What If? Damocles was in a Band.

The angry music of Rise Against defined much of my adolescence years. I was first exposed to them through a fellow high schooler yelling the lyrics to Prayer of the Refugee right in my face.

I always knew that if I was to join a band, it would have to be a rock band, in particular it was going to be some edgy punk rock group.

So many of the angry voices that defined my adolescent years were dominated by these iconic early 2000s bands.

To name a few off my head: Linkin Park, Rise Against, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, Blink-182, Paramore … the list goes on and on.

And it all started when I was exposed to a whole new type of music in high school music classes.

As some of you might be aware, I was raised on a strictly classical musical diet. This meant that I was missing out on a whole host of musical types growing up and had no idea what was popular at the time.

Part of our high school musical education was performing in front of an live audience and getting together into a band.

My piano skills became hotly in demand, so I was actually recruited into two different bands.

Because of my advanced grade and experience, I actually found performing these songs extremely easy. I could play these chords in my sleep. They weren’t complicated nor particularly challenging.

But it didn’t matter to my teenage self. I was actually playing different music other than classical and I was in a band.

I had to work together with 4 different instruments and 4 different skill sets.

It was exhilarating. I loved performing with my new teams and I found a joy in live music and improvisation that I didn’t know was possible.

When we opened the wall and played in front of the school, I genuinely considered a career in music, because the adrenaline and seamless performance merged together into a beautiful symphony of energy and muscle memory.

I actually had a strange sensation of being fully engaged with the music and when I ripped my piano solo, it was a feeling unlike anything else I’ve ever felt.

It was just fucking awesome.

As for the name of the two songs that I performed live, they were:

Blink 182’s All the Small Things

Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On a Prayer

I don’t remember everything during the performance, but I do know that my fingers have never more smoothly and confidently across a keyboard than during my live performance of Livin’ On a Prayer. I was just in sync with every band member.

I could read their rhythm, feel their pulse and anticipate tricky moments.

It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and I loved every second of it.

That is the power of a band that is completely in tune with each other, and they have such synchronicity, that they will outperform anything in the world.

I was too shy to continue playing with these guys afterwards.

Back then, I didn’t know if I would fit their clique and I still somewhat regret not asking to join their band to this day. They were too tall, cool and confident.

I was none of those things.

But with the power of rock, I could tap into some of those qualities.

Playing rock music just does something primal to you. It’s difficult to describe and in a lot of ways, I’ve been chasing that base experience ever since with my growing rock collection of music, that I inevitably just head-bang to constantly.

I’ll also admit that there is a big desire to jam out with my friends every weekend, just making noise and having fun. Whether we would perform, is another question entirely, but the idea of just opening a garage and jamming out for the whole neighborhood to hate or love is such an inviting one.

I already have a keyboard at home and it is something that I should tinker with more. I should probably practice more scales and learn how to read notes again, something that I used to do with such ease, but now struggle with.

If I was in a band, would I enjoy anything more? Probably. I think meeting and jamming with new people would really expand my horizons and make me more deaf than I already am.

It would also be nice to share my music taste with similarly minded people. I don’t really discuss music enough with the people around me, because in a way, it is a very private thing to me. I fear that feeling when people I know listen to the stuff I jam out to, and don’t like it.

But with a band, I guess I don’t have to be afraid of that feeling. I can just enjoy playing my favourite songs with other people and really have a good time.

Of course, I’m glamourising the experience, because in reality, it would be 80% grinding away at the same song for ages, until we get it right. That is the frustrating and slow reality of music.

Is that 20% sensation worth it?

I get the feeling it’s only valuable and exciting when you perform in front of an live audience and can feed off that energy to reach another level of harmonization.

But hey, that’s the point of a band. You sweat, toil, grind and jam away until you get good together and then you put everything on the line with live feedback.

I’m not afraid of the crowd, never have been. I would be nervous though if I didn’t trust my band members.

That is what makes it so interesting. Alone, I can tackle anything, but in a band, I need to work as a team and learn to trust others. I’ve always struggled with that … learning to believe in others and there is nothing more important in a band than that innate belief and trust in your fellow performers.

It’s what bond complete strangers together and bring them closer.

Music is a highly fundamental part of my existence. I am constantly listening to music, whether it is at work, or at home. There is an innate need in my very soul that requires music at every opportune moment.

I always need to have some sort of soundtrack going for my life and the idea of leaving the house without headphones genuinely feels strange to me.

I just can’t function with music.

Joining a band would probably help me focus on something in a strange way. Ever since I’ve stopped playing the piano, occasionally I do get these niggling feelings of performing again.

Those phantom feelings actually bother me, because I know that I have some modicum of talent when it comes to music, and that I can tell that I am wasting that skill by not practicising it.

That’s the worst part of it all, if I am honest. Feeling like I am wasting some ability, some gift that others wished they had, but I have the luxury of letting go to waste.

Ah hell, I really do need to pick up the keyboard again and let my fingers tap away again. Maybe once I feel very confident, I might actually look for a band that need a keyboardist.

No promises though, because I’ll be honest, I’d rather be writing, shooting or racing than being stuck at home, tapping away at keys for hours on end.

But it doesn’t hurt to practice an hour a day. Consistency is key after all, and I would like to rediscover my talent to the point where I can play something fun on a keyboard if the occasion calls for it.

Just don’t expect me to rip out some classical songs.

~ Damocles.

What If? Damocles was an Astronaut.

The Space Shuttle Discovery breaking free of gravity for orbit on September 29, 1988.

It’s not an uncommon dream to wish to be an astronaut. I think every child had their imagination captivated by the idea of being launched into space.

I definitely indulged in the idea. Growing up, I had my eyes set on Neil Armstrong, whose career path I wanted to follow to the letter. From joining the Boy Scouts, to becoming a member of the Air Force, and transitioning to NASA, I convinced myself that this was the way.

This road to space, was going to be all I aspired to.

Naturally, my plan failed at the very first step, joining the Boy Scouts. I had no idea how, and I don’t think I expressed to my parents how much I wanted to follow my idol.

It didn’t help that the famous Scout organisation in America is vastly different to the one here in Australia.

But my fixation on space didn’t stop just because I couldn’t join the Boy Scouts. I actually kept researching and devouring more content, collecting magazines and buying increasingly thick books on space.

I was endlessly fascinated by the sheer scale of space, the endless possibilities that could exist out there. It was perhaps the one place, where imagination truly had no limits.

Nothing could hold you back in space.

Naturally around that time, I also discovered science-fiction in the forms of Star Trek, Star Wars, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells and countless other small works, whose authors and stories escape me.

I grew ever more entranced by the zany imagination of these universes, and I found myself longing to own a star-fighter and fly across the endless void of stars, gravity and planets.

I suppose what I am trying to get at, is that the stars very much ruled my childhood growing up. I longed to visit strange planets, converse with bizarre aliens and use futuristic weapons like phasers, lightsabers or E-Web blasters.

The amount of Star Wars Lego I bought …. was obscene.

Looking back on it now, I wasn’t really in love with the science in the sci-fi. It was just the pure fantasy of it all. I didn’t give a toss about gravitational orbit slings, the sheer amount of scientific knowledge needed to become an astronaut or the unique teflon/kevlar coating needed to make space shuttles survive atmospheric re-entry.

All I wanted to do was shoot the Emperor with lightning coming out of his hands, rescue the girl from the Morlocks, and command a ship as cool as the Normandy SR-2.

In a lot of ways, I am completely unsuited to being an astronaut. I lack a lot of scientific knowledge, struggle with authority and will probably be more likely to shoot an alien than extend a peaceful greeting in which both species will benefit from.

So it is doubtless, in humanity’s favour that I am nowhere near a giant rocket.

I’m not sure when I really fell out of love with sci-fi.

But I can definitely attribute some of the blame on my fixation on the military. Among the hundreds of lessons I’ve learnt from the military, the key one that proved most influential, is the idea of keeping my eyes and ears closer to the ground.

My imagination, over many years, soon found it more and more difficult to create, indulge and populate sci-fi universes without really struggling to borrow heavily from my sci-fi universes. It wasn’t the world, the aesthetics or even the guns that I failed to capture.

It was the sense of discovery, the unique questions that can only be asked in a sci-fi setting and the philosophical nature of science fiction that I truly failed to capture.

