about the dark exchange that had happened on their network.

Author’s Note:

While this didn’t quite turn out as well as I wanted, I always liked the idea of a terrifying public transport option, where things go wrong very quickly and you’re trapped aboard, but none of the outside world notices.

I was actually semi-inspired for the ending by my recent blood donation and thought I would incorporate it in.

See you at the next one!

~ Damocles.

The B30 Challenge and how it’s morphed into a daily fight against age.

I still owe a lot to Rocky.

November 17, 2019.

It seemed so long ago, that I stared at myself in the mirror and decided that I had to go public with my weight loss.

It was the only way, that I could be held “accountable.” After all, if you don’t do anything, after publicly declaring a goal, you look like a fucking twat.

What I didn’t expect though, approximately 10kgs lighter (73kgs), was how my body was going to crave exercise like a drug.

Or how my mental state is now constantly analysing the needs of my body and doing its best to self-diagnose what is healthy, what is strong and more importantly, what is weak.

The B30 Challenge, isn’t just something that I aspire to any more. It’s a lifestyle choice now. I watch what I eat (mostly), try to consume more water, and exercise a lot more regularly than I used to.

Tennis is still my number one way to stay fit, followed closely by running.

The gym membership is still isn’t an option for me. I just can’t quite convince myself to be a part of that culture, I love being outdoors too much and finding motivation on my own.

It doesn’t cost anything to get out there and run. The only thing stopping you, is your morale when you see clouds, the night sky, or feel the drops of rain or hot sweat running down your cheek.

I will also say, it pleasingly tans my body in doing so and I feel like it’s more of a struggle to fight the elements, thus adding to the intensity of the workout.

Staying in shape, has made me spend a radical amount on gym equipment. From a 5.11 Tactec plate carrier with 5 kgs weights, to a whole host of tennis equipment, the amount of gym clothes and socks I’ve spent at Under Armour is extensive and is meant to cover me in all situations.

It doesn’t matter if it rains or if I am feeling a bit wrecked from work. I got to get some form of exercise in for the day.

What has shocked me though, is how quickly it is to lose momentum, focus and discipline if you take a week off.

It is so difficult to get back into your routine once you taste the easy life again.

That is the worst part of it all for me. Getting back into the rhythm, after a week of luxurious eating and not really doing all that much exercise.

It made me realise that, with every year you get older, you need to exercise more, you need to discipline yourself harder and be more surgical about how you approach everything.

I’m currently 28 years old, only 2 years away from my target age of 30, and the goal of being in the best shape of my life.

I have to take everything more seriously now. I need to watch what I eat, really cull down the sweets and just portion everything better.

I also need to get a lot stronger. It has always irked me knowing that, even though I’m a fast runner, if I was to jump somewhere and hang onto a ledge, my upper body strength is lacking the strength to hold my body weight.

What gets me though, is the fact that exercise, never really gets easier.

I know I can run longer and faster than I’ve ever done in the past, but the first kilometre is still a kick in the ass, a humbling moment that I need to work on my pace, my speed and my breathing.

It’s shocking, knowing that despite being fitter than you were last week, it still hurts the same.

That is the demoralising and humbling aspect of exercise that we all hate. It’s what makes me want to take a break, rest my feet for a day or indulge in some sweets.

But I can’t.

Not at my stage in life. Not at the level of the challenge.

Exercising and dieting is as much a mental game, as it is physical. I have to stay vigilant against my more baser instinct to give in. For some, it’s really easy to ignore distractions and temptations.

I wish I had such strength of character.

I don’t always follow through. But I am always willing to take the first drastic step.

It’s why I need to maintain my 3 lap daily minimum. 6 kilometres, 45 burpees, 15 solid attempts at a pull-up, 75 sit ups and 30 diagonal pull ups in total, split over 3 reps.

I can’t really afford to take days off any more.

I’m not the spring chicken I used to be.

Age hits us all differently. For a guy who has always considered himself to be older than his age and is more about the net benefits of being older than younger, the idea that I need to do daily maintenance, hasn’t really changed my attitude about ageing.

If anything, it has reminded me that, this is the nature of life. The more you age, the more disciplined you should be and you can more efficiently map out your days. You should be living life smarter, planning ahead instead of panicking and procrastinating in your younger years.

It’s why I suppose I’m thankful that I took a hard look at myself and decided that I needed to change my lifestyle.

It’s about looking good in the future as well as the present. Working on yourself never really ends … it just becomes more about maintaining healthy habits and mindset.

Lately, I’ve noticed how careful I am to avoid the pitfalls of others. I’ve become more and more aware of not repeating the same mistakes that others make and desperately trying to remember the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way.

From ego-checking, scrutinising myself mid-conversation and working on my vocabulary and body language, I’m always searching for the best ways to express myself and how I come off to different people.

A stranger may find me funny, whilst another might think I’m loud and annoying. I’m more alert to what mood is being expressed on my face and I try to train myself to instantly switch expression, in order to hide away how I might be feeling and unpack them later, when its appropriate.

If it sounds disingenuous, it definitely is, but I think a big part of being an adult, is being professional in all aspects of your life.

Learning to take your ego out of the equation, identify situations for what they really are, not how they make you feel and putting aside anxiety and personal quibbles to solve a problem, is a crucial part of being an functioning human being.

Of course, to push your feelings down and ignore them is highly inadvisable, and you wouldn’t be reading this blog if I did that often.

It’s sort of why this whole journal exist. I’ve seen the benefits of being open with yourself and know how compelling a read it can be, if the writer is actually decent at being a wordsmith. My two inspiration for this whole thing, was Anne Frank and Fang from the Maximum Ride series. I loved reading their personal and private thoughts and thought I could harness a similar voyeur thrill here.

The B30 Challenge was my first real attempt at opening up to all my friends and strangers who read this blog. I found myself feeling accountable to some invisible force, that told me that I had to commit to what I set out to do.

This “mythical” pressure was exactly what I needed. I didn’t really need any encouragement or positive affirmation, I just need someone or something to make me get out there and train.

The Challenge also really boosted my confidence and my social awareness. I became more conscious about this concept I call “relationship maintenance” and how as an adult it became harder to work on, because it wasn’t something you’ve ever had to really do before (I’ll dive into this deeper in a future blog post).

I work on my friends now. I’m the one reaching out to plan things, to make sure I don’t take them for granted.

I want to be more successful in everything I do, from shooting, racing, tennis and work.

There’s not a weekend now, where I’m not actively trying to work on some event.

Haircuts are now more regular, as is my fashion updates.

Hell, I even got a skincare routine going.

The Challenge has now become a complete lifestyle change

I’m grateful for it.

I suppose the goal moving forward now, is to always look like I’m in my 30s.

Easier said than done.

But if life was easy, why bother living?

After all, you’re never too old to die young.

~ Damocles.

