Monday, March 9, 2015

Focus International: Charity Scammers

It's still happening.

I wrote about my experiences with Focus International being the worst company I had ever worked for. That was back in December. It is currently March. I am still trying to get them to actually do anything regarding any money they may or may not withholding from me (they can't even answer if there is any money).

I have been trying to get in contact since the middle of August. After being bounced around a lot I have finally focused on their Adelaide office instead of Perth (which has a habit of not answering the phone... which is stupid because I've seen their office. It's tiny. There's no way you couldn't be at any point in the office and not be close enough to answer it so I assume they simply don't care).

I've never been so disrespected in my life. They have a new reason every time I manage to reach them at a time when they have enough skill and bravery to figure out how the hell a phone works. Oh the accounts person is on holiday... they're sick... etc, etc, no one in the office can do the paperwork so it hasn't changed since you last rang, blah blah blah. They only have one person in accounts who is constantly unreliable, never answers their phone, and is frequently not working for weeks on end? Have they thought of getting a temp? Do they have any kind of organisational skills whatsoever? Maybe they should just fire her and replace her outright with someone with the basic office skill of "knowing how to operate a phone."

It's pathetic. It shouldn't take months of hounding a company with a simple question to only get so far as having confirmation you have the right phone number. They're dodgy and I know their dodgy.

And other people know their dodgy.

I have made it my mission to convince anyone I meet who works for them to quit. It is the best course of action after all. It is a pyramid scheme masquerading as a brilliant sales opportunity. I approach people peddling charity, I ask them what company they work for, if it Focus I tell them they need to run away before they're screwed over even more than they already are by simply falling for their trap, and then I walk away. If they're not from Focus International I drop the name and they recoil and go "oh no... we're not like them."

Everywhere I go - in the streets and job interviews alike - anyone who knows the name of Focus International knows that they are dodgy. They're the closest thing to a scam without being outright illegal (as far as I'm aware though their tactics are somewhat questionable... the redeeming feature is we were told not to get people on disability pensions to sign up because they won't be good at recurring donations). I thought I would have to try and convince people. Turns out people already know... except the poor suckers still working for them.

When I signed up I was amazed by the potential that it presented. They said I could easily earn $500+ a week and I didn't even have to work everyday. Uncapped earnings! How amazing! The way they sold it made it sound like a dream come true. The problem was when I got into the field I found that I had fallen for a sales pitch and an empty promise... none of my coworkers believed in the promises they'd signed up for and told me to leave if I could... and I see why. The job was bad enough as it was but dealing with this company has been even worse.

I can't find them on Google. There's no addresses available online, I don't know where their Adelaide office is, I don't know any emails, the website on their business cards isn't a website, if I wanted to I wouldn't know how to report them to anyone because they're so hard to find, and who would I report them to anyway? The only way to deal with them is internally which gives them all the power to screw me over the way they have. This has got to be deliberate. They're the closest thing to a scam I've ever had to deal with...

...except that time I was actually involved in an illegal money laundering scam (by accident). But that's a different story. At least I managed to sort that one out quickly instead of dragging it out for months.


Don't work for Focus International. Don't get suckered in. Don't click on those Seek ads. It will cause you nothing but pain.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Focus International Is The Worst Company I've Ever Worked For

If you are reading this you might be a charity hoping to have them promote you, in which case: don't. Or you might be a job seeker who is being smart and googling the company before applying, in which case: find a different job. Even if you're desperate for a job I can assure you it's better if you go elsewhere. Get a proper job... one with stability. There is the third option where you're someone who actually works at the company and has decided to Google it for whatever reason, in which case: sucks to be you I guess and I'm not sorry for what I'm going to write.

Let's start from the beginning.

Why you shouldn't work there: I was an avid job searcher who desperately just needed employment. If I was not so desperate I wouldn't have sunk low to this clearly dodgy job listing with TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!! It promised something like $500 a week or more! Wow! How can this opportunity be too good to be true? Easily! Commission based only! Which means you can work an entire week 7:30-5 (yes, not 9-5, but 7:30-5 or 5:30) without a single bit of pay. The job can easily cost you more money to go to than it gets you back in return! They make you an independent contractor so don't have any responsibilities towards you. There's no stability. If you don't make money (and there's every likelihood you won't) then you don't make money. No sick days. Your success is random. You only have the potential to earn $500 a week or more. There's no actual reason to believe you will... They sold it quite differently though.

I didn't know this though so I tried really hard at the job interview to get the job. I painted myself as fantastic! Turns out all I really needed to do was answer "yes" to all the questions like "can you talk to strangers?" etc. The thing I've learned in life is that the easiest jobs to get are the ones least worthwhile having... because if anyone can get them that's because they're so unpleasant that people keep leaving them and need to be easily replaced. This job entailed trying to get people to sign up to charity (charities don't use their own staff, they hire marketing companies to do it for them) through whatever aggressively sales tactics are necessary and people know that they're not going to enjoy talking to you so they avoid you at all costs. I basically volunteered my entire day to standing on a street corner or in a shopping centre for people to be rude to me. I could have spent a more productive time arguing in a Youtube comment section all day for an entire week and I probably would have made more money off it.

"You're making a difference." "Achieve your goals." "Quitters don't achieve." It was all nonsense. Catchphrases designed to fill some generic colour within the lines business speak. They were also texted to me constantly IN ALL CAPS WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS!!! AND EMOTICONS!!! It all seemed like people believed it until I actually went out onto the field and found apathetic co-workers who scoffed at me like I was some idiot new guy for repeating the motivational mantras we'd been given that had suckered me in into thinking I'd be able to do this. $500 a week was meant to be a good starting point for a trainee but I soon learned that even the experienced coworkers complained about not making sales. One of them spent half the day convincing one of their friends to come down and sign up just so they could get a comission and avoid being fired for not performing well enough. They'd spent over a week working a job where they didn't make money and had to try and cheat the system not to get fired because they didn't have another job!

"If you can find another job, get it" was what multiple coworkers told me. This was not the money making high-earning job it had been advertised as. People were miserable doing it. After a hard day's work everyone went home feeling defeated. When in the office the attitude was CHEERY AND POSITIVE! READY TO ACHIEVE! Out of the office it was escape if you can... this job won't earn you anything... and because you're an indepedent contractor on commission that's your fault. No minimum wage.

My various coworkers also displayed homophobic attitudes, poor regard for mental illness issues, and sexist attitudes were drilled into our sales tactics. From day one I did not feel like I belonged here but despite all the warning signs going off I decided that I would perservere and continue anyway. I needed a job. I also needed this job to make money because I was running out of savings so if it didn't turn around quickly I would have to quit to stop myself from losing any more.

