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.

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 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.

Travelling is your hobby? Shush, you’re boring.

Such a goddamn cliche.

When I meet strangers, I’m always the interviewer, never the interviewee.

I like to pile question after question.

What do you do for a living? Do you follow any sports? Have you heard about this recent international incident?

Generic questions to be sure, and I do my best to disguise them with interesting phrases, because goddamnit, I’m a writer at the end of the day and if I don’t flex my vocabulary, then why bother?

How do you find work nowadays? Are you into Formula 1? I’m a diehard tifosi. It seems like your country has been going through a lot nowadays, so is that why you came here?

I like to keep information about myself, to myself. So I do everything I can to make the other person feel like they are the most interesting person in the world.

But in reality, I’m stroking their egos to see how they answer these questions. A lot of people give stock answers. I don’t blame them. It’s hard to be interesting when you’re stuck in a 9-5, feel tired all the time and barely make enough to scrape through.

Those factors then lead into the most annoying and cliched answer I’ve ever gotten to my age old question.

What are your hobbies?

Travelling, they say with a wistful look on their face.

Every time, I struggle to contain an eye-roll.

It’s such an egotistical answer, that leads to a conversation dead-end.

I have to pretend to be interested in the places they’ve visited.

Oh wow, where have you been?

This is the logical question that these “travellers” hope for next. They will then rattle off all these countries, saying nothing of note about them and boast about how well travelled they are.

Oh I’ve been here and here. I would totally revisit this place. I really loved it here too because it’s just so interesting.

The answer is just so fucking boring.

And here are the reasons why.

Travelling on its’ own, is not some special achievement. Anyone with decent money can afford a plane ticket to some random GPS coordinate on the world.

The word, travel, is something that people do every day.

You go from home to work. Work to some fancy restaurant. Restaurant to bar. Bar to home.

Rinse and repeat.

The act itself is dull. We are always in transit in some shape or form. It doesn’t matter if you’re on foot or 20,000 feet in the sky. We are always on the move.

You cannot state that verb as your hobby.

Especially when you do nothing of interest in the country. You went there because everyone told you so. Because a billion pictures from social media influencers, movies and advertisements told you, you must experience this place.

If your boss told you to jump off a cliff, would you just do it? Just be a rational human being and push the bastard off yourself.

That is the worst part for me. People who do the same thing in Tokyo, L.A., N.Y.C., Jarkata or New Delhi. Being forced to hear the same touristy experience every time makes me long to hear something interesting. I’m not asking about the place, I’m asking why you went there.

For example, you could hear three very different experiences about New Zealand.

One tourist might say …. I went there to see Hobbit-town and visit Auckland! It was really cool. New Zealand is so beautiful and natural.

An adventurous person would say … New Zealand was awesome, because I learned how to sky-dive and bungee jump there. I also climbed a lot of mountains there. My favourite was Aoraki.

An actual person who wants to have a conversation though, would say … I went to New Zealand so that I could trace Captain Cook’s journey and visit all the Maori settlements. I also volunteered in a conservation program and stayed there for about 2 months.

Here, we have three very different answers. Number One was boring. A conversation-ender, because I can already picture the trip. I have Google for fuck’s sake. It’s not hard for me to look up the tourists traps and imagine myself there.

You did nothing special. You learnt nothing. You relaxed, spent money, ate food and slept in a foreign country. Congratulations.

You also took a million photos to prove that you were there and invariably make everyone jealous, not of your actual trip, but the fact that you could take so long off work being lazy.

See, that is the main issue. People aren’t really envious of your destination. They’ve seen it advertised a billion times over in travel agencies, airplane commercials, movies and TV series. Hell, the actors in those ads make a good substitute for them to experience the city and explore interesting parts of the tourist town without your lame photos and smiling selfies. They’re actually more jealous that you got such a long holiday in, without worrying about your finances.

You got three weeks off and had this much money to spend? You lucky sonvuabitch. I can’t afford that! I got rent to pay.