The Factory (Urbex)

The Factory. Photo courtesy of Alb.

Like most anal retentive operators, I have a strict routine when it comes to my Urbex gear.

I am typically overdressed for the occasion.

5.11 Tactical pants, Under Armour Combat Boots, Arcteryx grey henley, a wolf grey Pentagon Artaxes jacket, my trusted Arcteyrx beanie, and a oni themed neck gaiter.

Slung across my back is a black 5.11 sling bag, that I can throw over my shoulder and in front of me, for quick access to the contents within. On my hands, are the first ever pair of tactical gloves I’ve ever bought, Oakley Factory Pilot Gloves, now fingerless after I’ve cut off the tips, due to holes at the end of the fingers from overuse.

I have a Garmin instinct on my wrist, a paracord bracelet on my right, a Pelican 7600 torch on my hip, and about 4 knives scattered around on my person. One in my wolf grey jacket, another in my thigh pocket, a Leatherman Skeletool nestled in my thigh rig and the last one in my bag, a heavy duty Leatherman MUTT.

I take squatters seriously. It’s why I got so much defensive gear on me. You never know what will happen in this abandoned places, in the dark and silence of empty halls. In the case I lose all my knives, my gloves will allow me to deliver harder punches than anyone can dish out on me and my torch will blind anyone who looks at it.

It also helps me focus a bit better, silencing the internal anxiety and filtering through the rapid heartbeats, the nervous sweats and the heavy breathing.

That’s the security blanket that being armed gives you.

Tonight, knowing that I was heading to a more dangerous part of Melbourne, I wasn’t taking any chances. Sure, I had 4 of my friends with me, but this whole thing about exploring abandoned places was my idea, and I felt a sense of responsibility to all of them.

I was going to get my lads home safe.

The final part of my routine is load up my music. Just before my oni mask slips over my face, I have music going.

It’s always the same, the melodies that has become associated with 21st Century warfare … the strings and drums of the Middle East. I always invariably play my favourite military soundtracks. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) by Sarah Schachner, SEAL TEAM by W.G. Snuffy Walden & A. Patrick Rose, or Medal of Honor by Ramin Djawadi.

In all of them, the distinctive Middle East twang to all the scores are what gets me hyped, alert and watchful. It is like entering a trance, where I can hear, see and move better than I’ve ever had. My footsteps are silent, my eyes are constantly scanning, my ears, somehow, punch their way through the music and pick up ambient sounds better.

The score is like a pre-battle drug, a stimulant that will let me react faster to any danger.

I wanted to give you this context, because it’s important to me. The high I get, riding off the euphoria of warfighting music and gear, in dangerous places, shows you how addicted I am to this sensation. Time itself, bends somewhat when I’m riding this feeling.

Time truly is the epitome of the maxim: slow is smooth, smooth is fast when I’m intoxicated with this primeval instinct.

In a lot of ways, urbex has become an outlet for me, to explore how I would behave under danger. It’s not really about taking in the vibe or the aesthetic of abandoned places, it’s become an indulgence in how I break the law and what I can get away with.

So much of the thrill, comes from staying low, hidden in the shadows or tall grass, to avoid detection. The best aspect of it, is the stealth. We’re not there to mark territory, graffiti blank walls, destroy property or perform stupid rituals. We’re just there to observe, explore and get in and out without being caught.

Some would call it juvenile. Something schoolboys would do when they’re bored. I can’t deny that it’s true. But I’ve always had that mischievous puerile spirit in me. It’s something I’ve done since high school and I’m not going to let that character die anytime soon.

Besides, hide and seek is always more fun when the stakes are higher … like jail-time or a massive fine.

And the gamble was especially big this time.

The Bowling Alley

No lanes. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

This location was risky.

A police station was a mere 5 minute walk away. A train station with PSOs (Protective Service Officers) was literally a stone throw away. A major intersection ran along the site. Active sites (places that are still in use) literally surrounded the joint. CCTV covered a lot of the entryways and there was a constant flow of traffic that drove past.

Just getting in, was going to be tricky. There were 5 of us, in various equipment, with my clothes being the most conspicuous of the lot, but it was a price I was willing to pay to blend in with the interior of the building itself.

We ended up timing our entry, when the traffic was empty, through a hole in the fence, and making our way directly into the entrance which was invitingly dark. Oddly, off to the side of the egress point, was a ruined white couch, completely graffiti-ed over.

The bowling alley was big, deceptively large for something its size. But then, when there are no dividers in a huge rectangular space, it’s going to look spacious.

Our entryway was the front door, was on the bottom left corner, next to wrecked toilets, in which there was a grotesque discovery of live larvae and bugs in a toilet bowel, that was as dark and scum-lined as an oil barrel.

In that corner, I found myself staring at a cracked mirror, that was largely whole, but had a spider web of cracks all over it. It was strange, staring at my own reflection, the red light from my torch shining over my head, an image I’ve seen a dozen times in horror films, but was now living a scene out in reality.

I was transfixed for a full minute, wondering if something was going to appear in the mirror behind me, thinking about how fractured I looked and the surreal nature of living out a cinematic scene. It was only when my friend took a photo of me, I snapped out of my strange trance.

Damocles (me). Image courtesy of Alb

Outside, the toilet, the entire central section was completely torn up, so that you could walk where the alleys would have been. Wooden Beams lined the floor, showcasing what the lanes would have looked like if it was still in operation. It was surprisingly clutter free, with only a few beer bottles, and bits of rubbish here and there.

This could not be said for the area adjacent to the entrance. There were numerous holes in the roof, where air-con ducts could be seen, and their padding lined the floor, creating an odd sensation of stepping on carpet. Rubbish was everywhere, following all the way to the bottom right of the building.

The reception desk was tiny, in the far bottom right corner. You could see where they would have served the customers, and the desk itself was largely intact. The rooms behind them, were also surprisingly clean, with shelves that would have stored shoes and a tiny admin desk.

Graffiti was everywhere though, with an amusing pentagram on the floor and various other tags.

But the pièce de résistance, was the iconic Mr Burns, leering over the now infamous quote from the Simpsons.

The Squad. Photo courtesy of Alb.

There was something unsettling about reading the line, and a part of me wondered if this was always at the bowling alley or something done post-closure.

We found that image at the top left of the building, in the area where only bowling alley employees are allowed, the area beyond the lanes. It was boring back there, with storage shelves for the balls, knocked over and several empty trashed rooms that I couldn’t work out their purpose.

For all its intriguing graffiti though, the bowling alley was largely what I expected to be. A great big empty space, with only trace elements of what was. No bowling balls, no functioning electronic dispensers, no shoes, no TVs or anything of value. It had been stripped a long time ago and was now awaiting destruction.

Getting out was just a matter of timing. The building was so dark and sealed off, that we could shine as much light in there as we wanted. So for us, avoiding the police was a void issue. We merely jumped through the fence when no cars were coming by and then walked away to our next spot.