I’m a commercial writer at the end of the day. I don’t like putting big, hidden messages behind my stories or asking big questions to my audience. Which is why, I fundamentally suck at the genre of sci-fiction and can never achieve the heights of the stories I’ve read as a kid.

Space has always held its best appeal to me when it questions everything you hold intrinsically true. After all, in space, anything can happen. Gravity can warp the nature of an cosmic object, aliens can appear beyond our recognition and mankind could die before it ever achieves FTL travel.

I know that if I had followed my childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut, I would be nothing but a glorified satellite engineer.

I would have studied endlessly, trained endlessly and proved myself endlessly in the pursuit of space travel. I would be representing, on some strange level, the best of humanity. Astronauts aren’t just a bunch of physics nerds who lucked out into one of the most grueling training programs ever designed.

They’re the best and brightest, the bravest scientists who want to push their bodies and sacrifice safety and terra firma for the great unknown, the final frontier. They’re the ones who made a lot of modern life possible and are the elite few who can actually claim to have seen the Earth and its curvature.

They volunteer for this job, because they believe their research and discoveries will benefit mankind as a whole.

All of this and they still get onboard a rocket that has a decent chance of exploding on the launch platform before you even see the atmosphere.

The big question that an astronaut must ask, is similar to what a soldier has to ask of their family.

Am I OK with giving it all up for a greater purpose?

It’s the ultimate choice between a job and a life.

You can’t really have both. Astronauts are expected to spend months up in space, performing endless scientific experiments and maintenance jobs on the ISS. They’re further away from their family and friends than anyone else on the planet, with only the company of their fellow astronauts who, like soldiers, will probably be the closest friends they will ever have in their lives.

You can’t be a responsible parent, a loving partner or a doting friend when you become an astronaut.

You need to be consumed by the lure of space.

Much like how soldiers are addicted to the spice of combat.

Nothing will ever come close to those feelings ever again.

They say space is the final frontier.

I’m not sure I could dedicate my life to exploring that border when I’ve yet to see more than 2 countries on this planet.

Whilst I’m glad I never became an astronaut, I am always forever grateful for the work they do and hope that one day, I might actually get to see something space-borne.

I just hope it’s not some ridiculous comet or asteroid.

~ Damocles.

What If? Damocles was a Journalist.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

I actually do have formal journalistic training, having studied it in university.

The job of a journalist, despite the hyperbole and hatred surrounding the job in contemporary times, has always been to distil something vastly complex, into simpler terms.

It is not solely focused on finding out “the truth” as some crusaders might think, but instead 90% of the job is merely translating complicated issues into “layman” terms.

The truth behind something is already there. Anyone can find it by asking questions and digging in places where you shouldn’t. It is the process of “translating” that is where many people’s issues with the press lie.

Having studied history early in my life, due to an unhealthy obsession with all things Roman (re: The Sword of Damocles), what really surprised me in the process was the idea that the school of history was divided into many different interpretations ranging from the Annales school to the Marxist style of historiography.

What I had previously assumed was largely neutral, was now filled with many different coloured lens.

Of course, this shocked me. History was scientific. Dates, places and people were here and there … how can it be interpreted by so many schools?

How could events be twisted, manipulated and skewed in so many ways? You can’t argue that the Battle of Waterloo wasn’t a resounding victory for the British could you?

As it turned out, you can.

You can argue about how Napoleon was a dictator, a short, coarse Corsican who were thwarted by the heroic British.

Or inversely, you can define the first Emperor of France to be a brilliant tactician, whose men were so fiercely loyal to him, that they surrendered to him without a thought upon his return in 1815 and that his Napoleonic Code is the basis for much of Europe’s post feudal legal system.

This type of debate is incredibly common in history, with all types of figures, people and civilisations. For as many supporters of Ancient Egypt, there are an equal number of detractors. Then there are those who engage in biblical archaeology which seeks to bring a scientific and historical methodology to the stories of the bible and in that field there are billions of different thoughts.

History, as it turned out, is extremely open to how you choose to view things. With 20/20 hindsight or none, history is actually genuinely very subjective to your political and personal views.

After all, I choose to glamourise the Roman Empire … but to live in it during that time period was anything but. Does that stop me from romanticising that era of history though? Definitely not.

Thus, armed with a bitter cynicism, and a healthy amount of skepticism from my history lessons, when I entered the newsroom and learned about “left vs. right” I was hardly surprised.

After all journalists are merely contemporary historiographers. They are reporting on “history” in real time, with instantaneous bias, just as historiographers have done with past events.

This is the normal, and to think that the media in the past were any different is to dangerously assume that humanity at some point in history, wasn’t full of bullshit ideology.

Which of course, it has always been full of. That is just human nature.

The news today, is no more egregious than it was in the past when instead of discussing how crucial transgenderism is to the fabric of society, they were actively encouraging young men to sign up for the war effort against some foreign enemy, whether they be American, German, British, Iraqi, Japanese, Russian or whatever country did wrong against yours.

You, yourself, have merely grown up and recognised the fallacies of the 4th Estate and how it reports the news. Mix that in, with your own personal beliefs and political views, you will naturally fall into the left or the right category and lavish vitriol on journalists whose “news interpretations” clash with your bias.

Knowing all of this however, and having studied science in the past, I still wanted to become a journalist.

In particular, a War Journalist, so that I could mix my passion for the military with my current skills as a writer. I was inspired by the exploits of men like Michael Ware, whose raw bravery and talent in reporting in the most difficult of circumstances made for compelling journalism.

I was also fully aware that people hated the press. But strangely, that empowered me to want to seek out the underlying truth behind things more. I wasn’t afraid of the backlash I would receive, as I thought I was doing important work.

That is the basic tenacity any journalist must have in their arsenal though. For the millions that ignore you, spit at you, curse you and shove you away, there are always the hundreds that come to you, seeking repatriation for ill deeds and desperate for their voice to be heard about the caucus.

I remember excelling in long-form journalism, as the narrative style suited my writing methods best. For my first and so far only journalistic piece, I wrote about the mental health stigma in the Australia-Asian young community and how many of these young people felt marginalised, unsupported and unheard due to their health issues.

I asked a lot of people whether they wanted to be interviewed. I believe it was over 30 people.

Only 2 replied, but their interviews gave me more than enough information to write a compelling piece.

There is a strange intimacy when it comes to conducting interviews. It is a tricky balance of empathetic and interrogative. I need to steer the conversation, whilst allowing time for the subject to think, reply and emote.

I’ve always likened the process to the fastest seductive game ever played. I need to cajole, reassure, probe and investigate you as a person and the story you are telling me. It is seductive in nature, because I need to convince a stranger that they can trust me, to not only listen to their story but then to entrust me with their story.

After all, there is no worse feeling for a subject, to find that their words, their story has been twisted into a facsimile of what they felt is the right way of telling their personal tale. An occasion that has no doubt happened far too many times.

As you can probably tell in this What If? series so far, a lot of the jobs that I have chosen to be potential career avenues have all involved some element of deductive work and investigative techniques. Whether it is being a spy, a racer or a journalist, in some shape or form, there is a mystery to be solved and I would like to get to the bottom of it, whether it is the missing tenth of a second on a lap or a drug cartel’s subterranean lair, I want to find out why and how things happen.

Of all the jobs that I’ve considered, journalism is probably the closest I’ve got into venturing in that field, simply because my university was so immersive in providing its’ education. We had a proper newsroom, complete with recording equipment and 10 TV screens, always showcasing different news channels, I was told to simply “get out there and find a story” and overall, the whole process was more “on the job” learning than it was reading some dry textbook and doing lame exercises.

I remember volunteering for the student-run online newspaper, where I would write my movie reviews (which have carried on, in this blog) and investigating weird trends like Antarctic Tourism, which I actually held a prolonged interview about.

It is one of those things that I still love about journalism though … it is the access to insider knowledge that you can get, simply because you are the press. People are simultaneously too closed off and too open when the microphone is thrust upon them.

There is an almost instinctive need to tell the truth when a journalist asks you questions.

Only trained liars can avoid that instinctive urge and even then … it takes an experienced liar to sound convincing.

It is why so many people avoid the microphone like a plague. It is almost like they don’t trust themselves to be convincing.