So that’s why Answer One is boring. It doesn’t offer anything about you to me. You went to a place …. and ate and slept there. How exciting. If I offered you a similar story about a 5-Star Hotel in our town, you would be equally nonplussed.

Did you really love Lord of the Rings or did you go because everyone does it? Regardless, it’s not exactly, very exciting. You went on a tour. Someone told you facts about a global franchise that had a horrible prequel trilogy. You took photos of the town, pictures that tell me the place looks much better without tourists and that it looked the best in a film.

The conversation ends before it starts and now I have to think of a completely unrelated question to ask you.

The second answer is better. It shows that the person is interesting. They went to New Zealand for a purpose. It’s cliched, but it also shows they did their research. New Zealand has the best sky-diving courses in the world. You could probably be HALO-qualified by the time you finish your 40th jump. There is also no better place to indulge in extreme sports than NZ and indulge they did. They rock-climbed, bungee jumped and I can probably ask them if they are also into parkour, or into some obscure sport like kite-surfing or doing the Iron Man competition.

The point is, Answer Two wasn’t about the destination. It was about what the destination had to offer beyond buildings, trees, and pictures. The person wasn’t going to New Zealand just for its’ tourist attraction, they were there to improve on their skills and entertain their real passion …. rock climbing or sky diving. That is a conversation I can ask about. I don’t know any rock climbers or sky divers. I would have a thousand questions to ask them, from why they don’t fear heights to what is it like to fall at terminal velocity.

The conversation isn’t just about the destination which I have seen a billion times in LOTR B-roll, but instead it’s about seeing it from a sheer rock face or 20,000 feet in the air. I can talk more about their hobby than a place I’ve never been to before.

Answer Three is the similar in vein to Answer Two. But with a key difference.

There is an anthropological element to their answer that I will always find fascinating. People who do “work-vacations” are the one who interest me the most. Because they spent a month or more over there. They got to study the people who live there, observe strange customs, pick up slang, maybe even find a local partner.

And because they know they are going to spend a month in a foreign location, they have to study it more. They become low-key experts on the destination, because they’re not there as tourists … they want to be a local. They want to go native. A person who looks up Captain Cook and want to trace the famous English explorer’s route, isn’t just some casual tourist. They’re interested in history, want to spend time retracing ancient steps, and seeing the context of such a historical voyage.

They’re also keen on Maori history, hence their willingness to help out at conservation programs and spend nearly two months there, helping maintain the beauty of Aotearoa. They want to give back, to a place they think is fascinating. I can ask them random questions about all sorts of things.

What fauna lives in this forest? What sort of people were you with in the conservation program? What colours were the police uniforms? Are the local people really as friendly as they seem? What are bushfires like? What is different about the composition of the ground? Is NZ skincare products more volcanic based? What is the minimum wage over in NZ? How do the locals really feel about Jacinda Ardern? We fetishize her over her in Australia, but no PM is ever that popular. So what do people really think about her?

They may not be able to answer everything, but they can dive deeper into my questions. They got more details stored about their trips than endless foreigners surrounding them at every tourist destination. They actually got to try and work as a local. They experienced things like a person living there.

That is interesting.

I like comparing average day to day lives and experiences between countries. You don’t get that as a tourist. Unless you’re like me, where you spent days of your holidays in Japan, looking at opera houses, observing those opera-lovers’ fashion choices, or visiting hospitals, police stations and fire brigades. I also waltzed down seedy alleyways during “busy” night hours and would literally walk in any direction, keen to get lost. I’ve wandered into grocery stores, shopping malls, arcades, peered into people’s garages, checked out schools, beaches, local roads and mountains in Gunma.

In short, I did everything I could, to create a picture of what day-to-day life in Japan would look like, feel like and what it work out to be like if I did ever want to live there.

The differences between my own country, Australia and Japan are what I talk about the most when asked about my only overseas trip. It is what conversations interesting. People like hearing about my experience getting a haircut in Japan, and the fact that I only agreed to go, because … car culture (Initial D) and Formula 1. They laugh at the stories I tell about Japan being a time capsule for the 90s or the fact that the airport looks ancient, as does a lot of the buildings in Osaka.