The Abandoned Factory.

The Factory Conveyor Belt. Photo courtesy of Alb.

The abandoned factory is arguably the best find I’ve come across. The location was not just a factory, but also several large brick sheds and compounds. What it’s original purpose is for, I’m not sure, but the entire thing has been built to last.

It’s also next to a giant sports reserve, a freight train line and there was light spilling everywhere from the main highway higher up, the sports centre and the occasional car that would drive past.

Tricky.

So we did what any criminal element would, when they want to get into a place. We stayed in the shadows, found a tree line to merge our silhouettes and climbed through a hole in the fence, to sneak around the back.

The ground was surprisingly mushy with mud and there was a lot of tall grass, which spiked my fears about snakes. I found myself judging my footsteps more carefully, all too conscious that my boots were sinking in mud and grass sometimes more than I wanted them to.

The giant brick warehouse was first. Mostly, because it was closer and less exposed than the factory and I wanted to get the boring one out of the way first.

At first, it didn’t seem likely that there were any entry points. Everything was actually well defended against intruders like myself. Windows had bars going across them, doors had been bricked up and the only large double cargo doors had been padlocked shut.

But, like most of these places,the generosity of those who had come before, showed us a way in. A ledge with a gaping window beckoned invitingly. So we pulled ourselves in and stepped into … what I suspected it was … a fookin big empty warehouse with slopes for a roof and rubbish everywhere.

I wasn’t taking any chances though, because the one thing I hate about any of these places, was the idea that I only had one exit strategy.

So my first step, is to always scope out another exit.

Which ended up taking nearly 15-20 minutes, because the warehouse was so vast and I was walking extremely slowly and carefully, without any lights, my right hand gripping a CRKT M-16 tanto knife, whilst my left was ready with the torch to blind anyone.

It was eerie to be walking in such a big place, with the occasional howl of the wind for company. But I was glad that the moon was bright enough to see my way without risking unnecessary light pollution.

Throughout the entire length of the warehouse, I saw glimpses of graffiti, rubbish and could only hear the occasional crunch of footsteps on glass or plastic, behind me as my friends made their way around the place.

With relief, my friend actually found another exit, this one even easier to get in and out from and from there I could relax a bit, and really take in the atmosphere, which was very similar to so many other places I had been to before.

The ghostly desolation that only places that have been abandoned and neglected for a long time can conjure.

The only truly noteworthy element of the place, was a strange ladder that didn’t lead anywhere atop, and a huge hole in the ground that showed the belly of the warehouse, in which, all of us displayed nervousness in checking out.

That, and what looked like the lower jaw of what is hopefully a fake human skeleton.

Hopping out, we were now buzzing with anticipation for the actual factory.

The only issue was that the only entrance was right in front of the road and quite well lit.

Timing it, we all rushed in and were stunned by the sheer metal nature of the factory.

Unlike so many of the other places we had been to, this was industrial. Sharp metal beams had cracked and were jagged pieces of rust that you could walk into. An old generator lay, rusted and disused in the corner. Wherever we shone the light, there was a slight hint of orange-brown, rust having taken over the entire area.

It was also surprisingly small for an entry way, with concrete above our head and in this basement, we found a fascinating image of another urbex explorer before us.

R.I.P Asha Dirge. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

Then we ventured upwards.

The true scope of the factory was now laid bare for all of us to see.

It was surprisingly tall and empty. Massive blocks of metal were congregated in the centre, and there was just the huge hole in the wall at the back, that we saw from behind.

Walking around, on these rusty old staircases, I found myself testing the strength of each step, uncertain if the whole goddamn staircase would just collapse beneath me.

It was fascinating … walking on these gangways and staircases where men had formerly worked, and I thought about the view they had, when the place was more pristine.

Everything was narrow and tight, with metal beams only inches away from your head at all times and the strange sensation of looking downwards, seeing nothing beneath your feet, knowing that thin metal mesh is all that kept you from falling 5 metres down onto the concrete floor.

It was the big staircase in the corner though that beckoned dangerously.

Industrial Urban Decay. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

One of my friends had already gone up, the first flight of stairs and the view of the highway and surroundings was quite stunning at night. But the highest flight of stairs was far too tempting.

I said in passing …

We didn’t come this far, to come this fucking far.

So we climbed.

The staircase creaked several times.

My heart-rate was pounding furiously with each step.

My eyes kept widening, as they beheld just how high I was off the ground.

My feet tested each step with caution.

Every single step, was oddly too narrow, too close together and was equally as thin as the last.

My hands gripped the railing intensely.

As I got further and further up, I could hear my primate brain screaming louder and louder.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how each it would be to trip on these steps, to tumble down and in all likelihood break my goddamn neck.

Still, I had the presence of mind to tell the other boys to not climb after us. They were to wait below, until we had finished scoping out the top, before heading up themselves.

I didn’t want any more weight on the staircase. The damn thing creaking with two people on it was already bad enough.

Like I said …. my first priority on any of these urbex shenanigans is to get my lads home safe.

It’s why I always take point. If something bad happens to me, they won’t have to go through it.

Thankfully, nothing happened. The view was incredible and there was the old generator that would have powered the conveyor belt. Running alongside it, was the skinniest gangway I had ever seen, stretching over the top of everything.

I took 4 steps and immediately regretted looking down.

I saw nothing but darkness and an empty void.

Committing the view to memory, I slowly walked back down and allowed the other guys to climb up.

After dealing with such heights, I had to take a breather, so I stripped my jacket, beanie and bag off and just sat in the hole, my legs dangling over, enjoying the night air after such a sweat drenched climb.

How the hell does Batman or Spider-Man do it? I thought randomly, whilst sitting there.

Heights … another thing I can conquer, but haven’t quite conquered.

Getting out was an non-issue, timing our exit between traffic and then merging back into the darkness of the night.

The Temptation. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

Urbex really allows me to experience something that I’ve always felt a strong affinity for in general: criminality.

The line between criminality and the military has always been something that isn’t explored very often, but inserting into a hostile country, ducking patrol vehicles and observing locations and egress points have the same objectives as my trespassing into abandoned property and avoiding cameras.

It’s why I’m always geared up to such a high degree. I want to trust my kit, know that all the equipment I’ve bought and collected over the years work.

Because, deep down, there is always that fear in me, that the whole world could go to shit and I want to trust my kit.

What better place and time to test it, than in places that resemble an apocalypse?

Urbex gives me that addicting thrill of seeing things that not many other people in my life get to see.

I know it’s breaking the rules, I know that I’m trespassing, I know I shouldn’t be armed with knives but I’m only there to observe and soak in the atmosphere.

It is so rare to find quiet, desolate places in a city like Melbourne and this really lets me see the darker, edgier version of a town I love and adore.