That behaviour has always struck me as interesting. Even when I am the one being interviewed and am aware of all the tricks, there is a bizarre sensation of discomfort and an urgent desire to sound erudite, educated and exceptional.

Of course, most of the time, we sound like a bumbling idiot, and as an amateur journalist, I can definitely say that the worst part of the interview is trawling through 10 minutes of babbling nonsense to get 2 usable quotes in your article.

In a lot ways, being a journalist has become encoded in my DNA. I think you can perceive that in my writing.

I have a habit of distancing my emotions, whilst reporting on them simultaneously. I like to be factual, neutral and matter-of-fact when it comes to expressing or explaining things. Perhaps the thing most “un-journalistic” trait of my writing is my constant usage of complex words, simply because I wish to express my vocabulary and enjoy seeing alliteration in my descriptions. That … I pin on my fictional writing side.

This style though is part of a vow I took, when I first discovered the true nature of journalism, to present complicated issues, as factual I could, without any inherent bias, left or right (even though I am leaning left most of the time.) I dislike trying to convince or sway the public, preferring to let them come to their own conclusions about things.

Such neutrality however, means that I am unlikely ever to find a job in contemporary journalism, simply because of the inherent political nature of the industry nowadays. It is no longer profitable to just present the facts, now unwarranted analysis and subjective viewpoints are offered to grab attention with explosive headlines.

In a lot of ways, the 4th Estate has become more commercialised than ever before, with news from all types of corporations and organisations bombarding your internet browser upon opening it. With such commercialisation however, I think they have lost their focus.

Too much attention is angled at global news, due to the effects of globalism, causing people to suffer from a world weariness that was not really present in previous generations. After all, it is difficult to escape news from abroad, whether it be the latest doings of America, China, England or France.

Previous generations, merely had to read the paper once a week, and it focused purely on national news, with a section called “Global” if you were curious what else was happening around the world. This allowed people to be aware of the issues in their own country and focus on those problems. There wasn’t a need to worry about what a stranger 20,000kms away was going through and bemoan the state of affairs in that country too.

Privatisation of companies have also meant that news now had to be paid for, hidden behind paywalls just to generate revenue. Perhaps one of the main reasons why I defend the Guardian so much, is because they are one of the few news organisation that doesn’t hide their article behind a paywall, a stance that I back 100%, despite 80% of their content being leftist drivel.

I will admit, that I have a great fondness for them too, simply because the 20% of their long-form journalism is unmatched anywhere in the world, and that their investigations have burst open plenty of secrets, something that I aspired to do had I considered this career.

That is the point of being an educated reader though. If I am seeing too much leftist viewpoints from the Guardian, I should balance it with the more right outlooks from Fox or seek centrist perspectives like Financial Review. Then I can finally make up my mind about an issue, finally having considered all the coloured lens.

This open research into the smallest or the largest issues, is a trait that many people lack today, and should be taught as a habit for a lot of the population. Being informed is such an important critical analysis skill and in a lot of ways, is the best defensive tool against accidental indoctrination and the echo chambers of social media.

Despite these issues, I still consider journalism a crucial part of any functioning society and will always defend journalists who make it their mission to inform a grateful or ungrateful public.

Everyone dislike journalists, because they expose things that were better hidden and are as fallible in telling the news as non-journalists.

But you can’t despise someone for being human, and having an emotional response to a piece of history. In a lot of ways, journalists have always been the modern-day historians, forced to interpret “live” events in a way that appeal to their audience.

Just like Marxists and Annales historians argue over the French Revolution, Fox News argue with the CNN over the efficacy of Donald Trump.

These are just two viewpoints on an historical event. It is up to you, as an informed reader and member of the public, to carefully consider both points, acknowledge their merits and pitfalls and seek the middle truth between the two factions.

In a strange way, perhaps there is a need for journalists whose sole job is to simply find the middle ground, present both pros and cons of both ideologies and let the public decide.

This What If? is a strange one, because whilst I am not a true career journalist, deep down, I still hold the tenets and values of non-subjective news-reporting dear to me, and still practice it in everything I write.

What a pity, I suppose, I don’t have the energy to be that middle ground journalist.

There is a sore need for it.

~ Damocles

Spider-Man (2002). J.K Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, in what might be the most comically accurate live action casting ever. He will always be my favourite part of the Raimi trilogy, undisputedly great.

Just one final diverting point, I always found it amusing that people decry the supposedly “modern issue” of private owners of news organisations, who are free to espouse, endorse and encourage certain viewpoints through the media (Rupert Murdoch et al.).

This isn’t a 2000s issue … Stan Lee made a point of it, when he created J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle who only ever ran smear campaigns of Spider-Man, back in 1963.

It just goes to show that nothing is original, only repackaged.

What If? Damocles Was A Spy.

Burn Notice, one of my favourite, spy TV series. Watch this if you aren’t sold.

One of my earliest career choices; getting involved in the intelligence community was a high priority straight out of high school.

I glamourised the role naturally. After all, as a Bond aficionado, I grew up idolising Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of the world’s most famous spy, and subsequently fell in love with the character.

One thing led to another and I ended up buying all the books. It was the Ian Fleming novels that slowly opened my eyes to the fact that the intelligence community wasn’t quite as dramatic as the films portrayed. After all, in one of the short stories to feature the spy, The Property of a Lady, Bond does nothing more exciting than attend at Sotheby’s auction for a Faberge Egg and photograph a Soviet spy.

Then came the Bourne films which really shook my ideas about espionage. The gritty realism, the tense paranoid atmosphere and the idea of the government burning any ties with you disturbed me to the core. I became so much more aware of the consequences and yet somehow, even more invested in the idea of making it a career.

What I quickly learned in reality, is that a “spy” is actually a dreadfully dreary job. You mix the paranoid, slow boredom of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with bursts of frantic, terrifying action from Bourne and that is relatively accurate depiction of a spy.

When I initially applied for the Australian Intelligence Services, ASIS & ASIO, I was informed that there was going to be two primary roles. What I had set my eye on was an Intelligence Analyst. Whilst the Intelligence Officer role was more akin to genuine HUMINT (Human Intelligence) gathering and more of a dream for a Bond fan, it was actually in the Analyst role where I felt I was best suited.

I wanted to study overseas movement and track threats to Australian soil, so naturally I favoured ASIO for its “overseas focus” and there was something appealing about all the detective work I was going to have to do for the organisation in an Analyst role.

If there is one thing that I derive great pleasure from, it is detective work. I am no Sherlock Holmes, but I do practice a lot of the traits he exercises. From maintaining a high observational awareness to constantly analysing little clues around me, I have often found my deductive skills proving more correct than wrong in a lot of cases.

Whether it is human behaviour or noting how many steps are in the front of your house, I like to be constantly observing and watching, making up little stories about why the man in front of me is carrying an umbrella and a trilby or why the woman who got off the bus managed to get ahead of me, through a shortcut street.

I also would like to confess that I consider myself a bit of an actor, another valuable trait that would serve any spy well. After all, spies are the best actors in the world, able to sell accents, personal histories, physical traits and lives. Their very life depends on their ability to sell the lie as the truth.

The inherent qualities of a good spy is their ability to act, observe, manipulate and covertly operate under high-intensity environments for extended periods of time.

I only ticked some of those boxes. Perhaps with training I might be able to master it all, but that isn’t the topic we are discussing. After all, millions of people out there can be something, something if they got the proper training.

No, what I want to delve into is the lowly analyst, the faceless minion that doesn’t get the attractive femme fatale nor any of the respect that those field operatives receive.

Instead they are regulated to some listening post, hearing endless chatter and passing it onto the local station. This analyst might be called upon to organise a logistic run to some hidden spy cell in Beirut, then be tasked with data-mining a Chinese shell company before finally compiling a report on the movements of a certain foreign attaché at a local embassy and confirm whether they really are the “Vice President of a Swiss Export Minerals Company.”

This unglamorous job, comes with zero recognition, bizarre surrealist attitude to life, death and whatever lies between and is exactly the type of role that intrigued me, simply because who in the right mind would want to come home, knowing that they were responsible for staving off a terrorist attack and organising one overseas, to a bland meal of noodles and 2 day old duck meat.