When you tell people about the comparison between a foreign land and the country they reside in, the conversation can just be endlessly curious. I have three weeks worth of observations, criticisms and amusing anecdotes about Japan. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better for a conversation than me going I spent three weeks in Japan and it was amazing. I visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka!

Being more anthropological about my trip helps me appreciate how good I have it at home and that I can put to rest the idea that I would want to live in Japan.

Those more “scientific” observations and conclusions by people who have lived abroad for some time are what generate real discussion and conversation. People like comparing what they know to what they don’t. It helps bring you into the conversation, instead of excluding you.

Travelling isn’t really a hobby. It’s not something that can be said to make you interesting. Travelling without purpose, without reason, without skill, is still as aimless as it is done at home. Sure, it can be meditative in a sense, to have an expensive aimless trip, but that is for you and you alone.

Because nothing create eye-rolls faster than someone who won’t shut up about their spiritual awakening they found in another country, all because they found another religion that coincides with their exact thought processes at the time.

So there it is, if you say travelling is your hobby, just know, if I ever converse with you, I’m going to be extremely bored by that conversational dead-end. Please have a purpose for your destination. Don’t go, just because you saw some attractive B-Roll footage of a shit-hole like Paris.

Find a reason to justify your trip to Paris.

You went there to shop your arse off.

(Tell me about the differences in customer service in a Parisian Gucci store to an Australian one.)

You entered France because of a rumour you heard about a certain catacomb rave.

(How does that compare to the ones here? Was the music better, the drugs? The dancing?)

You chose Paris because you wanted to see someone urinate publicly against a wall.

(Does everyone favour a certain wall? How often do they do it? When is the most popular time to pee?)

You tolerate the terrible Parisian odours, because deep down you wanted to find the inspiration for the Perfume book by Patrick Suskind.

(I love that book too, have you read anything else by him? What do you think is the smell of a virgin?)

Hell, it can be as simple as not paying any lessons and preferring to learn French on the streets or going to see Madeleine Peyroux or watch the fucking Farmer’s League.

Whatever your reason, do some research, find a purpose and make it more than just aimlessly looking at some ugly metal tower, an art museum and putting on some dumb beret with a baguette in your hand, cigarette in mouth.

If you went to a country for no real purpose, then please, for the love of God, do not mention to me that travelling is your hobby. You went on an expensive holiday.

It was one-off. A singular event.

Hobbies are meant to be done regularly for leisure or pleasure.

The only time travelling is my hobby makes sense is if you are one of those crazy mechanical appreciators, the people who are still in love with trains, planes and cars.

Then, I’ll consider it interesting in a conversation.

So, please … don’t bore me with a list of places you’ve been to. I’m not interested. I’ve seen enough photos without looking at your selfies.

Tell me the true, underlying reason why you went and please let it be a skill or a big global event.

Otherwise, why make me jealous of your big long expensive holiday for?

I’m not here to stroke your ego that much. I’m just a guy trying to be polite and pass time before I can go home. I just hope you’re interesting enough to make that time go quick.

~ Damocles.

Eating Lunch Too Early.

The same view for 7.5 hours every day.

One of the biggest motivations to write is to chase away the boredom I get when I stare out at an empty shop.

When I write something, anything, it helps remove the fatigue from my feet and clears my mind of an ennui fog that clouds everything I feel and do.

Time moves a bit quicker. Not much faster, but the minutes do tick a bit quicker. My mind is engaged again and I can feel some type of purpose grabbing the seconds my life seem to waste away.

I can be more open with my feelings and actually feel like I am doing something useful, instead of watching drips and drabs enter my tiny store, do slow laps of my store and then aimlessly amble out the door again.

In a lot of ways, being a retail worker during a pandemic is a lot like being a security guard …. you’re just wasting time, watching people, protecting inanimate objects and occasionally being called into action.

But instead of being able to patrol a wide space and get my legs moving, I’m just doing laps in a tiny 10 by 30 metre space that offers nothing I have not seen for the past year.