It became apparent that this job was not improving. My coworkers encouraged me to try and pitch in front of shopping centres where we didn't have permission. We were a roaming nuisance, moving only when security or management told us off for being where we were. We camped outside train stations so people couldn't avoid us coming in/out of it. Aggressively sell, aggressively sell, aggressively sell... and illegally park to do it if need be. All for the hope that if you do well enough you get promoted to Leader, at which point you get money off other people's sales. It doesn't matter if all the underlings quit, as long as there's a fresh new supply and sales get made then the upper levels of the company still make money without leaving the room. It sounds kinda like a pyramid scheme.. It was what was keeping my gloomy coworkers around despite their lack of success (they were losing money coming to work too).

So I quit. I couldn't handle such an awful job and my finances couldn't take it either. Imagine that! A job I couldn't afford to do. Who thought of such a scam?

But the problem is it didn't end there... and this is where it gets even worse.

See, I made sales but never got paid for them. Now, there's probably a good explanation for that. I've had issues with being paid in the past so I wanted to check to see if those sales had somehow been cancelled or if there had been an issue with my details. They needed an ABN off me and I don't remember ever giving them one so maybe that was an issue? Anyway, easy fix, I assumed. It's not a big deal I just want an answer. I'll just contact them and find out...

That's when I discovered that there was no contact information available to me. The website on their business cards wasn't real and the only number I had was of one person who could only tell me to call the office and barely even responded themselves. I had no one's email addresses. I got the number for the office... which no one ever answered no matter how much I tried... Eventually I got sick of being ignored so I went into the office itself. They gave me the number of someone in their Adelaide office (which I only know exists because of a sub reddit for Adelaide where someone asks "has anyone ever heard of Focus International before?" to which someone replies "these companies are a scam, avoid it like the plague."

This sets off a three and a half month journey trying to get someone to answer my question about never getting paid. Heck, halfway through it I figured I would never get paid for all the work I did or sales I made. At that point it didn't matter. I just wanted someone to CONFIRM that. I just wanted someone to RESPOND to me like some kind of professional business person.

"Oh they're very busy. Send them a message and they'll get back to you..." is the response I always get regarding the non-existence of the accountant in the alleged Adelaide office. Busy? Busy doing what? Not their job apparently! Because they've spent months avoiding questions I have been directed to them for answers. It is impossible to get a hold of them. Their voicemail message says you've reached the voicemail of "beep". Just a beep. No name. The alleged number of the Adelaide office rings and rings until it cuts out. There's little evidence this person even exists.

The lack of business etiquette that stretches across every facet of this company is astounding. I've had more professional interactions with legitimate scammers who want to trick me into illegal money laundering scams. As someone who runs their own business I would have fired the accountant long ago. Hell, I would have fired most of the office long ago from what I saw of them. A lot of them had really poor work ethics. The company must make sales and profits sheerly on pure volume of employees they hire constantly to replace those who quit. It doesn't matter how many they hire after all as they don't need to pay any of them unless they're making the company money. Quantity far outreaches their quality.

Why have I been chasing an answer for so long with no results knowing full well these people are too incompetent to ever learn how a phone works? Because they have a system where part of your sales get taken away and put into a "bond." See, if you sales get cancelled before a certain period of them then it's a loss to the charity if they pay you for it because they haven't earned back their money on a monthy subscription. They take money out of the bond instead so you get to keep your money and the charity gets reimbursed. Makes sense. It stops you from signing people up who want to then go immediately quit it. When you quit you have to wait out the remainder of those last sales before you can collect whatever is left in that bond. The waiting period is 120 days after you quit. I swear I was told 100 days the first time I was told this but when months later I asked about it I got asked my name first before given the answer as if somehow that would affect the outcome? And the only person I'm getting a response from was that one person I had the contact details from the start, who hired me, and has no connection to the accounting side of things and therefore cannot answer any other questions. Hell, getting numbers of people to call out of him is difficult. He told me to call the office in Perth, and the office in Perth told me to call Adelaide. I'm being run in circles here and everyone claims they can't help me despite being told by a former employee that the Perth office is who I should talk to and never had to go through the same things as I did... I can't get a straight answer out of this company despite only having a simple question...

Anyway... that bond. It has been over 120 days since I quit back in the start of August so it is time to inquire about it. Now, I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist... but I'm not going to just accept that it doesn't without someone confirming for me that it doesn't. It is their responsibility to respond to questions about potential money that belongs to me. It is their job as an accountant and I am not going to be satisfied until I get them to do that job. All I want is a simple response. They could easily resolve our business together by answering one phone call and it would be done but they can't. So far I've gotten a bunch of phone calls that ring out until they can't ring anymore. I don't want to leave them alone with business unresolved and questions unanswered and I believe that I might one day get these answers...

...or they're a scam, a dodgy company with no internal structure other than the pyramid scheme design, and I am wasting my time.

Either way: don't work for them and don't hire them to promote your charity. I don't believe in rewarding lazy or incompetent people nor do I support their sales tactics. I feel less inclined to give to charity now that I know how seedy it is trying to trick people into signing up to it.

The past 4 and a half months (I only spent 3 and a half of those trying to chase up the alleged accountant and the previous month either working, or waiting in my post-quitting period to get paid) have been a wasted mix of frustration, hard work with no results, and indignation at the absolutely poor business etiquette displayed by Focus International. I've never met a worse company. I am more annoyed at how badly they've handled my simple inquiry than I am at how bad the job was. The job itself was terrible and I could have simply gone "well it sucks, but someone has to do it" and walk away and let some other fool give it a shot... but what came after really frustrated me. I've had my fair share of bad business interactions both as a freelancer and with established businesses. None of them compare to this company.

If this blog post stops just one person from signing up to them then I have done a good deed and a service to them. If there is a charity that decides against letting Focus International promote them then I will consider that a shining victory. It might just be the best service I've done for someone besides talking them out of suicide. Let's be honest I think saving a life is more important than saving someone from a bad business decision and I've saved lives before... unlike with Focus, who claims that's what you're doing but I assure you saving children's lives through charity is not what they care about at all.

So take that redditor's advice and avoid it like the plague.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Seeing Amity Affliction In The Rain

I'm really bad at planning ahead. The night that Amity Affliction was playing here in Perth I was very busy but was still going. I had to deliver a camera I borrowed before rushing back north to cook dinner (the traffic was abysmal and the rain was heavy) then deliver a costume to an actor (also in the rain) at a house that I couldn't find, before finally getting my friend and concert buddy from her house to drive off to Toodyay to rock out.

My friend hops into the car (quickly, to avoid all the rain) with towels. I wonder why. Turns out I had neglected to Google the venue beforehand. It is an outdoor location... and, like I said... it is raining heavily. We will be standing in this weather for hours. My response: hell yes. That's so metal.