The strange dichotomy of that job fascinated me. They can’t talk about their work, vent their anger, except within the confines of the thousands of other analysts who suffer from the same monotony. Yet without their contributions, SF units around the world wouldn’t have intelligence to operate on, countless innocent lives would be lost and the imminent sensation of World War 3 wouldn’t be a fear, but a reality.

But it was the detective work that really enthralled me. After all, analysts are paid to detect patterns, observe strange behaviour and piece together a puzzle.

That is what almost made me apply to be a spy. The greatest, most complex and global puzzle ever devised. A fragment of an intercepted phone call, would point in the direction of a bank account in Turin, before it would connect up to a chance meeting between a DJ and a rich oil Sheik. That DJ would then launder the cash into party narcotics which would then aim the rifle at the Narco syndicates in Columbia.

The trail would continue on and on and on … my every hour spent staring at multiple computer screens, desperately trying to keep pace of all the connections that a terror organisation would need to evade me.

It was that idea, of engaging on a global scale, the most frustrating, high-stakes, mental, anonymous chess that really sold me the idea of becoming an analyst.

I didn’t want to be the guy that got pointed in the direction of the bad guys.

I wanted to be the precursor to the arrow. I wanted to be the GPS.

Perhaps the only movie that really sold the importance of an stressed, determined and anonymous intelligence analyst is Zero Dark Thirty (2012) where Maya Harris is the one ultimately responsible for the take-down of UBL not the infamous SEAL Team Six.

In other forms of fiction, the character of Jack Ryan is not inherently an action hero type. He is meant to be a thoughtful professor who was a former Marine and an intelligence analyst in the CIA. That is his biggest appeal, his inherent stature as a civilian, not a super tough soldier, thrust into this world of espionage, half truths and constant lies.

I’ve had many an interest in so many fields over the years, but intelligence-gathering and the military branch have always ranked amongst my favourites to indulge in. For me, this wish fulfilment of becoming a spy, to be engaged in global affairs and become really immersed in an almost alternate reality, is so tempting because of how difficult the challenge would be.

But I know that I would leave the job, a cynical bitter person, robbed of any sense of fulfilment because for every attack you stop, another is only brewing weeks later. For every bad man you eliminate, his sons are there to pick up his arms.

That is the cyclical nature of the job though. It does not make your tenure unworthy nor useless.

I just couldn’t handle that feeling though.

To sum up, if I was to become a spy, I would prefer to be an analyst. There is nothing truly remotely sexy about that.

But the truth is, I would shun the stunning femme fatales, the Aston Martins, the death-defying stunts and Tom Ford suits if I could be the man who would be the true menace behind every plot uncovered and stopped early.

I would be OK knowing that I would go home to my boring home, and live an anonymous life, despite my extraordinary work. That is the ultimate humility after all … to silently watch and guard without any thanks.

The further we are from the last disaster, the closer we are to the next.

~ Damocles.

What If? Damocles was a Musician.

The Pink Panther (1963) – Fran Jeffries singing Meglio Stasera and bewitching me for the entire song. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Henry Mancini for his brilliant work across film and for getting me into jazz.

As is typical of Asian children, I was given a choice … play the piano or nothing really. It wasn’t really a choice, more another chore that would continue for a decade and a half.

In that time, I was relentlessly pounded into submission by the same style of music. Classical.

Mozart this. Beethoven that. Hayden who? Bach what? Chopin where? Debussy how?

An endless slog of scales, chromatic or arpeggio, and constant rote learning of songs.

For a improvised individual such as myself, it was bloody boring work. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I can look back and say that, despite my horrible teaching methods, I actually turned out OK.

I could hold a tune, well enough until I hit Grade 7 in music, which in Australia is the 2nd highest away from proper professional playing. Had I preserved, I probably would have graduated with a diploma in music playing and enough to kickstart a music career.

But I wasn’t interested. My fingers had already become slender, thin and nimble after years of playing, and they were sick of banging on the same keys, on the same damnable upright piano. Playing the piano was a chore, a grubby feeling akin to a dancing monkey and I knew that my heart resented this skill instead of endorsing it.

So I called it quits. Walked away from the piano altogether. But to this day, my fingers still “phantom play” keys and occasionally I get this feeling to let my fingers across the keys once more.

But the rust had truly settled in and every time I think I might derive some pleasure out of piano playing, I get this strange feeling of Stockholm syndrome.

There was only ever one time where I felt proper exhilaration playing the piano and it wasn’t even on a damn piano, but an electronic keyboard.

It was at high school.

For an assignment, we were told to get into bands and practice a popular song. Due to my prowess with a piano, I was snatched up by two groups. One of which was a true “students in high school trying their best” experience and the other was a much more talented rock group that had big ambitions in music.

The rock group was an experience I had never felt before. They could somehow read each other’s minds, dip in and out of each other’s solos and could make playing a song an absolutely fun, technical and adrenaline-soaked experience. They were just so professional and in sync with each other, that I was really looking forwards to debuting their work in front of the school.

What was fascinating about our classroom, was that the entire front side of the door could be opened up and the entire school could arrive at lunchtime to listen to us play, thus giving us a live audience.

I forget what song we played, but it was here, that my music teacher gave me something completely new.

He gave me my first ever taste of jazz.

Showing me a jazz scale, he showcased how you could play that scale in any order and it would sound brilliant.

I became obsessed. Finally … a chance to experiment and be free of the rigid confines of someone else’ genius. Here I was in control of the sound, of the music and the order, speed and feeling of the tune.

Mozart couldn’t dictate the tune. Beethoven couldn’t tell me to be pianissimo here or forte there. Hayden couldn’t show me how to stretch my fingers. Bach couldn’t bore me with his endless Baroque scales’ variants. Chopin had zero input in what feeling I should be having whilst playing his song and Debussy especially could not tell me how many times I had to mess up his song and try again.

At last, freedom. I was unhinged. Freed from a cage.

I still love jazz to this day, because of the freedom it provides for improvisation and player’s skill.

In the concert, I managed to feel an incredible rush as I blurred 2 jazz scales together and kept my solo going for a solid minute and a half, before coming off that high and settling back into the song with a nod from the bass guitarist.

That experience I had, was the one time where I considered a music career.

I also knew that I wanted to be a part of a band, not a solo act.

That fact alone is what stopped me from pursuing a proper musical career. I didn’t know anyone else who loved jazz like I did, much less people who enjoyed less sexy instruments like trumpets, saxophones or clarinets.

Had I pursued the path of a musician, I would have specialised in jazz.

I love the idea of performing jazz in a darkly lit jazz bar in my hometown, sipping on cocktails and whiling away the night with music that I loved.

In particular, I wanted to master many different forms of jazz, from blues, to swing, to nu-jazz and really just sell my improv skills.

I have a big affinity for rock & roll, but I know that I would probably be happiest playing jazz.

Talking about it now, does make me want to pick up the piano again. Perhaps when the desire becomes a need, I’ll probably seek out a jazz teacher to get up to speed, so that I can practice on my own, at my own pace.

I’m at that age now, where my body can keep pace with my desire to learn things in a mature, rewarding way. I’m no longer really content whiling away hours on a video game, when I could be learning new skills to impress … mostly myself.

I like doing things, because I can do something.

I don’t regret quitting my piano training early, nor do I really obsess over the idea of becoming a musical performer.

But I do like the idea of being able to play for myself. That is what was missing in all my younger years of piano playing … actual enjoyment behind the skill. Perhaps if the system wasn’t so rote, and dull, I might have a bigger musical career.

Nowadays, I mostly collect music. Nothing fancy like records, or CDs, but endless hoarding of mp3 files found for free on the internet. My Itunes library is staggeringly large, with over 132 days worth of songs, and the library only grows larger every day due to the constant downloads of soundtracks.

I may not have even seen the movie, and yet if it intrigues me, I’ll download it.

Due to my childhood restrictions, I truly enjoy all forms of music, from Christian Heavy Metal to Synth-Pop. There hasn’t ever really been a genre of music, where I haven’t derived some type of pleasure from it.

Do I occasionally dream of performing before a crowd?

Of course.

I think I have that dramatic nature in me, whether it’s amateur acting or impromptu musical acts. I like being before a crowd and seeing how they react to my siren call. I’ve never feared the crowd or gotten stage fright.