The whole experience isn’t just about testing your bravery, your senses and your reaction to the unknown, it’s about touching a darker side of yourself.

It’s about conquering the anxiety of reaching out into the dark and walking towards it, embracing it, instead of fearing it.

To explore dark, abandoned places, is to shine a light within yourself, about your fears and primal horrors.

That and it’s fucking cool that my torch looks like a flare in these wrecked buildings.

If only I lived in Europe or Japan, where there are more of these places are available to explore.

~ Damocles.

Red light helps maintain night vision. Having a Pelican 7600 with a diffuser is the vibe. Photo Courtesy of Alb. Flickr

The Surreal Nature of Weddings

I doubt it comes as a surprise to anyone that my views on marriage are … ever so slightly against the grain.

Especially when it comes to weddings.

They are such elaborate undertakings aren’t they?

From the dress, to the upholstery, the entire process is painstakingly detailed oriented.

As an aspiring event planner, weddings are the one event that I avoid. It’s too time-consuming, too minute and depends so much on the client. A relaxed bride is just as annoying as a stressed groom. Both have their follies that I cannot be bothered with.

Let’s not forget, the entire concept of “buck/hen” nights, which in itself are contradictions because …. you weren’t single for a long time anyway, hence you’re getting married? So why celebrate some supposed night pretending you are “single”?

Very confusing.

But I want to touch on an experience, that not many people consider when it comes to weddings.

What is it like to attend a wedding, as an event-goer?

A humble guest, who RSVP’ed, slapped on some formal wear and have no active role to play in the proceedings.

What is it like for them?

If you had asked me as a child, when my father was a more prominent figure in our community, and thus was invited left, right and centre for weddings, I would succinctly answer:

Boring.

So what is it like as an adult?

Boring.

Perhaps one of the most selfish milestones ever designed, I’ve always found weddings to be incredibly over-rated as an event. They are so solely focused on the couple, that I find it difficult to enjoy them.

After all, you just sit in your chair for hours, listen to bad speeches, fake laugh at inside jokes you don’t understand, stuff your face with food, smile awkwardly for the photographer, then drink cheap beer casually before heading to the dance floor, where you’ll regret it instantly when you hear the bad karaoke and at that moment you’ll choose to drive home.

Going to a club, would be a better use of time. At least the strangers there are more scantily-clad, the drinks are more potent and there’s probably better music.

In my short lifetime, I know that I’ve attended at least 20 weddings. Only 3 of them, I knew the bride and groom and even then, I wasn’t particularly interested.

Out of the 20 I’ve attended, the only one that stuck out to me, was during my VCE years, where I actually studied for a test, right in front of the bridal table. The whole night was a blur, but I remember she was moderately attractive enough, that I kept wondering why she was looking at me.

Until it hit me, all my giant textbooks were on the table and it wasn’t hard to see some dumb, young man flipping through pages and taking notes, when everyone else was staring at the Best Man making a speech.

Some vibe huh?

So whilst I sat there, eating my meal, toasting this, cheering that and clapping politely at the dancing, I would run through a hundred weird thoughts about this whole occasion.

Allow me to list some of them here:

  • I wonder how he proposed to her?
  • Man, they really cheaped out on this catering.
  • What the hell am I doing here?
  • Why is the bridesmaid so angry?
  • Is it her ugly purple dress?
  • That looks bloody uncomfortable. Yep. She’s adjusting it a lot.
  • They’re gonna have sex tonight …. aren’t they.
  • I wonder how many kids they want?
  • Another fucking toast to their marriage
  • The Dad is talking in Vietnamese … great. Where’s my translator?
  • Oh, the other Dad is yapping in Chinese. Great. Where’s my translator?
  • These two families look like they hate each other
  • The jug of Coke is empty. Great. I can only drink stale Sprite now.
  • When is this going to be over?
  • Fuck. I knew I should have bought my Alex Rider book.
  • No, that’s too short. I should have bought Shogun. That James Clavell book is probably the only one that will last the length of this wedding
  • When are they going to dance? I want to get out and breathe some fresh air.
  • It’s so stuffy in here.
  • They’re gonna have sex tonight … man, that’s so weird.
  • Another speech? Really?
  • Why are all the groom boys so rowdy and can’t shut the hell up?
  • Who are all these people on my goddamn table?
  • Who is the most attractive one here?
  • No one. No one is attractive on this damn table.
  • No … No, don’t sing boys. Oh for fuck’s sake. Please stop with the Hotel California song.
  • Why am I wearing my blazer. Why did I choose to be uncomfortable?
  • Jesus …. that lobster looks disgusting. Waiter please …. not too much ….
  • Ah crap. You just piled all that goop into my bowl.
  • Guess I’m gonna politely eat this. And by politely, do my best not to vomit.
  • They’re coming around now …. along with that infernal photographer.
  • She looks like she hates taking photos of everyone. I bet she’s gonna charge any idiot that want to commemorate this farce, 30 bucks for one lousy shot.
  • I wish I was younger, my brother and I would be at the carpark, playing handball right now.
  • Look at them, I don’t want to imagine them naked. But they’re having sex tonight. I just know it.
  • Why didn’t I bring a damn book!?!?
  • How long has it been? Fuck! Only 1 hour?!?!
  • Why don’t I have my own car yet? I could sneak out that fire escape and drive home right now.
  • Do they REALLY have to play music this loud?
  • I swear that the in-law Dad’s fifth beer.
  • Yep. He’s drunk.
  • I’m here, for the next 2 hours. God help me.
  • I really do not want to eat any more lobster.
  • I can’t believe I’m wasting 3 hours of my life, surrounded by strangers, watching two families get drunker by the minute, imagining two random people having sex and feeling queasy about their honeymoon.
  • Where is he even going to take her?
  • Ah fuck. That double entendre.
  • I wonder how long they’ll last?
  • The bride looks so aloof. I suppose I would be too if I was married to that guy.
  • No offence husband, but your weight isn’t great.
  • Finally they’re dancing … I can make my escape now.
  • Nope. No one else is getting up to dance. Shit.
  • How many courses left on this menu? Too goddamn many, that’s what.
  • This reception is really in the arse-end of nowhere. The drive home is going to be annoying.
  • Out of all the bridesmaids, who is the least uncomfortable at the moment?
  • The answer is none. They’re all fidgeting with their dresses.
  • I still cannot believe these two are going to have sex tonight.

That is the surreal nature of weddings summed up in my mind.

The couple in question, have gathered approximately 100-200 people to let them know that they’re likely to have sex that night, in hopes of producing a baby.

I’m joking of course, but you can’t deny it’s not a key part of the proceedings.

Of course, it’s not just that, that makes attending weddings surreal.

Another strange factor is acknowledging just how many people know the bride/groom. Even if I had a personal friendship with the bride, let’s say, it is strange to be surrounded by their many circle of friends, strangers whom I’ve only briefly interacted with at birthdays or seen in passing.