She also has a plastic poncho to protect her from the rain. I did too, but only because my mother put that in the glovebox who knows how long ago and has just been sitting there waiting... Considering my inability to really think ahead things are turning out pretty good for me. I thought we had to be there way earlier. I was (thankfully) very wrong as we got there a lot later than I anticipated. The first act was already playing but I had never heard of them before so that's fine.

On the way I realised I had to buy petrol (see? I am so bad at this thinking ahead of time thing...) and once I did that I explained to my friend what hydroplaning is and how I was worried it would happen in such intense weather. Guess what proceeded to happen...

Thankfully I did not hit the car in front of us as I skidded to a halt at the traffic lights right before the freeway.

Adventure! Metal music on the stereo and windscreen wipers at full speed (the road still obscured by the rain). We encountered the end of day traffic and proceeded to get further into the country until it became apparent this wasn't traffic from people coming home from work but people going to Amity. As we got near our destination the traffic crawled to a stop. In the distance were lights of cars that remained stationary. We were... well we weren't going anywhere any time soon and the people around us realised that. Droves of men got out of their cars to piss in the bushes on the side of the road. One guy literally just started peeing onto the literal side of the road, not going so far as to actually move away from his car more than was required to be perfectly illuminated by his headlights. My friend was on the phone with a friend (also going to the concert) and she mentioned the dude peeing. We were laughing so loud that he must have heard us because he gave us the finger.

Then! A... long wait... but then! Parking! Getting out with our poncho raincoats on and then seeing all the people dressed in black not giving a fuck about the rain and thinking... nope. Nope. Screw this. We took off our ponchos and scrunched them up. Not to be wasteful I asked if anyone wanted one. They didn't. Only after we had gotten rained on did we notice that other people were wearing them... but whatever. YOLO. Plus, my shoes had holes in them so I my feet were drenched from the moment I got out of my car.

The rain was calm... mostly. The worst of the severe weather had passed but it still was on and off all throughout the night.

I have never been very good at opening up at concerts or letting lose. There's this massive inhibition that comes with being surrounded by 4000 other people that makes you think hmm... maybe I won't dance right now. It seems a bit problematic giving that it seems like a helpful thing to increase your enjoyment. The supporting bands were all unknown to me and so I had nothing to connect to. At times the crowd around me (I was near the front because my friend led me there) got energetic and at times it was physically impossible to be still. When you accept that people are going to bump into you and the crowd might lurch forward not as a collection of individuals but a single branch swaying in the movement of something bigger than it and you're going to be taken with it then you get less self conscious about how you move. You've already bumped into or banged against everyone around you. Everyone's in this together.

Slowly but surely I loosened up. It was more of an incentive to move around now that I was absolutely soaked from head to toe from the rain. I didn't feel cold if I was moving. In between acts I drank water from my strands of matted hair and moustache to keep hydrated and talked with my friend and her friend. He had never been to a concert before. He had brought a backpack with water in. How cute.

Then, after hours of waiting in the rain, listening to bands I didn't recognise (not that they were terrible), some minor technical difficulties involving microphones that put things on hold for a while, and shivering... the main act appeared. Amity themselves.

I was excited. This was what it had all been for. The past 5 hours of rain, driving, and delays had been leading up to them walking onto the stage and screaming the lyrics I knew so well.

Most of their songs were from their latest album Let the Ocean Take Me, which is fantastic. It's running theme is a) water (how appropriate that everyone was wet) b) things are far from OK but they will try their best to keep going until they get better. There's a lot of power and inspiration in music. Some people think of metal as just a bunch of bad noises and screaming but it is actually just another way of expressing something raw and powerful. I don't know a more effective way to communicate that you are angry at the world and feel like dying than screaming it as loud as you can and that's what's so great about metal. It is the perfect way to express certain emotions.

The thing about concerts is that it's not just about listening to a song you enjoy. There's a sense of participation involved. Suddenly, music I recognised was playing. I was surrounded by thousands of people, all of whom knew it too and came here to hear it. I let loose. My fists flung into the air and I yelled out the words with all the enthusiasm I could. I had never managed to really throw off my inhibitions at concerts and music festivals until now. I was participating in something bigger than just a session of wearied music listening with the volume turned up on my headphones. My hair was drenched straight and hung down to my shoulders now. Perfect for head banging. It was cathartic yelling into the night words of motivation to keep going through whatever struggles that I may face. I poked my ear and suddenly a blockage unblocked itself! I was hit with a wall of sound and immersed even further. It was like hearing again for the first time in ages... and now, I was listening to Amity up close and in the flesh. Excellent.

Amity's set flew by, as all things do when you're having fun. I raised my arms as the song slowed and closed my eyes momentarily. I have never been comfortable with closing my eyes in public. It had always made me deeply uncomfortable in church so that didn't last long. But here, surrounded by the exhausted and weary metal heads I thought to myself that this did more for me than church ever did.

They had one more song. We knew this was a lie. They hadn't sung Don't Lean on Me yet. After some chanting from the crowd they got to return on stage, ready for the introduction leading in to the build up and then: the crowd screams "LET THE OCEAN TAKE ME!" and we're back again into rocking hard. Bodies writhing in the mosh pit and fists flying in the air over heads with matted hair flinging back and forth.

There is hope in my eyes/there is hope in these words/and there are far too many reasons for you to stay here on this earth. Stay with me.

Screaming that is so rewarding. Who hasn't wanted to scream something similar to a friend who was coping with suicidal thoughts? That strong desire for people to keep going or need for yourself to hear encouragement to keep going is so damn important at some point during most people's lives. That's the main reason why I went to see them in concert. Sure, I liked their previous albums, but this one really moved me thematically. It was angry, sad, aggressive and ultimately empowering to listen to and more importantly: to yell along to.

The concert ended with Give It All which repeats over and over:

I give it all, and when I fall, I get up and give some more/until there's nothing left of me - just some bones stacked on the floor.

I expected it to end on Don't Lean on Me but it was a good decision to end it on this. It perfectly summarises the album for me. Life will beat you down. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. I told myself that as everyone around me told themselves the same. As the music came to an end I felt inspired and exhilarated.

I walked out, drenched, cold, exhausted, and sore, with a massive car park full of hundreds of cars all wanting to leave simultaneously and a long drive home. I was going to go to bed very late with work the next morning which I couldn't function for without an energy drink to wake me up. It was worth it. It was completely worth it.