In a lot of ways, despite my quiet nature, I do crave the spotlight often and that desire only intensifies when I know I am good at something.

Music was something I was good at. I perhaps had a bit of natural talent for it, despite my own audio disabilities.

It would be a shame, if I never reached back and at least learnt to harness it for myself.

But we all have callings that we ignore, because they were never really suited for us. In a lot of ways, I think when we were designed as people, there is always an extra talent in us, that likes to be dormant.

No-one out there is talentless. We all have some myriad of skills in one way or another. Some hands are made to heal blood, whilst others are designed to strike through bone.

Mine were perhaps made to float across keys … but instead I dedicated them to a different type of key movement. The one you read now, as I write, write and write some more.

Typing is what they’re most suited for now.

Wasteful isn’t it?

To that I say … Astra inclinant, sed non obligant.

The stars incline us, they do not bind us.

~ Damocles.

What If? Damocles was Attractive.

Tom Hardy. My kind of man.

I’ve never really considered myself attractive. Charismatic perhaps, but not handsome.

Arguably, according to anecdotal evidence, my most attractive physical feature are my hands. They are slender, with attractive nails and have the stereotypical look that reflect that of an pianist (which I used to be one) or an artist.

I can’t really display my hands though, as a means to attract women. Doing jazz hands everywhere seem …. bizarre to say the least and crazed to exaggerate.

There are small things I can do, to improve myself naturally.

Sleep earlier to remove my now iconic eye bags, exercise more to accentuate my jawline and cheekbones. Get a tattoo across my upper arm, gain a scar across my cheek.

I could actually style my hair, which I genuinely consider is a deal-breaker.

Having a bad hair day, creates a very average looking Damocles, verging on unattractive.

A proper haircut, combined with a bunch of other factors like where the sun is, the angle of the photo taken, how far you are relative to the Moon and a worthy sacrifice to Venus herself, could transform Damocles from a middling generically Asian individual, into a slightly attractive one.

I would have to say, I rely mostly on humour, charisma and confidence to attract women.

I think I am reasonably amusing, as I seem to elicit a fair amount of smiles with my constant wisecracks. If I had to describe my humour, it’s something similar to classic Spider-Man comics, slightly corny, slightly lame and delivered with aplomb.

Throw in non-PC topics, a flirtatious air, overtly sexual references, and a goodly dose of stiff British sarcasm and that’s my humour.

My confidence borders and often crosses in arrogance. There is a devil-may-cry attitude to my personality, that I think attracts women. I’m always chasing thrills, attempting to become more of a man, and I think that type of masculinity is inherently interesting.

I am more gentle, calm and respectful around women, but I don’t let it overpower my inherent brashness. It’s natural for me to behave that way, without compromising my identity and I think that is attractive as well. Too many men are as equally fake and disingenuous about their actions and behaviour around women and people can sense that.

I’m a flexible person, emotionally speaking. Whether you’re aloof or clingy, I can support both with relative ease.

So, if I consider myself such a Don Juan, what is the purpose of this What If?

Well, you can always be more handsome can’t you? When I look at the current crop of British actors dominating Hollywood, I can’t help but be envious.

Henry Cavill, looks like he was carved out of marble, with his Greco-Roman style and extremely masculine features and body. Even his hair curls like Michelangelo’s David. The fact that he is a sweaty, greasy gamer, doesn’t even remotely detract from his attractiveness which is a call-back to antiquity.

Cillian Murphy looks like the most enigmatic individual. His eyes could stop an arrow in mid-flight, so piercing they are. He’s the pretty boy, the angelic man who could charm you with his soft Irish accent and thoughtful mannerisms. There is a great deal of intelligence behind his eyes and demeanour. A introspective individual whose self-awareness and looks attract a lot of people.

Tom Hardy is my male crush though. He has that ruggedness that I have always longed to possess. His jawline and lips are his most standout feature, and there is a strange sense of tragedy behind his eyes. He is seemingly dangerous, sexy, thoughtful and calculating all at once. He has the look of a man who has been and seen it all, but retains a determined and ferocious appetite for life and friends.

His looks remind me of a German Shepherd. A fierce animal, loyal to friends and lovers, but primal when provoked. Watching Tom Hardy on screen, it is fascinating to see his ability to tap into tragedy or savagery in a blink of an eye.

I also always wished I had his ability to grow the right amount of scruff. The ability to grow facial hair has always eluded me and it genuinely pisses me off sometimes.

I do like his style too. He can transform himself easily with certain clothes. Classy in a tux or precise in tactical gear, he can fit it all. Something I too, take pride in.

So why do I want to be more attractive?

Well it’s a pipe dream isn’t it? To look your best, is to generally feel your best too. I think everyone has an desire to be the kind of person that could stop traffic with a glance. To have people lust after you and envy you, is probably one of the closest things to godhood a human can achieve.

Universal attraction is becoming more of a thing, in my honest opinion. You can have people admiring others from all over the globe. A Middle Eastern beauty is not inherently less attractive than an American. A gorgeous European male is not less admired than an Australian hunk.

What would I do if I was more attractive?

Probably sleep around a lot more. Be in shorter relationships. It’s always been a fear of mine that I would become some sort of bachelor if it weren’t for the amazing women I’ve dated (2). Some terrible sleaze that treats women horribly and engage in sexual dalliances often.

I can’t really imagine a worse fate for me. I also wonder what if I did the opposite? I never used this attractiveness to it’s full potential? I stay single, insecure about women, not sure if they really like me for who I am, or am just thirsty for my looks and to boost their own social standing amongst friends and family.

Could I ever be taken seriously if I was a lot more attractive? That is probably one of the biggest questions applied to beautiful people. Objectification and belittlement of their intelligence. People can’t take them seriously, because their beauty taps too much into their primal sexual desires, and that is an obvious disadvantage.

Would I be more narcissistic? Would I dress better? Become more self-absorbed and infatuated with myself, knowing that there are legion of women who would sleep with me, given an ounce of encouragement?

Would I abuse that power?

Would it help me get better jobs?

That’s an interesting facet, rarely discussed. Attractive people are more likely to be hired, heard and seen.

If I knew my looks translated well on camera, I would probably be less camera-shy and feel more confident projecting myself out there.

Perhaps my introversion would be less pronounced.

Interesting ….

I am not insecure about my looks however. I know my strengths and have long accepted that this is what I look like and there is very little I would change.

More dieting and exercise would probably be advantageous though.

This was a fun What If? to write. To wonder what a peak version of yourself looks like, is always a fun thought experiment.

Perhaps a slightly more sensual, scruffy and racy Damocles would be a bit too much.

Or maybe not.

~ Damocles.

One day, I’ll be projecting the same kind of attractiveness, even candidly.

What If? Damocles was wealthy.

Villa La Gaeta, Lake Como, Italy, featured in the ending of Casino Royale (2006).

Wealth is an all too familiar obsession of mine.

Not in the accumulation of wealth. But in the expenditure.

To look at my spending habits, my bank details, would be akin to stealing more bread and wine from the Church’s altar.

You know it’s wrong, a violation of something sacred. But you’re hungry and thirsty and damned anyway, so what is one more act of religious criminality?

Savings accounts are like my bread and wine. I shouldn’t touch and draw from them. It goes against conventional respect and wisdom, but I’m desperate to buy that brand new Barbour jacket. So what is one more addition to my Afterpay loans?

I have a terrible list, as long and wide as the litany of sins I’ve committed. The purchases on that list could probably kickstart a small economy into shape and secure a decent loan on a house.

But it is a definitive list of all the things I desire. Everything from aspirin and CRKT knives to Hibachi grills, and Tom Ford Windsor suits are on that list. I’ve even bothered to list them in the order I want to get them in.

It is ever so slightly sickening how much I wish to engage in capitalism. Such is the price though, of my many varied interests. There are thousands of books, knives, guns, bows and arrows, racing parts, clothes and accessories I want to get.

Normally though, the list wouldn’t be a problem. Everyone has one of their own. My issue is that my list is too exorbitantly priced.

I could be happy with just a pair of cheap jeans. But instead I choose to value a more expensive pair because they should ideally last longer, function better in environments I want them to, and I am actually a sucker for certain brands.

I also love to eat expensively, dress exclusively and relax at lavish bars.