But now I’m forced to sit next to these guests and make idle small talk for the next three hours.

Hi, I’m Damocles. So how do you know ______?

Another strange element, is seeing the emotional range that everyone must go through, with speeches, toasts and various congratulatory compliments.

It all seems remarkably manufactured and oddly private, something that us guests should not be privy to. A speech by a taciturn father is often more powerful in an intimate setting than a room full of 200 randoms. The toasting is often better when you are just with your bridesmaids at a bar, instead of a reception hall.

In addition, the poor couple have to greet and meet every single person they’ve invited. Surely, you can only hear so many “congratulations!” before it becomes stale by the 49th person who’ve said it.

But, in all honesty, the most surreal part of a wedding, is how incredibly strange it is for me, as an highly observant individual, seeing all types of people exhibit all sorts of strange behaviour at a wedding and me sitting there, bored out of my mind.

The problem is inherent within the wedding planning. There’s nothing for me to do, except wait in line, until the bride and groom come around and engage me briefly for 2 minutes, before moving around the table.

It’s the lack of agency that frustrates me. I don’t like letting someone else control my time. If I despise a revolving door for wasting 3-4 seconds of my life, imagine then how I feel, being unstimulated for 3 hours, in clothes I’d rather not wear, and surrounded by people I’d rather not talk to.

It’s incredible that no one has really considered this, when planning a wedding. What the hell are the guests going to do for the whole narcissistic ordeal?

Here are some fun ideas, that should be incorporated into all wedding plans from now on, purely for the guests’ sake.

  • Wedding themed icebreakers (are you with the bride or the groom?)
  • Easter Egg Hunt (hide clues, and lead the way to some type of treasure.)
  • Board Games (what better way to unite a table of strangers than fun board games?)
  • Dart Board (for anyone who is bored)
  • Drinking Game Station (university throwback and a much better way than drinking cheap beer on its own)
  • Bride/Groom Trivia (the more embarrassing the better)
  • Proper Photo Booths (with enough appropriate masks, eyewear, hats to match the formal wear)
  • Shooting Range (Nerf or otherwise)
  • A Wheel. Complete with dares, trivia, and other questions
  • Toast Bingo (for all the incredible cliches that are going to be heard)
  • Hot Ones interview with the Bride and Groom. (Loser who can’t answer the questions cannot have any milk/water)

After all, if you are going to attend an event, for goodness’ sake, it better be a good one.

If you’re going to invite 100+ people to an event, please give them something to do other than sit at a table with strangers and eat your food.

Otherwise the whole thing is just some surrealist, narcissistic nightmare that honestly, shouldn’t have to be that way.

It’ll also help people forget that the bride and groom are going to do the nasty that very night too.

Weddings are an event. Let’s make them a proper one, instead of some party.

~ Damocles.

Age and Politics.

I suppose it’s inevitable for a guy obsessed with the military, I’ll end up in the political science realm.

Geopolitics is an inherently interesting subject. After all, it is the dissection and discussion of how countries operate and interact with each other.

We all know about some of the most famous failures in geopolitics such as World War 1 and World War 2 and the most intriguing and large scale instance of “what if” in the Cold War.

As a direct result of the Cold War, like so many others, I think that is probably the most influential war in shaping how countries view each other and is probably the reason why political science exists as a subject today.

I’m not a political science major by any means (my main subjects in university was journalism and a bizarre choice in marine biology) but I have noticed that with age, I’ve become more invested in geopolitics and the study of how countries wage war or peace with each other.

I mentioned how I thought that an interest in the military propelled me to this newfound interest, but in all honesty, it is probably a multitude of reasons.

The military is obvious, because since 2001, I’ve made it a habit to study the Middle East region as much as possible. I know the ins and outs of that region, as much as anyone with a working internet connection can gather. In particular, the war I’ve been most fixated on is Afghanistan. I’ve researched that country to a nauseating degree.

When you’ve studied the Middle East conflict as much as I have, you soon start to form a less-than-flattering picture of American foreign policy and while you acknowledge a less “shackled” country would have made a bigger mess than the Yanks, you still wish Uncle Sam did a much better job than he did in the decade long conflict.

Did they learn nothing form the Soviets or Vietnam?

Geopolitics and the military go hand in hand. It’s the reality for any soldier. The politicians point, the soldier aims.

So the military connection is obvious. But what other reasons do I have for getting more political?

Age is one of them, as are my personal theories on relationships and my journalism course.

I’m going to take the time to delve into each of these reasons, because I want to understand why I am suddenly so invested in geopolitics and its’ science.

Like all hobbies, it started off with a slow, but burgeoning interest. My curiosity, starved of its’ journalistic outlet, still wanted to be kept up to date with the world. I’m a man who like to be kept abreast of things that happen. Whether it be a hurricane in Japan or a peace treaty formed in the African continent, I like to be aware.

I don’t really have many friends who are interested enough in these things (due to age, which I will touch on later) to discuss with, but despite my lack of ability to discuss the news, I still keep up with them.

To look at my social feed, is to be inundated with news. The only thing that breaks up the constant influx of news from multiple news sources, are my interests in cars and F1.

But everyday, I do my best to read the headlines, and be aware of certain issues, social or political.

Now, as a former journalist, I am not stupid enough to believe everything I read or digest all this horrible news without some type of introspection. After all, I’ve worked and studied in the business.

I am fully aware that modern news companies are corrupted by their business models and that a lot of it nowadays is sensationalised and contain some inherent form of bias.

But I should keep up with the news. It is important to me to do so, because in looking at the issue itself, not the author, I can then spark my curiosity to search for other sources and opinions on the issue.

It is just good, common and logical practice that you always search up other sources on the issue, before coming to your own conclusion. The news may be full of crappy opinions and hyperbole, but the issue itself will always be important.

Which links me back to geopolitics. My favourite section of the newspaper has always been the World columns. I love reading about what is happening outside of Australia, because local news is inherently dull.

We have it so good here, that we can call our Prime Minister a dickhead, and not get arrested immediately. Our governments can have multiple failures in the environmental and infrastructure sector and no one really bats an eye. Australians literally have the freedom to fuck up and no one is asking them to quit or be decapitated on the spot.

Thus, I’d rather read the World columns, because other countries do not have such luxuries. Other governments can’t just shrug off huge natural disasters like we can here. This “drama” is what I believe led to the media’s insane focus on Donald Trump and his actions. The man couldn’t even walk down from his plane without intense scrutiny.

Everyday during his presidency, the Australian media outlets were laser-focused on every single minutiae of Trump’s life. America’s drama dominated so much of the news that local and other regions of the world suffered huge knowledge gaps.

To me, the most interesting parts of the Trump coverage was how he handled America’s allies and enemies. The geopolitics aspect of Trump’s presidency is fascinating. He lacked any of the nuance or subtleties of his predecessors. He insulted allies, slept with enemies and cursed America’s greatest antagonists.