As I started climbing up from the bottom of the concert up the amphitheatre I turned around to look back at the stage from above. The lights from the stage silhouetted the audience the remained to mill around. Smoke from the stage, breath from thousands of people's mouths, and the mist of rain water evaporating off thousands of people's bodies all combined into a fog that blanketed everything. It was beautiful. The lights from the stage illuminated it all. It looked almost mystical. If only I had a camera it would have been a fantastic photo opportunity but thankfully it is an image that will stick with me forever.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Struggles of Competitive Pokemon Playing

We've almost all played Pokemon, or at least all of us under the age of 27. Those who haven't are strange and rare... like Shiny Pokemon. It is a lot of people's classic childhood game: you get a starter Pokemon (fire is always the best - always), you go on an adventure, you may or may not bond with your collection of pixels equipped with four different moves designed to inflict animal abuse on an NPC's beloved pet, you beat the gym leaders, then you beat the elite four and then either restart the game and do it all over again or you try and complete the Pokedex and henceforth the save file becomes sacred. You can never erase a completed Pokedex save file. It is forbidden.

*whispers* it is forbidden.

It's pretty simple. The game requires a little bit of thought and strategy - mainly just not using Pokemon all of the same type because that's dumb. You're dumb if you do that. That's what gym leaders do and their entire professional career consists of being beaten by 12 year olds. Don't do that.

The game is not entirely that difficult. The biggest challenge for me was always trying to figure out the puzzles that prevented you from getting from one area to the next (like a maze of doors that locked or unlocked or the teleporting pads in Team Aqua's hideout etc) and the battles just required building up strength. The aim of the game is, in short: level up your Pokemon until they can punch things in the face harder than they can punch back. Simple and wholesome fun for kids aged 8-12. If you're losing just train more and more and more. It's an adventure! Pick it up years later when a new game comes out and it's the same thing all over again only with newer graphics and less recognisable Pokemon.

This is not at all what playing competitively is like. Playing competitively is soul-crushing and to take it seriously is to become obsessive. Pokemon is far more complicated than it seems on the surface. At its core you are playing paper scissors rock (fire, water, grass... as well as 14 other types) but there are so many special circumstances, modifiers, amendments, and so much more that may suddenly change that scissor into a rock crushing machine.

I'm here to look  cute and ruin lives!

For example: Grass is defensively weak against fire and offensively neutral so if you equip your grass Pokemon with a water move then suddenly it can fight back. If it's raining then water moves become more powerful. Moves have a "base power" which means it is X-strong but now with rain and being super effective that base power is 1.5X and the damage is doubled. Fire Pokemon is kinda screwed right? Well not if it goes first so whoever wins might depend on who is faster. They both might have the same base speed stat but then there are things called EV's (Effort Values) which are basically extras boosts to certain stats that naturally happen as you're playing. Defeating certain Pokemon contributes to something like your attack stats or your speed stats so if you have more EVs into speed you can move faster than things you might otherwise be slower than (especially if they're busy putting those extra stats into attack). So Fire Pokemon is now faster! Aha! You are going down Grass Pokemon! But wait - the Pokemon is holding a particular item that boosts its speed (but limits it to using the first move it uses) called a Choice Scarf. Aha! Fire Pokemon is screwed! But aha! Fire Pokemon isn't taking any chances and uses a priority move which means it goes first regardless of speed stats. Aha! Now fire moves are usually Special Attack but this priority move is a physical attack so uses the Attack stat, not the superior Special Attack stat. There's Special/Normal Attack/Defence so someone can be physically defensive and almost impossible to kill with physical attacks (thus certain Pokemon are completely unusable against it) but because of the paper scissors rock metaphor they are incredibly easy to kill with special attacks (or if they're great at both then they're weak at attacking or really slow. For every advantage there's a disadvantage... unless you're Mew in which case you're adorable AND awesome at everything). This means that even though this fire move is twice as powerful against this grass Pokemon the move isn't that strong because this Fire Pokemon is a special attacker, not a physical one. Furthermore the Grass Pokemon has a high physical Defence stat instead of a Special Defence stat and thus can withstand the hit and use their water move and win...

...unless they miss... or the fire move gets a critical hit which makes it cause even more damage. I forgot to mention that if you use a move with the same type as you are then it is increased by 1.5X so the grass Pokemon doesn't get this advantage on a water move. They could also have used some form of stat increase like Swords Dance that makes their attack stat 2X. There are a lot of factors going on here.

Then there's Pokemon with two types which can cause 4x weaknesses to some attacks, or immunities to some attacks that would be super effective to one of their two types. Then there's Pokemon with abilities that negate or lessen their weaknesses like Levitate, which makes Pokemon immune to ground type attacks.

Now imagine that level of complexity. All the time... times 6 (for the 6 Pokemon in your party). Only there are hundreds of different Pokemon with different strategies involved to choose from... And there are up to three different abilities that a Pokemon can have so you're not entirely sure if something is weak to ground moves or immune to them. There are a variety of different moves any given Pokemon can have. Some Pokemon can be built to be either Special Attackers or Physical Attackers or both simultaneously so you can't tell if you're prepared to defend yourself against them until you get punched in the face and see how well you survive.

My favourite thing is when casual players don't obsess over utilising this mechanic and I use an Avalugg with Curse against them. Curse lowers speed for raising Attacking/Defence. This lowered speed would hinder other Pokemon but Avalugg is literally a giant chunk of ice and is one of the slowest possible things you could ever use. It always goes last so Curse just makes it more powerful and harder to kill every turn. With the help of the item Leftovers (which heals you a little bit each turn) and the move Protect (that protects you from damage for one turn so you lose no damage but Leftovers still heals you) you can keep getting harder and harder to kill and just keep healing yourself... When faced with an Avalugg the reaction 50% of the time is give up and leave. There's a lot of joy of having your opponent quit after a few turns because they just can't deal with a literal hunk of ice. Of course it has a shockingly abysmal special defence and is actually incredibly easy to kill if you know how... But it's a new Pokemon that no one would in their right mind use (because of it's terrible weakness and ice typing) so not many people realise the proper way to deal with it. It's either an easy win or a quick defeat and you have to gamble on your opponent's knowledge of the game, Avalugg, and their team's build. They removed gambling from the single player game but it is stronger than ever in competitive matches.

There's too much complexity. It keeps going. It never stops... and the shift from one generation to another might make the same strategy completely useless in a new playing field. You have to keep developing your strategies and counter measures.

There's psychology involved too. In the normal game an NPC will not switch their Pokemon out until it faints so this gives you the chance to switch out if things are going poorly and bring in something else designed for the job and easily defeat it. A human won't let this go down. You can bring in something that is strong against something then predict that your opponent will use up a turn switching to something else to deal with the new threat. At this point you can switch out too and they're faced with the same problem as before and have to either switch back and forth (and risk getting attacked) or stand and fight. You can also attack with a move you predict to be better suited for what you think they'll switch to instead of the Pokemon they've already gotten out so when they switch in they switch in to a lot of damage. Of course this might backfire and you've wasted a turn on an ineffective move when you could be hitting the opponent with super effective moves.

Then comes strategies and team building... That's right... we're only starting (but I won't go into much detail and will leave you soon to try and process all of this).