A major Achilles’ heel.

So …. what if I was wealthy?

For starters, my ego would probably shoot through the roof. There’s almost definitely a genuine chance that I would be every single cliche of the “young, rich, privileged, conceited, elitist asshole.” I would probably even lack the self-awareness to correct it, instead choosing to proudly wear that badge like it was some kind of trophy.

I actually have so many plans though, if I was wealthy.

The dream is to own a penthouse in the city somewhere, or along a beach, where the horizon stretches out forever, and I can stand against a large window, emulating the scene from Heat (1995). Ideally the spacious apartment complex would have a display room with all my collectibles, ranging from a record player with vinyls, a cabinet with small plaques for all my Star Wars Original Trilogy LEGO sets, and shelves upon shelves of books.

I would also love a 10 car garage, similar to my fictional lifestyle in Grand Theft Auto Online, with numerous vehicles, ranging from the sublime like the Aston Martin Superleggera, to the exotic like the McLaren 720s and the classic like the Toyota 2000GT.

There would be an internal elevator to take these cars from the top to the bottom, naturally.

I would also love to have a separate place, a hidden basement under some business I own, (perhaps my own Event Company office) where I’d have access to an indoor range, lounge and squash court. The range would be effectively soundproofed and air-conditioned, an easy place for me to practice marksmanship and do basic drills. Whether I am using my guns or my bow, either way, I can get lots of reps in.

The squash court provides extra exercise and incentive for me to get better at one my favourite sports, with this basement also equipped with a simple parkour course, with plenty of bars for me to swing off and hone my agility.

Back at my apartment, I would also have an entertainment room, with a gaming pc, a racing simulator rig, and 3 arcade cabinets of my favourite childhood games: Time Crisis 2, Initial D and Dance Dance Revolution. This room would also feature a beautiful pool table, and a kick-ass cinema system, with a small bar located in the corner.

I would be striving for a highly minimalist designs for my apartment, with easy access to a private helicopter (The tiny, fun, fast and manoeuvrable MD 500) that I would learn how to fly. I could use this helicopter for business purposes, cut through traffic, or find an easy way to travel to my private boat, which would actually be a racing catamaran that I would take out for fun. This vessel would be based off the vehicles seen in the SailGP.

I like to think that despite my wealth, I would be constantly striving to improve myself. I would have a strict schedule of Krav Maga, Squash, Parkour, Competitive Shooting, Racing and Writing.

I would love to be able to fund myself into a competitive racing scene, perhaps the Porsche or Ferrari challenge, something that is professional, but not as hardcore as the Formula series. Even something as fun and casual as rallycross could be an option, as I would definitely buy a shitbox and tear its internal apart and create the perfect RX vehicle.

My wardrobe would be a walk-in, with a large mirror to compensate for the tiny one I currently own. I would have rows of suits, blue, grey, brown, cream and black. There would be a myriad of shoes to match, tactical gear ranging from assault shirts to war-belts, and a vast collection of headgear.

Combat helmets with NODs (Night Observation Devices), Morale Patch Caps, Racing Helmets, Fencing Masks and Cricket Helmets, to name a few, would line neatly next to each other. I have always loved masks and headgear, so no doubt this collection would blossom rapidly with far too much disposable income.

A Roman Centurion Helmet has always been one of my obsessive pieces of antiquity that I wanted to own, and I would display it with a replica cuirass and greaves on a marble mannequin. This set of course, wouldn’t be complete without a replica gladius and pilum.

Throughout the apartment, I would also feature a lot of different type of artwork, with an emphasis on my friends’ work and fascinating racing and travel posters from the past, with iconic marketing appeal.

I’ve always envisioned highly modern aesthetics, for this place, with a lot of glass and dark wood.

I think at the end of the day, I would be trying to constantly spend my wealth everywhere, because …. I have so many interests and hobbies I want to pursue and the only way I can possibly do it all, if I have a huge amount of money to sustain such luxuries.

I like to think that I would use my wealth to elevate my friends. Treat them to expensive meals, birthday gifts and help them along with any jobs or get better at trading and investments.

I’ve always thought that the accumulation of wealth is a pointless venture. There is no point in having so much money, that you do not know what to do with it. I prefer to spend everything, and know that I’ve driven myself destitute because I’ve strived to be more than the zeros in my account.

The world is too interesting, too strange and too exciting to be a miserable miser. I just want enough to pursue all my passions without worrying whether I can afford a meal.

God are they numerous.

I could probably add scuba-diving, piano playing (jazz) sky-diving, BASE-jumping, archaeology, Napoleonic antiquities, gaming … really, the list goes on and on.

I like to think, despite my wealth, I will probably still be poor.

Because I’ll be out there chasing everything I always wanted to explore.

~ Damocles.

What If? Damocles was Patriotic.

Swearing Allegiance to the Southern Cross by Charles A Doudiet.

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious – Oscar Wilde.

For any of my international readers, if you haven’t surmised yet, I am of an Australian background. That is what is shown on my passport, despite my clearly Asiatic surname and my scowling mien of a photo.

I am probably the antithesis of what is expected from an Australian. I dislike the beach, due to the smell, my weak swimming ability and admittedly the inability to shake off the fact that the sea is really … full of fish semen and shit.

I am a teetotaller, a highly un-Australian trait, that probably alienated me more than any other aspect of my personality. I just don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol. It is almost as if I can taste the OH bonds in a drink.

I’m not blonde either, another common misconception, due to all our famous exports being famously fair-haired. Margot Robbie, Cate Blanchett, Chris Hemsworth, Elizabeth Debicki, Nicole Kidman … to name a few.

Perhaps the only famous dark-haired Australian, is Hugh Jackman, and to a lesser extent Rose Bryne (who was one of my crushes growing up, upon seeing her in Troy (2004). What was it about curly-haired Mediterranean women for me?).

I am also exceedingly pale and a touch overweight, (hence my B30 Challenge) a far cry from the usual tanned, fit bodies portrayed in media.

Yes, I am aware of Vegemite, and yes, I hate the spread. It just taste like a strange soy sauce paste and is far too strong for my liking on … anything really.

The final stereotype I like to address is the idea that most Australians are easy-going. Anyone aware of my personality, aura or presence, know this to be the opposite.

I am anything but “easy-going.” I can range from charming to menacing, debonair and ruthless to warm and elitist, introspective to brusque but I am anything but easy-going.

In fact, I am probably one of the most terse and tense people you will met. But then you can probably tell that, in my writing.

So what does Damocles have in common with Australians then?

Uncouthness probably. I swear like a sailor, a terrible habit I developed during high school, after realising I could use bad language, simply because my parents weren’t around.

I do strive for creativity in my cussing though.

Perhaps, another concession might be my accent. Although, I personally believe it is very neutral and not particularly Australian. It probably doesn’t help that I barely use the word “mate” or use a lot of slang.

Beyond that, very little of me is stereotypically Australian.

Which is why I wanted to explore this topic of patriotism.

Ever since I figured out who I am, I have always held the belief that I am just “me.” I don’t identify as Asian. Nor Australian. Nor anything else for that matter. Life has always been a lot simpler, choosing not to pigeon-hole myself into a certain category.

After all, if you choose to identify as “something”, you limit yourself and have to adjust emotionally if you want to break out of that box you’ve chose to be in. Even admitting there are flaws in that box, is a tough pill to swallow after so much mental investment.

Accepting everything about me, as a multi-faceted, complex, diverse person; the sum of many parts, has really allowed me to explore all the things I enjoy and love, without feeling I sacrificed something for the other.

I can be a writer. I can be a shooter. I can be a racer. I can be a music collector. I can be a LEGO Builder. I can be an archer. A fencer, a gamer, a confidant, a leader, a friend, a lover … the list goes on.

I can be anything I want, without feeling like I betrayed something else.

This freedom in who I am has really granted me the ability to never lack in self-esteem.

Thus if I saw myself more as an Australian I get the feeling I would probably feel a lot more shame at the moment.

I get this feeling, I would be a lot more politically active. After all, most politicians come from a good place. They see something is remiss in their country and want to do something to fix it. They’re all inherently patriotic, all of them idealistic and eager to fix the country.

But only their way will suffice.