Staring out the shop front window, is a strange transitory experience. I see so many people walking past, with no attention paid to me and enjoying their freedom beyond my own paid borders.

I say, paid borders, because that is exactly what it is …. I am earning money to stay within the boundaries of this shop.

Nothing quite rustles and disturb my restless spirit when I am bored within the four walls of my own making.

I just want to walk out and breathe something other than stale shopping centre air.

I think one of the strangest things about shopping centres is how static everything is here.

People come and go so quickly, faces blur into each other. The air is always a comfortable temperature, as is the water and the staff. The conversations you have with customers are brief, fleeting and polite, with nothing of substance being said. I am always unerringly polite, distant and faux-friendly.

Hi, how are you?

Good. How about you?

Good. That’ll be 11.99. Do you need a bag?

Yes please.

No worries. Just tap on the screen for me, and here is a free hand sanitizer.

Thanks.

Thank you! Catch you next time.

(The same 40 seconds conversation happens over and over … and over. Every customer is the same, every interaction the )

It is the sameness that drives my bored feelings to the forefront and really takes over everything I do.

I find myself slouching. Unable to focus on anything. Yawning more frequently. My feet drag along the floor instead of stepping confidently. My coordination is yanked all over the place.

I hate it.

Which is why I need to write. I write to chase away these bad physiological reactions to a poor mental state.

Well, I suppose, it’s either writing or reading.

I really should delve more into why I’ve always said that I’m a bookworm first before anything else.

That post will come soon. Expect it to be brief and poignant because I’m not one to wax lyrical about the things I love.

But these poor reactions to boredom, I like to blame on breaking good mental techniques and habits.

I normally eat my lunch around 2pm. Not because I’m a big into intermittent fasting or whatever stupid buzz words people use to justify their dieting and low-key starvation, but simply because it’s a convenient time to eat.

I’ve always skipped breakfast. It’s too heavy a meal in the morning for me to enjoy and I prefer my primary school days of having a “recess” with a basic muesli bar to having an enormous bacon, egg, tomatoes and toast meal.

So it’s a habit I’ve grown up with since I was 12 years old.

2pm lunches are convenient because the food court normally clears out by then and I don’t have to wait in line to order a meal. It is also a wonderful mental reset because by the time I come back from my lunch break, I only got around 2 to 3 hours left on the clock before I can get the hell out of my paid prison.

That is the key to making the day bearable and perhaps a true glimpse into the nature of me, as a person.

Do the hard stuff first, whilst you got the energy, before tackling the easy tasks.

This axiom has been a defining characteristic of my life for as long as I can remember. If I need to move 100 chairs, I’ll do the one furthest away from the destination first and thus make my life easier later, when I’m tired, to move the ones at the front the least distance away.

It’s the same in retail, I want to know that the worst of the work day is behind me, that I’ve finished the delivery, the fixing up and the majority of the customers.

Lunch breaks are crucial to me, in the sense that I need to make sure that my mental state after the break is OK. I don’t want to come back to work, feeling like there is still a mountain of stuff to do.

Especially when dealing with post-lunch tiredness and laziness.

So, recently, I have noticed that I’ve been having lunch earlier and not using my break to go outside and get some sun.

It’s been affecting my mood and I’ve realised now that how important it was to me, that I get at least half hour of sun especially when I’ve been sucking 7.5 hours with stale air.

I need to feel some kind of breeze, taste some uncertainty and experience something natural.

COVID has made shopping centres an empty hollow, it’s important that I don’t end up doing the same to my spirit.

Your environment, whether you realise it or not, shapes a lot of your mood.

When you are surrounded by boredom, fatigue, and apathy, it’s hard to not succumb to those feelings.

It’s why I have to write during my work shifts. Writing is my creative outlet, the light that keeps me interesting, the spark that lets me feel dance, hear music and enjoy life.

Thank God for a stable internet connection and a PC here.

Where would I be without the written word?

Probably 90% less interesting.

Wouldn’t that be some kind of special hell, you don’t know you’re in?