Have you heard of status buffs and Baton Pass chains? Well... if you increase you attack stat it disappears if you switch out unless you use Baton Pass so the new Pokemon has all the increased stats and starts off super powerful. If the opposing team is doesn't have taunt/clear smog/destiny bond/roar/whirlwind (which is negatable with ingrain) then a Baton Pass chain quickly becomes unstoppable unless it's relying on an Espeon with Stored Power in which case an Aegislash can defeat it with sucker punch. 

*Deep breath*

So naturally I decided that after a few weeks of obsessing over this I needed to quit. This wasn't just something I should do but I had to do. Pokemon was consuming my time... my life. I was thinking about how to improve my team of Baton Passers or create the perfect mix of aggressive attackers with token Special/Physical walls or how to overcome Aegislash or a Baton Pass chain team or trying to utilise the ability Speed Boost and Swords Dance combo but realising Taunt screws me over so perhaps I should go for a suicide Skarmory lead with spikes and stealth rock for entry hazards and hope they don't have rapid spin and so forth and so forth until my brain felt like it was melting through my ears and I had trouble sleeping.

That's right. Pokemon caused me to lose sleep. I needed to win. But because it is basically paper scissors rock with 1000 variables instead of 3 there is no way to defeat every team. One strategy will easily defeat all sorts of teams only to have one thing screw it up and cause another team to absolutely destroy you.

Just don't do it. Just... stop. Pokemon is a good bit of fun for kids and offers you an increased complexity if you so wish to get into it more but playing it competitively is a fast tracked way to insomnia and disaster. There are people who have been obsessing over this for several years. I was tutored by someone who had been playing competitively for 7 years. I didn't understand a word he said at first but it all eventually sunk in and I saw a world of Pokemon I never did before... and it was far too big for me... These people will destroy you. This game will destroy you.

But... if that brief introduction to how complex Pokemon can get (we have only just begun to scratch the surface of strategy) was interesting to you then maybe try it out? If you saw that as an incomprehensible wall of alienating text than good. Good... you have a chance to get out of this franchise alive.

Hey kids, you want to buy some drugs?

I personally have been Pokemon-free for a while now. I attend regular Pokemon Masters Anonymous meetings. My family is saying I'm looking healthy and the twitches have nearly subsided. I hope that my Pokemon addiction won't relapse in the future but who knows... Hoenn remakes are come out soon.

You cannot escape me forever... I'm coming for you...
Art by Ken Sugimori.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Journey Updated

Hello, dear. It's been a while hasn't it? Sit down! Sit down. There are stories to tell.

When we last left our intrepid hero and narrator (me) I was looking back on how I had recently graduated and was avidly writing daily. I have continued this routine onwards to the present day and will for the foreseeable future. It seems small at times but in the grand scale of things getting tiny things done on a daily basis makes for a butt load of accumulated productivity! I've written nearly a whole novel worth of short stories. I will soon to be published in Querelle Magazine. Soon I will be unstoppable... or at the very least a bit more recognised in the writing world.

It is so unfortunate that this year has been so scarcely documented. Well, of course it has been recorded in many forms, just not here. So... let's begin. A recap of the interesting events of the first half of the year are as follows:

I graduated back in February and have yet to go on a single life changing road trip with friends who I will bond with for life. Disappointing, I know. I even had a song in mind and everything to play while the sun is setting and casting a beautiful rich yellow glow through the windows like you see in Corona ads. You know: the kind of imagery that makes you think "wow that's beautiful" when you're not experiencing it for real life because if you were you'd be going "ow this is painfully bright and I am risk of crashing and dying. These are actually really unreasonable conditions to drive in."

This is so beautiful... it burns.

That song is Sloppy Seconds by Watsky and not everyone in the car would recognise it when it's first played but by the third time in the playlist it comes up our way back everyone would sing along "I don't care/where you've been/how many miles/I still love you" in unison. It would be a memory that would bring a smile to everyone who was present years later when they reminisce about the great moments of their early 20s...

There's still time though and I did go on a road trip but that's skipping ahead. Patience reader. Patience.

Instead of life changing road trips I was having a small 22nd birthday party with a close crew of friends plus "Beard." Beard was named so after the slang term for "please help convince my parents I'm not gay" and I made a point to refuse to hear his real name for the entire night. This got very confusing later when someone said his name and said he was leaving at which point I went "....who?" He was the youngest person there and it was a strange nostalgic experience interacting with someone younger than I'd normally be friends with. It was a journey into the past... only with alcohol involved. As I sipped my rosé, Beard was eagerly asking me what metal bands I liked and if I'd heard about such and such.

"Oh them! Yeah I used to love them when I was a teenager..." It was strangely nostalgic. I wasn't incapable of appreciating the bands we talked about. I still had their music stored away in folders oft-neglected. My tastes had evolved from the narrow progression of hard rock > metal > heavy metal > European folk metal bands that dress up like Viking peasants and rock the flute harder than teenagers with shoulder length hair rock their guitars as they dream of one day being super famous and getting all the girls.

We've all been there, am I right? Personally that last one is still my favourite sub-genre of metal right behind "Sympthonic revival swing cello metal."

And my mother says I just make up musical genres...

Talking to someone several years younger than you and seeing a reflection of your younger self projected back at you is an odd experience. It feels like the universe is trying to point at your past and go "I told you it was just a phase..." It implies there are limited archetypes and you got stuck with the "metal fan with limited musical tastes" archetype instead of the "popular sporty teen" archetype and now you're trying to lose that extra weight to prevent a beer belly in your future years and have more Korn albums than you're willing to admit owning in normal conversation. I even had hair that went past my shoulders. It's unfortunately plastered all over my forms of ID. This caused me a bit of worry when I shaved all my hair off and caused me to say "world's greatest shave" as a reflex whenever someone checked my ID and their gaze went up from the mop of hair to a bald dome. Thankfully there never was any issue but I feared that it would arise at any time...

See, at this point this would be the beginning of a story of how I came to learn more about myself as a person through the lens of the greater scheme of things. Seeking purpose and figuring out the elusive concept of a "career" would just be this particular phase of life that is shared by many of my age and will seem strangely distant and nostalgic to me five years later, just as listening almost solely to metal is to me now. This journey would have a few twists, turns, a plucky side kick supporting character who was my opposite (as is traditional in comedic duos) but shared a core sense of humour that allowed us to bond. Together, and with the help of a few misfortunes (and that fabled road trip that never was) I would discover something about myself that alleviated all fears for the future and brought this conveniently firm sense of closure on insecurities and woes. The future is bright and wonderful and I am ready to face it!

(Sloppy Seconds by Watsky plays in the background as I put on sunglasses for the sake of a visual pun.)