Would I have more Australian flags strewn everywhere? Already on my military gear, with my morale patches, I like to fly flags. My shoulder, my cap … it’s standard procedure to have your nation’s flag emblazoned across your uniform.

But I identify more with the Union Jack, than the Australian flag. I’ve always saw myself as a bit more of a Brit, than an Aussie. Even when I was considering military service, I wanted to join the 22nd SAS Regiment of UKSF not the SASR of the ADF.

Perhaps racism might be a stronger factor in my life, colouring the way how I view the world. Seeing outsiders as undesirable people to my country. What a fucked-up way of looking at the world, especially as I am technically an outsider. We all are. One way or another, we emigrated, moved away and made a life elsewhere, in our ancestry.

What do I associate with patriotism? I guess I judge it by the American standard.

  • Overwhelmingly positive perception of country: America is the greatest country on Earth.
  • Unyielding respect and support for members of Armed Forces: Thank you for your service.
  • Strong symbolism is regards to colours, aesthetics and display: Heavy use of blues, reds and white as well as the American Flag being considered a sacred symbol.
  • Strong loyalty to head of state: POTUS, and the mythology around the President’s role.
  • Heavy repetition of values: Truth, justice and independence. The rights to bear arms.

I don’t think anywhere else in the world, do you see such willingness to be patriotic and worshipful to the mythology of America, despite its’ clear struggles. From the very poorest to the richest, Americans love to parrot how great their country is, how blessed it is, like it was chosen by God.

I doubt I stomach it for very long. But then I wasn’t born there.

My indoctrination isn’t as strong.

Out of all of those traits, I only engage in the second, due to my natural affiliation with men in green.

I probably share the same disrespectful attitude to our Prime Minister with all other Australians, I am unsure what “Australian” values are, beyond the cliches of “mateship, fair dinkum and a fair go for all.

I don’t really like the Australian flag, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, hence my preference for the Union Jack and I definitely do not have a rosy viewpoint of our country.

Am I proud to be Australian?

Yes and No.

Yes because honestly, it’s objectively a very nice to live.

No, because honestly, it’s subjectively could be a much better place to live, if we could actually get off our arses and do more.

Nothing annoys me more, than wasted potential.

Australia has a lot of that to be brutally honest.

I mostly blame Canberra for that.

This one was a struggle to write, because it is such an antithesis of who I am. All the other scenarios seem plausible in alternate dimensions. A military man on Earth #479. A desperate and dangerous degenerate on Earth #34. A love-struck and swooning Damocles on #Earth 69.

But a patriotic Damocles? That seems like an inherent betrayal of who I am.

A more vicious, a more blind version of myself, that if it was possible to meet, I would probably hate him. Blind loyalty to anything or even anyone, is so …. unattractive.

(I couldn’t think of a better word. I kept flashing back to my horror at the idea of having an insipid girlfriend, who clung to my every word and action. No thank you. I want someone independent and confident. Partners should be doting, but never clingy.)

At the end of the day, I don’t think I have much allegiance to anyone or anything just yet, beyond my friends, family and the people I actually know and can respect. I’m fiercely close-minded that way.

Life is just easier, when you care more about the people around you, instead of worrying those far away.

~ Damocles

What If? Damocles was a better conversationalist.

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

I’m staring at Facebook.

Wondering, out of the 94 people that are on the friends list, how many of them do I talk to?

How many of those friends have I neglected? How many have I not gotten to know better?

Would any of them pick up, if I were to call them? What would I say to them?

There are 94 unique individuals on that list. Each with their own desires, needs, wants and personalities.

How well do I know them?

My mind says, I know them enough.

Enough to remember their names. Recall their faces.

The particular way how they pronounce words.

Their style of walking. Their style, clothes and accessories.

I can even recall how they laugh and how they react to me.

But is that all there is to a human being? Is that all I need to call them a friend, to be familiar with them?

My heart says, no.

I can’t help but feel the art of conversation inside of me is … dead. Whatever happened to proper discussion? What happened to lengthy text posts? Why is it all so lazy?

And … Have I really gone so far, as to discuss why I am such a bad conversationalist with myself instead of with another actual human being?

I can always place blame on social media. The conversations I have with those I do keep in contact with on Facebook, are mostly memes. I find something that amuse them, share it and we have a quick back and forth before ignoring each other again.

The fact that it is so low maintenance, so utterly forgettable, and such a quick pro quo, and this is for someone who I actually want to talk to …

Makes it quite sad in retrospect.

This is not even mentioning, the 90 other people who I don’t even bother doing that to either. I have gotten so slack, so undeniably lazy that even with people I place greater stock in than the rest, I don’t put any real effort in.

There are so many times, when I would see other 90 people’s names, and wonder how they are doing, but never bother to click on the little bubble and genuinely ask them.

Am I afraid of them, that somehow it would be strange to ask out of the blue? Or am I too lazy to care anymore?

I wonder which is the worse question.

But I can’t really blame social media. I can’t pin all my ills on Facebook and claim that, that website is the reason why my conversation skills suck.

Social media is just a tool. How you use it and be defined by it, is your choice alone.

So if I choose to be friendly, open up conversations with the other 90 people on that friends list, I run into another common excuse.

What do I talk to them about? 

The answer to that, is frankly, quite obvious. I just need to recall what we share or liked together and go off that common ground.

However, this is where my personal and professional life clash.

I have spent so long being a leader, being a boss, that I have genuinely forgotten to ask what are a lot of my friends’ interests actually are.

Because of that attitude, I am certain that is why everyone treats me like a leader, not a true friend. I am not someone that they can call upon for help or hang out regularly.

Nor a person that they can have a long, sparkling discussion about interesting subjects because … we don’t have subjects to discuss about in common.

What a sad realisation I’ve just had.

In a lot of ways, I can’t help but feel that a lot of my “friendships” are a lot like the iconic scene from Blade Runner 2049 (2017) … a facsimile of real connections.

A sensation of me reaching out, and seeing all there is to my friends, but instead touching nothing but thin air.

Aware of all things physical, but unable to truly comprehend the metaphysical.

There is a terrible loneliness that has come with this understanding. The idea that I’ve met so many people, but never really found out a key tenet of their personality, is such a loss on my part.

Meeting people and finding out more about them, should be an exciting and novel prospect. I should be more receptive to the idea about engaging with people on a deeper level, instead of sticking to shallow topics.

Questions about the weather, work and daily life, should be swapped for more personal explorations, open invitations to discuss and interesting hypothetical(s).

A good conversationalist should remain interesting and be interested if they ask and answer everything with a certain light gravitas.

It may be exhausting, it might be tiresome and no doubt it can and will be a turn-off at times, but is it not always better to show effort than display none?

There are billions of people on this planet, six-thousand years of civilisation and the two of those combined, give anyone a trillion things to discuss, from how an Archaeopteryx fossil became the face of a Canadian outdoor company, Arc’teryx to why Google is called Google.

A good conversationalist, is a curious person from the start.

A person who asks why instead of how and is happy to create thousands of why for something, as outlandish as they might be.

Which leads to another personal revelation … I’ve lost my sense of curiosity.

I lost sight of what makes my life interesting. I think, feel and believe like I know everything that happens in my circle. No-one presses my button, no-one disagrees with me, no-one wants to discuss things with me.

So I get complacent. I feel I am the Alpha and Omega of my little world.

But that simply isn’t true. I could ask my girlfriend better questions. I could check up on my friends and see if they need help. I could this, I could that.

I could actually be curious about my friends and the people I know.

What a novel concept.

What If, Damocles was actually curious about the world again?

To that, I say …

Damn.

~ Damocles.

 

 

What If? Damocles was a criminal.

tommy-shelby-t

Peaky Blinders … the show that made me permanently mimic the awesome haircuts. 

A lot of people don’t really consider being a criminal a career option. 

Being obsessed with crime, ever since I read my first crime novel (what it was, I cannot remember), I remember thinking to myself, that if you were clever, ruthless and charismatic, you could easily get into the world of crime and making a living.

Of course those traits, are applicable to any fraternity or organisation in the world, legal or otherwise. They are universally good virtues to have in any leaders.

My own idea of criminality is idealistic. Naive. It’s a dream that has been influenced by thousands of crime books, hundreds of episodes and countless other pop culture references. It’s a romance about crime, not the actual truth.