What isn’t there to study during the Trump administration?

And if I am to study the effects of his presidency, it wasn’t going to be from news sources, with their surface level coverage.

I had to delve deeper into academia and lecturers whose sole purpose is to study these phenomena.

This is where my interest start to really develop.

What started as a passing interest in the world, soon became an insatiable desire to learn about certain countries as much as possible.

I have devoured hundreds of TED Talks, university lectures and Q&As. My library is now starting to expand beyond hundreds of crime thrillers to include more political science books and non-fiction.

Strange as it may seems, I’ve always loved this aspect of warfare. The geopolitics of it all. How assets, equipment and politics and

In a lot of ways, I think I would be both an ideal and highly troublesome soldier. To follow orders blindly, isn’t something that I do very well. I always take a second to critically analyse and dissect any command that is directed at me. It’s my inner Sherlock Holmes who won’t shut up and will never take anything at face value.

So if we are going to invade a country, I got to have a strong motive to do so. I need to understand why there is conflict.

This brings me to my personal theories on relationships. I’m not a serial dater or lover. In my entire 28 years on this planet, there have only been 2 women that I’ve loved and am loving. But judged on those relationships and the many friendships I’ve made over the years and my own interaction with random people, I’ve established a lot of theories.

Key of which, is that you don’t start fights with people you know for one reason.

Yes, there are always accounts of random acts of violence but not against people you know.

And in today’s globalised world, there are no countries that you haven’t talked to at least once, no neighbour you haven’t had serious discussions with and no treaty you haven’t signed knowing you’ve made a friend and an enemy at the same time.

Ideology, Security, Technology and Resources all play a huge part in shaping how countries view each other and are defined by each other.

To say that a country invades another for “land expansion” doesn’t make sense anymore in today’s world. This isn’t 1914, when Europe carved up Africa into territories for their own personal gain. Imperialism isn’t a viable nor legitimate reason for invasion.

The Cold War proved that. Superpowers aren’t taking over countries and making them part of their homeland anymore. Borders are still respected and sovereignty acknowledgement is still a crucial part of diplomacy and alliance formation.

After all, being part of the “Soviet Bloc” didn’t mean you were now Russian. You are just an ally of Russia, just like being part of NATO doesn’t make you any more American than some Queenslander holding an M4A1 gel blaster with a Texas flag on his airsoft gear.

Political ideology and crucial resources are now the major factors behind an invasion or “incursion” into a foreign country. Anyone who thinks the Iraq War was all about “security” for the American people, must be truly naive. It wasn’t just about security concerns, real or not, it was also about obtaining and securing crucial resources and spreading American democratic ideals to a country, whether they wanted it or not.

That is what geopolitics is about. Weighing up key factors and concerns, on multiple fronts, when dealing with other countries. It is what makes it so multifaceted and fascinating. We’ve moved beyond claiming land for ourselves, just because we found it “first” like our predecessors did in the 17th century. Now, we have to consider whether it’s bloody worth the effort or not.

The world is now so much complicated, just like modern relationships. You don’t start a fight with your spouse because they happened to slurp their chicken soup too loudly.

No, the fight started because there have been months, even years of resentment building up to that moment.

You’ve always hated how they eat with their mouths open, how they ignore your feelings on the plight of your favourite football team, forgotten your anniversary two years ago or are constantly on the phone when you are together.

It is no different in the geopolitical world.

Countries have always been envious of another’s success politically, their incredible squandering of food. They are sick of their bigger, more powerful neighbour’s self-righteousness over how you police your people or their destructive celebrity influence in your country.

It’s just the stakes are so much bigger. More people are going to die from a bad foreign policy than your parental rights over your child. So there’s less slapping, arguing and punching. Just more summits, economic sanctions and hacker farms disrupting your infrastructure.

No matter the scale though, motives are always complex.

Motives have always been my favourite part of any investigation, whether it’s me being a nosy journalist or an amateur sleuth, reading a stranger. Motives are what make dramas compelling, relatable and realistic. They help showcase what is important to the person or country and reveals a lot about their character and situation.

With so much of my young adult life dominated by fictional crime and personal motivations, I think as I’ve gotten older, I find myself interested in more complex world matters and rationales.

This brings me to the true topic of what I want to discuss.

Age and politics.

It took me a pandemic to realise, but suddenly everyone around me gives a fuck about politics. It is all they talk about. Constant discussions about the local government’s heavy-handed approach to COVID, arguments over Trump’s policies, questions about Israel, damnation over Syria, praise towards Russia, insults directed Scott Morrison, fear over China … the list goes on and on.

It took me surprise because normally this discussion is seldom brought up at the dinner table or in casual conversation.

Then it struck me, as you get older, you really do become that old curmudgeon that whines and bitches about how crap the world has become, when it reality, it’s more or less the same, you’re just more aware and letting the world define you.

Age, when left unchecked without introspection, can really creep up on you and define you in ways you never wanted to.

I remember when I was young, I swore off politics. I could see the damage and effects it had on people older than me. Everyone from my father to his proteges and associates were all wrapped in the embrace of politics.

It’s hard not to be. Leaders create a circle around them, that invites politics in. Especially for an honourable man who has to listen to his advisors and friends before making any decision.

A democracy creates politics. Everyone’s voice must be heard, acknowledged and respected.

Even if they’re a fucking idiot.

I didn’t recognise it when I was young, but any leadership role I took on, I made sure it was the inverse of what I saw in my older peers.

I was your typical military dictator, through and through.

Wider context and information was withheld on a “need-to-know” basis. Orders were barked and expected to be fulfilled to a satisfactory extent. I generally disregarded a lot of other people’s opinions, unless it came to their job. There, I allowed a small discussion about the most efficient way of getting what I wanted done.

It worked. Tasks got done at a speed comparable to light, and I loved the thrill of achieving a lot, in such little time. I loved the efficiency of it all. Doling out “homework” to everyone with a due date, was brilliantly useful, and gave everyone a real sense of progress and accomplishment.

The only problem, was that the key to it all, rested on my shoulders. I took sole responsiblity for all the homework handed out and was the solution provider for many people’s problems. My style stifled initiative and problem solving.

But that is the price you pay in a dictatorship. Efficiency above freedoms. People aren’t individuals. They’re tools to be used, and discarded if they aren’t effective at the job.

What I loved though, was the lack of internal politics. Everyone knew the pecking order and their role. They didn’t need to butt in other portfolios or inject their opinions on stuff that didn’t matter to them. Being placed in a box, meant a lot of people thrived and could do their job properly.

They didn’t need to care about anything else.

So, even as a leader, I wanted to ensure that people weren’t political.

My one rule has always been extremely professional and ego free.