But this isn't a novel this is life so instead of going on an ultimate singular journey of self discovery I went to Brisbane. It was the first time I'd bought my own plane ticket. I'd flown a few times previously but was not the sole person involved in organising my flights. Previously it was family trips together or business related where I didn't so much fly somewhere as have someone fly me there.

While in Brisbane I went camping for the first time since about 2006. There's something really unusual about sunsets over the land. It's not just because I'm used to being in the West but because they're so... unspectacular if there's a hill in the way. Oh look. The ground. There are indeed some orange clouds peaking out from that land you got there. (And people complain that WA is flat?) The things to see were always in the East. From atop Mount Coot-tha I looked out over the entire city of Brisbane and watched the city lights turn on as the sky above it darkened. It was a sunset with the absence of a sunset.

Sunrises, on the other hand, are more fantastic in the East - only with the dreaded downside of requiring you to get up before the sun rises to view them. This is a more manageable task if you happen to be camping next to a family with small children. I had a brief (not life changing) road trip up the coast to a small town I don't remember the name of and watched the sun rise. And boy what a beautiful sunrise it was...


The small (yet not life changing) road trips continued a few months later with the same person. Dearest Sarah flew over to Perth and, like the faithful photographer boyfriend I am, I spent a lot of time walking behind her so I could get some majestic wide shots of her in front of large bodies of water:


Margaret River.

Margaret River again...

It just keeps happening! 

I clearly have a problem here.

I'm beginning to sense a recurring theme in this relationship... and my creative work...

Then came Supanova. It's an odd experience when you attend a comic convention not to spend all your money on comics but because at least half of your interest in it is because of the indepedant comics companies and panels about the topic. I managed not to spend all my money on signed posters and art that I have no room to hang up. Instead I spent a large amount of time talking to editors and writers in between admiring the artists. The experience inspired me (especially the WETA design workshop which was about the intracacies of costume design in The Hobbit) to go home and work on putting artistic skills to practical skills. We'll see where that gets me in the future in the inevitable update to this blog "The Journey Never Ends." Stay tuned readers.

Of course there were so many more things that happened and I could be here for a long time listing the smaller things. But these things stand out in my mind. There are more famous and iconic moments in a person's adulthood like first car, first time renting, marriage, etc... But these smaller things are still interesting to me. We're always getting older it's only when there's a certain moment that demonstrates just how different you are to how you used to be that we realise the progress we've made. This year has been the year of plane flights. My brother flew off to Singapore, I've been flying back and forth from Brisbane, and my mother went to Texas for a while and I became the head of the household. I've been going on road trips. They're not the corona-ad styled "life changers" that exist in clever marketing campaigns and Young Adult fiction. They're the moments you realise you've grown even more independent than you were before. You're ready for adventure! Yeah!

Plus wow aren't I glad my music tastes developed past "METAL! \m/" That's a really underrated point of development as an adult: appreciating a wider variety of things. Next stop in that "music tastes vs adulthood" continuum: hating everything young people listen to and running the 96.1FMs attitude of only listening to "real" music (aka: things from before the mid 90s that feature guitars).

I've been an adult for many years now but adulthood isn't a singular state of being thrust suddenly upon a person at age 18. That's what 17 year olds think when they're approaching 18 and think "I'm not ready." Chill. You're fine. There are many more small milestones to collect along the way after you turn 18. I'm doing pretty well. My "adult scouts" club has just recently awarded me (and many others my age) the "dissastisfied with the federal budget" badge as well as the "disheartened and disillusioned with the state of politics" badge! It came shortly after the milestone of growing up that is "Senate elections." This will come naturally to you, dear 17 year old reader... I'm sorry... I'm so sorry. With growing up comes adventure, independence, and... politics. You can't have everything to be wonderful all the time, I'm afraid.

But the bright side is you get to drink a lot so there's that... and make your own purchase decisions with the money you earned and buy things like this:

Cheers WTNV.

So, like a Young Adult novel, I must now find an appropriate end with a positive take on the events presented and their running thematic imagery. Growing up is a gradual process and you can find joy in the little things, even if they're not the big life-changing events sold to you by the media and fiction writers ( future fiction will definitely not give into these tropes... *cough* oh my, excuse me). We are always becoming newer people in our own way. At the start of this year I was more concerned about getting published than exploring the coast of East and West but I can see how these experiences have demonstrated a sense of independence to myself. It's good to grow... an adventures can still be fun even if they teach you things.

And, as always... sunsets look better over the ocean:

Brisbane ain't got nothing on Busselton sunsets.

This blog post was brought to you by listening to Sum 41 because things you loved in your teenage years aren't always bad. Speaking of teenage interests: Weird Al has a new album that I look forward to listening to. 2014 is shaping up to be a fantastic year. Here's to the next half of 2014, dear readers

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Journey Thus Far

So I graduated a while ago. Good on me. So did a bunch of other people. I'm not entirely sure how...

No really. It confuses me. But I digress.

"What has life been like after graduation?" is a question I get a lot these days as if somehow I kept going to university all the way up to graduation day instead of finishing all classes and assignments back in mid-November last year. The answer is: the same as it has been since mid-November. Way less eventful.

I got a job. Life is still very uneventful. School photography is not exactly an all-year-round thing as you might have guessed by the existence of school holidays. Schools also don't seem to want to get photos at the end of terms as some kids have already vanished so there are periods where it's quieter than usual. This is one of those times. What have I been doing with myself?

Well I wrote. A lot. If you've ever gone to a Q&A or convention where a writer gets to talk there will always be that one person who asks "what's the best advice you have to someone who wants to become a writer?" The writer's response is always "write a lot and just keep writing." Write everyday is basically the secret of writing. Practice makes perfect. It's not just practicing your skill but your ability to be persistent and commit to ideas. You write every day you realise after a while that this is sometimes really difficult so you need to keep at it and work hard every day to get an amount of writing done. Eventfully you get better at sitting down and focusing at the task at hand: which is writing.

I've been writing every day. See I have wanted to be a writer since I can remember having career aspirations but I didn't really do that much writing. I had been working on a novel since 2008 and I still hadn't finished a draft of it. I was stuck in other habits like... whatever consumes my time on the internet (it changes every few years. It originally was neopets but then again that was the same for everyone else wasn't it?). There was always the excuse that I should be doing assignments (which I proceeded not to do because heck yeah procrastination! Every student's most advanced skill) but when I handed in my final assignment ever I realised I didn't have an excuse any more.

I only had the rest of my life ahead of me...

Well... damn. No pressure.