Being boring is the brimstone that keeps hell hot.

~ Damocles.

Revolving Doors

Fuck this invention.

In my opinion, the things that irrationally stir you up, are just as character defining as the things that move you.

There is only one real invention on this planet, that has the ability for me to get irrationally angry about.

Revolving doors.

It is one of the most baffling inventions on the planet.

A door that sucks at being a goddamn door.

I do not understand it one bit. To creating a revolving door, you need to create an additional four doors within a circle and expend energy in creating a revolving mechanism.

They aren’t even that aesthetically pleasing. It is confusing. The function is overtaken by the form.

How many people have you seen get stuck in a revolving door? Hundreds, if not thousands in your life time.

One idiot rushes in, just a tiny bit too late and the bastard of a door needs to stop because it could have crushed that idiot against the frame of the door.

Suddenly, everyone bumps into the pane of glass in front of them and now everyone is stuck in a goddamn door.

Imagine that … being stuck in a door.

The singular purpose of a door is to allow ease of access in any direction. It is a bloody opening.

Who makes a door where you can get stuck in the frame? What is the point of that? Why? It baffles the mind. It defies logic. It confounds reason.

The only time it can be considered useful, is if you are an assassin and you jam the door shut with your target in it and get an easy kill, ala The Godfather. But other than that one niche profession, who would need such a door?

They’re genuinely huge wastes of space. They take up more space in an entrance than is strictly necessary.

A revolving door’s width is about twice as large than a normal door, because it needs to accommodate so much more for no apparent reason. A motor to move the door, 4 glass doors, a large frame.

Worse, despite its large size, it restricts traffic flow.

You have to time your entry and even then the space between the 4 panes of glass is barely enough to fit one adult with their office bag, let alone two or three people.

Which means that only one or two people can enter through a door at a time. Which is great for emergencies when the building is on fire. Suppose the power goes out when the building is on fire and suddenly, you are literally only one windowpane of glass away from escaping, but the stupid circular mechanism is too stubborn to let you free.

Imagine that for one second and curse like me at the monumental puerility behind revolving doors.

It doesn’t even factor in disabled people. How is a person on crutches or a wheelchair supposed to enter the stupid thing?

So what ends up happening, is that you need to create two more disability doors on the side of this revolving monstrosity and so you end up with three doors at an entrance where one could have done everything.

Even more silly, is that it is these disabled doors that can open indefinitely during an emergency and you need to have them, because the revolving door becomes a giant obstacle for escape, whereas these disabled access doors can just swing open forever.

What is worse, anecdotally speaking, is if I press the button for the disabled door and it swings inward generously, with barely any time wastage, those who were waiting to enter a revolving door, end up going through my door anyway!

Because a door that swings inward automatically doesn’t waste your time with stupid shenanigans. It doesn’t need you to time your entry, it can let more than 5 people in at a time, and it doesn’t need a button to restart itself or slow itself down for you.

So, I ask you, what is the point of these stupid doors?

But enough logic, why do I, Damocles, hate the revolving door?

It is because, for those who know me well, I despise time wastage.

Doors are meant to be the smallest expenditure of anyone’s time. An electronic sliding door opens automatically and allows you through without a single waste of movement.

A traditional door with a handle and hinges, requires minimum energy to push or pull open.

An open doorway is the most efficient of all, just an empty space in the wall that leads into another room. It is merely an arch and it is as boring and simple as it gets.

Ancient cultures have used this method for hundred of years … and somehow our supposedly advanced civilisation creates a contraption that is 1000x more upsetting, useless and uglier.

But most crucially, it wastes precious seconds of your time in the fucking door.

I can’t stand that. The idea that I lost 2-4 seconds in a door, because it forces you to time your entry and follow its‘ rhythm is infuriating to me.

I’m a recalcitrant bastard at the best of times, and the idea that I got to obey a door to gain entry makes me incredibly angry.

I have to follow its’ timing, I have to wait for other to enter first, because the gap between the 4 planes of glass is too tight and awkward between strangers.