I don’t care what background you have, or what trauma you’ve experienced. Just do your fucking job and be respectful to everyone else around you.

I suppose this anti-political dissent approach has served me relatively well. My festival team are some of the most capable, loyal and brilliant event programmers that have risen through experience not study. My work colleagues generally appreciate that I do more work than they do, leaving them free to experience life, whilst I am confined to a paid prison.

That anti-political stance has been suffused through most of my life too. I dislike watching politician speeches. I cringe when I think about my government. All I can see are the failures, despite the inner voice telling me that the government could be a lot worse.

I just avoid political discussion and always try to maintain a centrist viewpoint. I don’t even like voting. I’ve learned a long time ago, that no matter what colour or party they call themselves, the cesspit is still the cesspit.

Shades of grey. One during election year just happens to be platinum in comparison to the charcoal of the other. Lots of empty promises and slow incremental change, for better or worse. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the government operates for the god or bad of the country, one thing is certain … the leader’s circle and the thousands of sub-circles beneath them, make the government move quite slowly.

This is disheartening to someone like me, who prefers their change to operate at FTL, instead of km/h.

The term “Glacial pace” is both amusing ironically and unironically, considering how quickly everything is melting but change is slow.

That term, can also be applied to how we grow old. It is steady but sure, accelerated only by the stresses of our time and lives, causing us to burnout quicker.

What is it about the dark depths of politics that enraptures us so? Is it because we want to wrestle power back into our hands? Or does it have something to do about much we seem to lose control of ourselves as we get older?

As you get older, you realise that it’s a lot easier to talk big than get big. Running your mouth about controversial topics and the “old times” is a whole lot easier than maintaining a healthy BMI.

How many of us recall our parents talking wistfully about the old days when they were young, fit and healthy with a big pocket full of change?

How many of us actually see anything result out of this talk? Do they start exercising more? Will they take up old hobbies?

Often it’ll just fizzle out. Too much work. You can’t teach a dog old tricks. But you can definitely suffer that dog’s constant barking about the past.

Politics, at its core, is about promoting your views and ensuring no one else pollute them.

Whether you do so with force, lies, bribery, trickery, genuine heartfelt manipulation or sheer charisma, there’s no denying that this promotion of views, revolves around your dominance of the people around you, positive or negative.

Isn’t that enticing?

As you get weaker physically, you can get stronger verbally.

You can impress your views on the younger generation, stun them with your experience, shock them with your opinions and teach them the “truth” behind certain events.

In a lot of ways, politics is impossible to avoid. You have office politics, school politics, genuine internal family politics, and geopolitics. You can be the most apolitical person in the world, but if a country invades yours, you’re involved no matter whether you like it or not.

So if it is impossible to avoid politics with age, then what can we do about it?

Well, I suppose you can get more politically involved. You can find causes that you think are important and champion them. You can argue with people and tell them they’re wrong or backwards. You can correct others on their behaviour and try to claim a moral high ground. You can discuss events overseas and get invested in a conflict.

Or perhaps you can take a more ambivalent and nihilist attitude to politics. You take everything that happens in your stride, keep your opinions to yourself, make a study of what make politics, well, politics and just shrug your shoulders whenever something terrible happens.

At the end of the day, humanity is going to keep on trucking along, making mistakes, doing terrible and wonderful things to one another and the threats that threaten everyone in the world, are the same faced in the past. Is the fiasco currently happening, any different to when another madman designed his plans to take over Europe or a certain Asian warlord took over a continent?

I don’t think either option is particularly good. I’m a firm believer in only taking on a mental and physical load that is comfortable for you. Fighting a crusade against political incorrectness or not giving a shit if another country is suffering a war are both mental exercises that will drain you more than you care to admit.

Instead, choose to maintain situational awareness. Monitor everything. Watch the world move. Be alert to flashpoints, so that you know how it got to that stage. Understanding the build-up to a political disaster is often rewards greater clarity into the actions of both parties.

More importantly, it is a lesson that can help you prevent disasters in the future and apply them into your own smaller scale politics.

Remember, in a fight, no-one is innocent. The blame can be 50-50, 30-70, 60-40 or 99-1. But there is always a tiny bit of blame on the “innocent” victim. Certain demands were not met, respect not given, behaviour not correctly read.

People don’t start fights out of the blue.

Countries, especially, don’t have one cause behind a war. There are always multifaceted reason for every action, especially by a nation.

With understanding, comes introspection. Humanity isn’t exactly original. People in the 17th century probably felt the same way as you do when they beheld a delicious meal or read the news about a crisis overseas.

There’s something reassuring about that isn’t there? That what we experience now, isn’t really any different back then.

A contemporary POTUS speech will still be compared to Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

Politicians today are still the same as they were in ancient Rome. As are dictators and regimes, from ancient Egyptian Kings, to Mongolian Warlords, French Emperors and Russian Tsars.

The world always seem to be one spark away from catastrophe.

There’s a strange comfort also, in our helplessness to do anything about it all. Ordinary people have lived, died and bleed for stranger causes and godlike leaders, but in a way that’s the reality of the situation.

So many of us don’t have the power to enact change like politicians or generals.

So our small political debates and squabbles really don’t amount to much.

All you can do is focus on yourself.

I think that’s the part that so many people miss as they get older. They lack the willpower to continue their own internal growth. So they justify it by latching onto other causes. By talking big game, instead of proving it with actions.

When you’re young, your body grows with your mental strength.

You can still do so, as your get older.

Being fit and intelligent means that everyday you have to fight against the effects of decay.

It takes discipline to watch what you eat, work-out, be up to date with the news, form cohesive thoughts and expand your learning.

In a world that is forever changing, yet simultaneously making the same mistakes of the past, that’s all you can really do.

Be disciplined. Be alert. Be better.

Age isn’t a substitute for wisdom.

~ Damocles.

Door to Rear Door (Screenplay)

48 Hour Film Project Prompts:

Genre: Comedy / Road Movie

Character: Rob or Rhonda Ward, Door to Door Salesperson

Prop: Snow Globe

Line: It could be anything.

Writing Time: 125 minutes

EXT. MELBOURNE SUBURBAN HOUSE

ROB and RHONDA WARD are walking down the footpath of a typical middle-class Melburnian home, their matching uniforms slightly wrinkled from overuse and dejected expressions on their faces.

They are not having a lot of luck in their job, and Rob, a young overjealous type, has the remnants of a snow globe in his hair. Glass, liquid and a tiny Santa figurine are smeared all over his neck and upper body.

Rhonda, the more logical and street smart of the two, only has a little bit of snow globe liquid on her shirt. She was able to dodged the incoming projectile and is currently furiously brushing bits of debris off the pamphlets they are suppose to be selling.

ROB

I can’t believe, she threw that at me.

RHONDA

You implied she was fat. You’re lucky she didn’t throw anything else at your dumb ass.