So I started writing 500 words every day (with few exceptions like new years day because no one is functional on new years day). It didn't matter what it was as long as it was something. I worked on my novel and then went back and edited it, finding that I had more things to add to it and found my 500 words a day that way. When I finished writing a draft of it I had to find something else to write so I came up with short stories just to keep up the habit. I spent days where I lazed around not wanting to do anything, wasting away my time on the internet *cough* tumblr *cough* but the one thing I managed to do was get those 500 words done because I had to and it saved me from hating the waste of the day. It wasn't an entire waste after all: I wrote something. It forced me to be creative. I sat for ages staring blankly at a screen but was determined not to give up and eventually something clicked in my head and those words started flowing. That was important. Before if nothing came to mind I would move on and think "OK today is not the day" but that's not true. Writing doesn't happen until you open a word document or put pen to paper. Inspiration may be wonderful but waiting for it to happen will only slow you down.

So I've written a lot. I hope to get published. I've already pitched something to a publishing house (yet to get a response so let's just not talk about it for now), I've moved onto another project I wish to get published, I've even started doing a treatment for a feature film, started notes for another novel, and more. It just keeps going. Even on days when I had to get up at 5am to go to my work as a photographer I came home after 12 hours, sat down, and got my writing done.

That's pretty much it though. I got a job as a school photographer where not much happens so I write a lot. That's been my life thus far. I've done a few film things for Second Chance Theatre and will do some more film things for other people in the future. I also travelled over east for a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney where I met a bunch of people and didn't get a good photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (it probably hasn't changed since last time I was there).

This is what adulthood is now for me. It's working towards my life goal daily because I realised that life goes nowhere unless you make it. I may not be getting paid much right now, and there are a few things left to be desired, but I can be comforted by the fact that I'm making a commitment to get my writing done every day because that's going to one day come back and reward me.

Good luck future adults.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Representation And Why It Matters

Imagine Africa. What are you thinking of?

Now you've probably never been there (and if you have you're excluded from this exercise. Shush) and you're probably thinking of the following things: starving children (probably orphans due to parents dying from AIDS) and civil wars. That, or giraffes and zebras... but ooh no they're being poached. And jungles with malaria in them! Don't forget the malaria. Ahhhh isn't everything in Africa terrible?

Well for starters: where in Africa are we even talking about here? Africa is pretty huge with over 50 countries in it and takes up over 20% of the Earth's landmass. I've found that discussions of "Africa" have this very generalised idea of the area as this one big mixing pot of poverty and war which does exist, but it's a very limited picture of the second biggest continent in the world. The problem here is that we have a continent with more countries than there are states in the USA and our ideas are based off selective media images. We've all seen the ads asking us to fund a child for $2 so they can get clean water and clothes that don't look like post-apocalyptic remnants picked off the ground and then there was that whole Kony debacle (a lengthy discussion of which we should all take elsewhere) so that's the image we get of "Africa." Of course not all of the continent is like that but there's nothing interesting to the media to show you a more complicated image of Africa because all the interesting parts involve conflict and despair. At what point does a movie go "hey, let's just show this teenager on his smart phone doing something fun with his school friends and not at all being a child soldier"? That's boring. That's too normal. Africa becomes interesting in its "otherness". It's shocking to see such extreme poverty and it's different thus it fuels news and movies set there.

So we get unfortunate things where people talk about Africa is a singular thing (I personally am actually referring to the continent as a whole not applying a single image to the continent), or people go to visit the non-war torn areas and go "wow! Wi-fi in Africa?" There are tons of videos out there of Western people encountering people in Africa and remarking at how little difference there is. They're just like us only with a different language and hotter weather (though even both of those can be completely wrong).
Oh look a map of places where English is an official language that just screwed over what I just said. See, aren't assumptions silly?

Westerners then go back feeling good that they got to learn a thing or two about a different culture that they otherwise wouldn't have known. They've had a really good learning experience.

The media is a window into the experiences we cannot have ourselves. When people don't go to Africa (somewhere in there...) they have to rely solely on these media images of "Africa" to form their opinions and ideas of it. Representation matters because without it we can fall prey to stereotypes and partially informed or incomplete opinions.

Now imagine a gay man. Are you thinking of those singlets to show off their carefully toned torso that extends to soft feminine hands with finely done nails? Short shorts and a girlish laugh? The word "fabulous" thrown around a lot? Maybe they're sassy? Now a lesbian: undercut haircut and men's plaid shirts? Gruff and aggressive towards men? These people exist and there's no issue with them existing but the problem arises when people cannot imagine the label of "gay" or "lesbian" applying to anyone outside of these images. These images become stereotypes. What if a girl wants to wear a man's shirt but she's straight? Well damn she's screwed finding a guy then because now she's the Media Image of a lesbian and then the gay guy who has no fashion sense is accused of being "a bad homosexual". Gosh, don't you know how to be gay?

See straight people (or white people) are represented so often in so many different ways that no one looks at you and goes "oh, you're straight? You must like X" because we don't get limited ideas about who they should be. Well, OK then we have gender stereotypes too but that also causes issues with queer representation because the assumption is you must exhibit gender traits of the opposite gender to what you're attracted to (hence lesbians must be butch and gay men must be feminine). When we have 2D representations of minorities people cannot easily shake prejudices towards those groups because they cannot understand them as fully functional and real people without actually meeting one. Not everyone is going to be graced with the presence of numerous multi-faceted queer people of all different kinds in their lives and so must rely solely on media representations to form opinions. They don't get the chance to meet a queer person and go "wow, you're nothing like I expected from TV! You're actually a person. I see now why there's no real justification to my prejudices and I was needlessly mean before!" (People talk like that right?) When all they ever see is gay people being the butt of some terrible joke then they don't think of them as much more than entertainment. Queer people in the media frequently aren't important, they aren't interesting, they're all the same, and there's no backlash for making fun of them because it's a socially acceptable thing to do. Without any voices or media input to challenge that it leaks out into society's behaviour, then society makes more negative representations and then the cycle of discrimination continues.

Now imagine you are queer (there's a lot of assumptions in these exercises like that you're not a queer person who likes to travel but shhh) and you're watching TV. Perhaps the ever popular Big Bang Theory and you think "oh boy a show about nerds, a stereotypically socially ostricised group, maybe they'll be nice! Finally they get stood up for instead of stood on!" and you find that not only is "hahaha nerds are losers" the joke of the show but two of these "losers" (Raj and Wolowitz) have a running joke that they're gay and they must constantly defend themselves. Gosh, isn't it funny that they're secretly gay? What about some kind of positive representation of yourself in the media? (they exist, but are few) What if you don't fit into those aforementioned media images of queer people? You have a problem. People don't respect you and it's painfully obvious that you don't fit in. It sucks when there's no role model you can look up to, there's no solace in the media you consume, and maybe you should just stay closeted because there's nothing that helps the people around you understand you or the pain of growing up queer.