God forbid if one stupid idiot pushes the door and causes the mechanism to foul up.

This results in even more time wastage, as you have to wait for the revolving mechanism to start up again or for the idiot to push their way through.

Can you believe it? A potential 2-4 seconds of time, now extended to half a minute because the door is too fast, too slow or too inefficient at its own job for humanity to pass through a building.

I simply cannot accept the idea that theoretically if I lived till 80 years of age, and I entered one stupid revolving door, from 18 years of age onwards, with say 16 out of the 62 doors fouling up due to human stupidity, then I would have lost 11 minutes of my life to a goddamn door.

ELEVEN MINUTES TO A DOOR.

And that’s me being nice, because I only went through one stupid revolving door a year.

When in reality that’s not true, I would probably be averaging at least 6 or more doors a year.

I hate revolving doors so much. So very much.

They’re ugly.

They confuse people.

They’re shit in an emergency.

They take up more resources more than necessary.

They waste your time and can steal 11 minutes or more of your time.

Revolving doors need to be destroyed and we should bring back basic Japanese curtains to cover the doorway.

Like I said at the beginning.

Fuck this invention.

~ Damocles.

Taut

The perfect finish to the week.

Stress acts as an accelerator: It will push you either forwards or backwards, but you choose which direction.

It’s difficult to really sum up the past 2 weeks I’ve had. Stress truly ruled my life from the 22nd of November till today.

As is usual, I like to perform an autopsy on a particularly difficult moment in time for me, so that I can find anything of use in the moment and apply those lessons for future stressful times.

To quickly to sum it all up, I had 3 pressing issues that were all conflicting with each other.

  1. My TAFE course in event management had 4 assignments all due on Friday the 10th of December. None of them were short, sweet nor sharp. Instead, they were all monstrously big and required huge amounts of effort. A task, I normally reserved 6 months, and had a team of 8 experienced volunteers work on, I now had to cram into 2 weeks.
  2. Formula 1. For an entire year, I’ve been gripped by the championship battle between Red Bull and Mercedes. Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton. I am an avid hater of Hamilton and his continual dominance. So to see this title fight get this close, is unsettling and anxiety-inducing.
  3. Christmas has now officially come to ruin all the lives of retail workers. I’ve been slammed at work, with unrelenting amounts of deliveries and transactions. I average more than 10,000 steps in store and often come home, unwilling to do anything but put my feet up.

The timing for the Formula 1 races interfered with my sleeping patterns, my body unable to sleep, because it needs to get up at 0430 in the morning to watch the event unfold live. Before the Saudi Arabia GP in Jeddah, I slept in 1 hour intervals, from 2300 to 0400, in what was the worst sleep I’ve ever had in my entire life. I was so inextricably tied to Formula 1, that my body could not and would not let me sleep.

This then wrecked me for the next day of work, which was a delivery day, causing me to be sluggish and play catch-up with my sleep debt for the rest of the week, thus inhibiting and limited my time to work on my assignments.

It did not help that my mind was unable to relax, my sacrifice of tennis for time, ensuring that the internal pressure mounted quicker and harder as the days passed by.

This is where though, my innate belief in seconds as valuable and useful units of time kicked in. I’ve realised a long time ago, that this mindset enables me two things: focus and relaxation. Knowing that I can type and dictate sentences in 30 seconds, is a huge boost in morale and drive. It means that the stress, and the ticking clock will never get to me.

Unlocking speed, focus and drive as a combination under stress is probably my greatest mental strength. It ensures that I always remain calm and that nothing can overwhelm me. In this case, it meant that I could work in my retail role, whilst also utilising the quieter times to work on my assignment, maximising both opportunities to fulfill 2 jobs.

This would then allow me to go home after work, grab a bite of dinner, before working on the assignment at a slower pace.

For 2 weeks, this routine would continue unabated until I took a day off on the Monday to relax with my classmates and celebrate the end of our course. I of course, had not finished my assignment and despite the due date looming on the Friday, I decided that enough was enough, I had to take my mind off things and actually let loose.