ROB

What? It could be anything! I didn’t say anything about her physical appearance! All I said was …

RHONDA

(mimicking Rob’s voice) We also have a weight loss program here at Boomco! I can sign you up if you are keen to get back into shape!

ROB

Oh right. Yeah.

RHONDA

(rolls her eyes) Dumbass. We WERE so close too! She was so keen to sign up. Fuck! Come on Rob, we were this close to getting her sign the contract. She was the perfect mark. Lonely, overweight, probably addicted to gambling and her shitty sex toys.

ROB

What?! Where are you getting these assumptions from? How do you know she has shitty sex toys?

RHONDA

Come on, genius. It’s not hard to figure out people like her. Look at this shithole we’re in. Does it look like she can afford something good?

ROB

You don’t know that! You’re making a lot of assumptions here Rhonda. She might actually only enjoy the good stuff, that’s why she doesn’t look after herself. Like she might own a hitachi or one of those sex dolls.

Rhonda stops at their car and opens the door to their company car. She looks across at Rob incredulously.

RHONDA

We just lost a chance at making 2 grand and you’re here defending her potential in owning a hitachi!?

ROB

Look, all I’m saying, is that you made some bold assumptions because you’re mad and you might be projecting a bit, that’s all.

RHONDA

Excuse me? PROJECTING?!? I own …. Wait, why am I even disclosing this sort of shit to you?! Fuck you Rob. Just get in the fucking car, I’m not having this dumb ass conversation with you, in front of one of our failed, fat fuck clients.

Rob makes for the passenger side door, but Rhonda gestures furiously at him.

RHONDA

Oh come on Rob, you’re not getting snow globe gloop and glass all over the inside of the car. Clean yourself off first man! Use the towel at the back.

Rob sighs and holds his hands in a placating manner. Grabbing the company towel at the back, he begins to wipe himself outside, as Rhonda fumes silently inside the car, exhaling and inhaling furiously.

ROB

Ah fuck! Jesus, how much glass is in my shirt! Ow! Shit! Fucking Santa!

Throwing Santa back at the house they had just left, Rob clambers back in the car furiously toweling his head in a vain attempt to get dry.

Rhonda looks across at her partner in resignation and a hint of disdain.

RHONDA

Man, we’re such a fucking mess. Let’s get out of this area and try another spot.

ROB

Nah, let me make it up to you Rhonda. I promise! Let’s just try the next street. We can get more than one client today! We can’t just give up this area. Who knows, the next fat, lonely broad might actually be keen to sign up for the fitness program.

RHONDA

Oh for fuck’s sake. Didn’t you learn anything? Don’t mention women’s weight to them man! God, why am I stuck with such a dumbass for a partner?

ROB

Aww come on Rhonda, don’t be like that. I promise, the next one is going to go smooth. You can’t do this without me, remember? I’m the charm, you’re the …

Rhonda shakes her head, eye-rolling hard at Rob’s enthusiasm and antics.

ROB

Come on, say it with me! I’m the charm, you’re the ….

RHONDA

(tiredly) muscle.

ROB

Yeah!

RHONDA

You need to work on that charm then, dumb-ass. Unless that’s how you score girls, with snow globe crap on your shoulders and an igloo earring.

ROB

What? Oh come on! You gotta tell me these things sooner Rhonda!

Rhonda laughs mockingly as Rob opens the window and toss the offending tiny house out onto the road.

ROB

Come on, let’s focus and try this street. Park here!

RHONDA

(scoffing) Oh so now you’re serious?

ROB

(pointing at himself) See this? This is my serious face. I fucked up earlier, but now I’m ready. Come on Rhonda. Let’s get it. Give me the clipboard.

Rhonda starts laughing, until she realises that he is actually serious. Cut-off mid laugh and puzzled, she climbs out of the car and follow him up the driveway of another house, that is only slightly better maintained than the previous home.

Hanging back slightly, Rhonda waits for Rob to initiate.

ROB

(knocking) Hello! Is anyone home?

A woman answers. She has the same hallmarks of the previous customer. Her eyes light up seeing Rob.

WOMAN

Just me, darling.

ROB

Hi! My name is Rob from Boomco! This is my partner Rhonda! We’ve come here today with a proposition.

WOMAN

Oh I bet you have. You’re bit early, but that’s no problem for me.

ROB

I know it’s early in the morning ma’am, but I am here to provide you a service. If you could just give me 5 minutes of your time …

WOMAN

Come in darling. I’m ready for you right now. Come in and fix my plumbing. I have to use this escort service more!

ROB

Wait … what?

The Woman grabs Rob and drags him in. Rhonda starts laughing uproariously.

Seconds later, Rob is running out, and waving his arms at Rhonda.

ROB

Go! Go! Run for the car!

Rhonda casually strolls back to the car, whilst Rob is desperately trying to do up his shirt. He stumble back into the car and looks at his partner aghast.

ROB

Fuck! She thought I was the male escort she ordered!

RHONDA

(laughing as she drives) Want to get out of this area now?

ROB

(Patting himself down in a panic)Yes! Oh God yes. She came at me with her own fucking dildo, man! I’m done. No more fat, lonely women. Fuck!

RHONDA

(smirking) So you still think my assumptions are projections?

ROB

(calming down, and pausing for a beat) I mean … a bit.

RHONDA

What the fuck? After all that … a snow globe and being attacked by a dildo and you still think I’m projecting?

ROB

Look Rhonda, I don’t think my two bad experiences get you off the hook OK? Like, I think there are still some unresolved issues here. So let’s not kid ourselves here.

RHONDA

Wow. Just fucking wow. You are so unbelievable.

ROB

I’m just saying … You should look into yourself a bit more.

RHONDA

(Shaking her head and looking out at the road) I fucking hate this job ….

ROB

Be careful Rhonda, any more anger and you’ll be one of those fat lonely women …

RHONDA

Please, just shut the fuck up. You butt-fucking moron. I wish that woman trapped you in her dungeon.

ROB

Butt-fucking? I’ve never butt-fucked anyone in my entire life.

RHONDA

Ahhhh shit. What have I done now …

ROB

Rhonda, we’ve got to talk about anal … it’s not healthy. I …

~ End

Author’s Note

This was a timed exercise to try and hone my skills in preparation for the 48 Hour Film Project (Melbourne). I still struggle to write good screenplays, log-lines and quick synopsis’, because my writing style is so inherently free-form.

I don’t see or know the plot point going forwards so I need to practice that skill, especially considering film writing is such a precise exercise in restraint.

I also struggle massively with being “funny” or “comedic” because so much of my humour is based off quick witty remarks that I create on the fly. Which means in order for me to write well, I need to create a lot more sentences or phrases that allow me to create these remarks.

So I need to practice making more boring flashpoints for my creative, sarcastic and foul-mouthed side to spark against.

Expect some more in the future!

~ Damocles