And the truth is, I don’t know anything about crime. Just the books, news articles, documentaries and films I’ve seen. I don’t know anyone who is a criminal, unless you count speeding offenders as one.

So this What If? is probably going to be as fanciful as it gets.

Damocles the Broker

I always imagined myself as a broker. The middleman that would organise heists and be responsible for procuring items of rare and expensive quality.

I would never be directly involved in the crime itself, except perhaps on occasions of extremely rare and high importance, like the theft of expensive artwork.

This way, I could pretend that I had nothing to do with the actual work, and also protect the client as well. Layers of security, against potential leaks and a convenient fall-guy (me) if things went really sideways.

I suppose, this would be highly similar to how I would operate a spy-ring in an enemy state. Have crews, and trusted members in each that would be able to do the tasks I delegate to them, whether it’ll be procuring dirty money, stolen artwork, valuable intelligence or the sale of black market medication.

Then I would move and ship that cargo off to the client that demanded my services or to the highest bidder, in shadow auctions.

I would never deal in arms, drugs, organs, women, gambling or animals. Those were too risky, and admittedly, I would like to have some sort of conscience in the criminal game.

I don’t like to fuel addiction, no matter the sort.

Besides, those were too old school and business was already booming in them.

So, in an ideal criminal enterprise, I would only deal with high-end sales of rare and valuable items. A daring theft from someone’s private collection and vault …. the return of classified intelligence to friendly countries … the delivery of much-needed medication to a desperate family.

Those sort of things.

It would be like any properly run business, only illicit and underground.

The primary issue with such an enterprise is how I would get started. What would make a billionaire be enticed to hire my services to continue his private art collection?

I would have to have a fearsome reputation as a collector and a thief.

The best way to start, is by showcasing my skills to them directly.

Breaking into their security and getting away clean. If that doesn’t get to their fragile egos, then nothing else will.

Because you don’t get incredibly rich and powerful and not have an ego the size of a dinosaur.

An instance where a random stranger defeats your high-end and expensive security systems. Any violation of your home demands that you deal with this problem, with the gravity it deserves.

I would probably become an obsession for the billionaire. The man who dared to reach up and touch “God.” Not only touch him, but bought him down to Earth and showed that even for all his accumulated wealth and power, he could still be subject to a home invasion.

I would have his undivided attention and eventually, to placate him, I would return what I stole and offer my services.

But in order to do all of that, I need skills.

No one studies to be a master criminal. If I had fallen astray in my younger years, then that is exactly what I would have done.

I would have invested hundred of study hours dedicated to IT, coding and gaining rudimentary knowledge of hacking.

I would have put aside laboratory experiments in chemistry to understand simple mechanics and how certain elements react to each other.

I also would have placed a lot of stock into psychology, to better understand my target and learn to ask certain therapeutic questions that doubled as interrogation techniques to gain valuable information.

And of course, I would study criminology. What better way to avoid the police, than to pretend I want to be one? I would learn from my own fallen criminal peers and their mistakes, and the law enforcement techniques, to make sure I don’t fall for them or have solutions ready to address such issues.

Then, in university, I would advance all of those things while putting them into practice.

Buying myself a safe, and practice safe-cracking, and seeing what liquid nitrogen does to certain metals, hinges and pins.

I would attempt to seduce my fellow students, understanding women, men, desires, wants, needs, and insecurities to probe their psyche and see what it reveals about them.

I would work hard in forensics, to make sure I found counter-measures for anything I learnt.

Hours would be spent on the computer trying to fool and bypass bio-metrics security measures and seeing how best to use apps on phones to devise my own app and get pass security measures.

Finally, I would test myself by putting all of these skills into action, by breaking into the university itself and seeing what I can get away with …. turning off security cameras here, stealing chemical compounds from the labs there, and observing security guard patterns and avoiding them all.

After all, universities present the perfect stepping stone to a criminal’s career. They have adequate security measures, plenty of excellent resources and can be an incredible learning ground for mistakes that will not be repeated in the future.

I can practice sneaking around campus, getting access to buildings outside of working hours, dodging and avoiding campus security and understanding response times when I mess up.

There are thousands of options to practice on-campus. Banks, restaurants, convenience stores, large buildings, small laboratories, greenery, roof-access, basements, key-card access, time-locks, dormitories, safes, a myriad of different security cameras and all of this … guarded by campus security, who are generally unarmed and stretched thin across a huge university space.

And I have the perfect cover …. “a student who lost his way and overslept in class” or “a student who was trying to sneak away from an angry boyfriend, whose girlfriend he had just slept with” or “a student desperate for a midnight snack.”

No-one would be particularly the wiser.

With all that experience, my graduation out of the way, as a forensic science major, I would then take it up a notch and enter the big boys leagues.

Three methods would be practiced …. the first being loud, brash and aggressive robberies on banks with a willing crew.

The second; clever disguised cons that swindle high-class families into revealing where they stash their valuables and security information.

The last would be entirely stealthy affairs, breaking and entering into large company buildings, and getting away with experimental equipment or supplies.

Each of these methods would allow me enough experience to avoid common pitfalls and actually break into the criminal underworld. These will help get my creativity going, how I formulate plans around each method, get accustomed to violence, desensitized to it and get comfortable with executing plans and anticipating unforeseen problems.

Only then, once I mastered the basic three types of crimes executed, then I will attempt to establish my reputation as a high-end career criminal and bring down the 1% a notch and see if they too will bleed like the rest of us.

Whilst, of course, providing a service for them.

The goal being, if I sow enough discord among them, stealing from one man, providing for one woman, selling this to a lonely bachelor, while profiting off another family … I will never be out of a job, because they will all be too busy trying to one-up each other with displays of their collection.

A Cezanne appearing in a Saint Tropez mansion, will soon be trumped by a lovely Roman marble bust in a Bahamas resort.

And the cycle goes on and on, as their obsession grows and I simply employ either a loud, a con or a stealth technique to feed this machine, I will have either entered or grown organically.

Constant refinement of each type of heist will be conducted, and probably due to my university education, I will be scientific in how I approach each crime.

But I would have finally gotten to the point where I can ask people to do the crime and the time, if they got caught. I would no longer have to participate in every heist, now able to relax and do jobs at my whim and pleasure.

In a lot of ways, the Criminal Damocles will be of a similar type to the Soldier Damocles. Focused, will-driven, ruthless and efficient. After all, if I had gotten it into my head, to be a career criminal, it is not something you half-ass.

You go all the way in and you don’t deviate from the course, because to do so, would mean you’re either dead or in jail.

On the whole, I suspect, I would make a decent criminal. It takes a certain … mind, to think of things from a criminal perspective.

Even during this current COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t help but think about how it easy it would to break into shops and businesses with most of their staff away at home and police stretched thin, monitoring people for breaking quarantine.

You didn’t even have to be subtle about it … if you timed your break-in well, and were aware of police response time … it could be a simple affair as reversing your pick up truck through a shop front, smashing and grabbing everything and speeding away in a matter of minutes.

Crime happens all the time, and a lot of it goes unpunished.

Study to be a criminal and I suspect you got a good chance of never being caught.

So Damocles … why didn’t you become one? I hear you ask.

My parents would be my concise answer.

They raised me too well, instilled in me too strong of a moral compass and I grew up idolising soldiers and men in uniforms, not sociopaths in masks.

Although, of course, as an adult, I realise, they aren’t too dissimilar to each other, depending on which gun is being pointed at your face.

But that is how I think I would be become a criminal, and the type of criminal I would be. Psychologically, I doubt there would be much difference between the Soldier version of me and the Criminal type.

Both I can see, committing 100% to their roles and being studious, creative and ruthless in how they execute their jobs.

I think the only point of contention, would be that the Criminal Damocles would be a lonelier soul. Without comrades in arms, and of course, unable to properly connect with people, because he too often consider them tools or objects to manipulate.

He would be unwillingly to use the same heist crew more than twice, because to do so, would mean there is a greater chance of betrayal and compromise in how effectively a crime could be pulled off.

He would probably be richer too. But lose a lot more hours of sleep.

I doubt I would be willing to do all the things he would do.

I suppose I should be thankful for that.

But a big part of me, still wonder What If? 

~ Damocles