So I planned it out, I had the worst sleep of my life, to watch the race at 0430HRS in the morning, in which the adrenaline and action-packed nature forbade me from sleeping for the rest of the day.

I worked fitfully on my assignment throughout the Monday, before climbing into my car and instantly feeling the effects of poor sleep. It got so bad, that I low-key regretted going, but decided that I’d rather live than go home and be unproductive.

So I pulled over for a 15 minute power-nap which stretched into 20 mins before I kept going. As it turned out, it was a good night, with myself being the only male, and learning a lot more about my classmates had I not gone.

I left, with a place to go URBEX later, connections that I know I will use in the future and a vague sense of pride that I could still function well enough, despite my tiredness.

That feeling of tiredness, of persevering beyond my normal daily limits, was repeated again, when this week, I completed a long 8 hour shift at 2100 only to then head to the city and do casual event work, that lasted from 2300 to 0230 in the morning.

I even made the foolish decision to park my car a decent 1.5 kilometre away from the venue, simply because I wanted to walk around the city some more … and avoid the horrific traffic that normally ensues in the heart of the city.

Redefining the lines.

Nowadays, I seem fascinated with my health and how my body can keep going, despite my mind telling me otherwise. There is now a clear communicative line between my mind and body. I can tell when my feet have had enough, likewise when I know I can keep going and still get up for work the next day, feeling OK.

That feeling of tautness in the muscles and mind can be relaxed. I know that I have it in me to keep changing things up, to push when needed and how to relax properly. It doesn’t matter how busy or full my week is, I can always find time to do more.

Whether it is getting some “wine & dine” treatment with friends after a full week of work, exploring abandoned buildings or working casually on top of my full time manager role, I think I can always do more and still be healthy.

There’s a sense of weariness that I like about myself nowadays. The type of tiredness that only comes from doing everything at once and pushing the envelope on what I used to think was too much.

What I’ve also come to recognise is that I am slowly becoming more extroverted. My music taste, once brooding and moody jazz, has now been replaced by house that gets me dancing and moving faster and harder.

My innate shyness has now been replaced by a more confident quiet, a guy who isn’t afraid to smile at people, put them at ease whilst shuffling a pack of cards.

I’m less afraid of conversations with strangers, more eager to find out more about people. My signature, slight awkwardness is still there, but I can tell with every interaction, it’s getting better.

Like so many things in life, I need to continue to practice at it, working out the optimum way of balancing mystery, wit and humour with every gesture, word and expression.

All the while, maintaining something true to myself and keeping an honesty that will be valued by any stranger.

Hell, it’s even gotten to the point where sometimes during my longer shifts and near the end, where I am most tired and bored, I get strangely flirtatious with various customers. I got no idea why, but it just happens.

But, this is why I love difficult periods of time like this, because there are always something new you can discover about yourself. I never shy away from a challenge, even though in reality, 90% of this “challenge” was construed by my anxiety.

That’s why it’s fun. That’s why I embrace it. Only through adversity do we grow and I’ve noticed that since the COVID lockdowns, I’ve only been more determined to get out into the world and experience life more fully.

I won’t lie though, realising how much more extroverted I’ve become has come as a bit of a shock. Perhaps there is a strange correlation between growing up and the nature of introversion and extroversion. At some point in our lives, the extroverted ones end up becoming quieter, settling down and happy to leave a more active lifestyle behind, whilst the introvert perhaps longing for something more, ends up being more proactive in seeking different things.

I wonder how many other people have experienced something similar as they approach their 30s.

It’s not so much a mid-life crisis, as it is more of a re-evaluation of what you value and how you want to live your life moving forwards. It’s a conscious choice … a reaffirmation of the type of person you are.

These troublesome couple of weeks have solidified something in me …

That no matter how tired my mind thinks I am, my body can push on with a more deadly combination of Red Bulls, music and some guts.

If you ever want to know the secret behind my enthusiasm and drive for life … it’s always going to be those 3 elements that keep the fire in me burning bright.

~ Damocles