Think it doesn't matter? What pain am I talking about? Well here's a message from a reader of Young Avengers (a comic with gay characters) that was published in issue #7 that can demonstrates better than I ever could why we need positive queer representations in the media:

Representation matters. There's a whole section of the population not properly being represented in the media and that should change... oh, and don't say "Africa" as a singular entity unless you mean the content.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Groggy Recollection of New Years Eve

I'm very sore... my body hurts but my head is fine. I have remarkably managed to drink sufficient water before going to sleep (at about 4am) to avoid a hangover... But I did get very drunk. Let's recap:

I didn't have plans for new years eve until new years eve. I hadn't been invited anywhere (friend who normally brings me places left the state) but I knew of a party happening. A friend on the day kindly let me be their plus-one and off I went with my two pals Alex and Karim. We'd never been drunk all three of us in the same spot at the same time so decided to fix this. It was fun.

The party took place in the country. There was a section of the property called "tent city." I did not have a tent to sleep in. This isn't important until later but it just sets the environment... and the environment was perfectly suited to get crazy drunk and being super loud as neighbours wouldn't be able to hear us. Things that were yelled out during the night include: an explanation of the political situation in Egypt, bragging about our superior comic book knowledge, and "EAGLE! EAGLE!" before piggy back rides.

Alex tore my pants when he picked me up. The tear, of course, was right where my crotch is so my underwear was visible for at least half of the night. Thankfully I was drunk enough not to be crippled with self consciousness. Karim led me to his car (parked behind a shed of some kind so out of sight of the party) and offered me a spare pare of shorts. I didn't ended up wearing them. Somehow this led to one of Alex's friends suggesting I take my pants off...

Karim, Alex, and I all returned the party without pants with the idea of seeing how long it would take for people to notice that we weren't wearing pants. Answer: not that long.

Don't worry, I eventually put my pants back on... but the tear kept getting larger and well... those pants are pretty dead now. Oh well. Being pantsless was fun for a bit.

There was a thing of some kind. An inflatable thing with big soft poles that you used to fight each other with. The arena had four small platforms you could stand on and I suppose one kind of fight would involve four players seeing who could stay on top of them for long enough while being pushed. We sorta did that? But then it quickly devolved into just beating each other. The platforms themselves were just big plastic cushions that you could remove which left four big holes in the arena that went all the way to the grass. This + a lot of alcohol made the entire arena a troublesome place to stay upright in. It was a bit slippery to begin with and while rushing around in the dark we (mainly me) would frequently fall down into these holes and momentarily get stuck which was a perfect opportunity to get beaten. The new rules of the "beat each other up" game became "push them over the edge of the arena" and it was difficult but after a long fight with Karim I finally won... To be fair it is difficult to push your opponent anywhere if they spend half their time in a hole going "oh gosh not again."

I own a Nokia phone. You know the kind: small, no camera, no internet access, no interesting features except "snake", and no known way to completely destroy them. Whenever I show it to people I demonstrate that why yes, you can just drop it on the floor and it'll be fine. Look: no cracks in the screen. Screw you iphone owners! Well I finally got the opportunity to demonstrate to someone what happens when you throw it at the wall. The answer is the back comes off, the battery comes out, and the three pieces fly everywhere. This happens most of the time when I drop it anyway the only problem is I couldn't find the back plate so now I have a phone with an exposed battery. It works perfectly fine though. The screen didn't even get a scratch.

I smoked my first cigarette. Surprisingly not that bad? I was quite drunk at that point. I made an effort to make sure I was drunk for as much of it as possible and got most of the drinking out of the near the start. I actually quite dislike the idea of smoking. I don't want to become a smoker and I find it a really unappealing habit... but I hadn't ever done it so I figured I wanted to do it at least once. I'm not entirely sure if I did it correctly but I could hardly stop and ask the guy I got given the cigarette from. He was quite wasted and was telling me his opinions about The Hobbit movies ("I've read the book like 6 times...") and how he didn't like how the 2nd one wasn't that close to the book due to the inclusion of Tauriel ("I've read the book like 6 times..." he reminds me) but the 1st movie was pretty close to the book ("I've read the book like 6 times...") but he didn't like the 2nd one because you see it wasn't that close to the book (which he then told me that he'd read "like 6 times") and then he repeated everything all over again. He was thus too busy to go "ok how you smoke it is like this..." But I discovered that the deeper you breathe in smoke the worse it is. My breathing rhythm slowed while smoking and it continued on for a bit afterwards which was quite relaxing despite the fact that I now smelled freaking terrible. I figure I could probably still feel relaxed if I just did some nice slow breathing exercises instead and it would have the added bonus of not giving me lung cancer. Cool huh? Yay new experiences!

I was drunk enough to dance. That's pretty drunk. Some girl asked me to dance. I did so but after a while thought "...I actually want to leave now..." and there's no point where mid-dancing you just go "oh OK cool. I'm going to walk away from you now..." Thankfully at the same time she decided that she would go off and do something else so we just mutually walked away from each other. That was convenient.

After a night of running around, running up slides, fighting with plastic, drinking, and harming my body in new ways it was time to sleep. I slept in Karim's car which was an improvement from last new years where I slept in a tent (the ground is even more uncomfortable than a car) where it was colder and also more exposed to mosquitoes. This year I woke up without a bunch of bug bites all over me so huzzah! And just like last year I got about 2 hours sleep before I was awoken by the sunrise. I got a lift home with someone else who was leaving at 6:30am and I got home where I showered and fell asleep.

I'm tired, I'm sore all over (except the head, we've mentioned this), and I have only one new years resolution: take a lot of selfies. I mean, why not right? Here's day 1:

I had fun. I look forward to 2014. First year of not being a student... should be interesting.

Onwards! To adventure!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

City Adventures

Yesterday I went on an adventure in the city with a bunch of fellow nerdfighters. Perth nerdfighters aren't well known for their gatherings (I've never been to one) so we decided that this counted as one, just a small one. I didn't know them and I'm not sure if they all knew each other either but we were all summoned there by Mia, a visitor from Canberra, who we all decided to say hello to and lead around Perth.

We started our adventure by congregating around the giant cactus. Every Perthian knows of the giant cactus. Thing is I only knew Mia, and when I got there she wasn't there, so I saw a large group of people and headed towards them... but wasn't sure if they were The Group so I stopped short and awkwardly chilled off to the side. They saw me and went "you're probably with us." They were right. I'm glad we got that sorted out.

Mia arrived. The adventure begun... after we had stood around talking for a bit and deciding that even though the shade was nice we did want to see something in the city even if we weren't quite sure what that was. It ended up being nerd stores (for nerds... like... us). Then we encountered a Dalek:

Don't worry we survived. It was a placid Dalek that did not mind photos.

Adventures continued through various nerd stores - one of which I had never been in before. I felt somewhat inadequate as a nerd having no idea about it but then again doesn't it add to my stereotypical nerd cred if I don't go out to the city enough to know about it? Nerd-paradox! No one bought anything which was probably unfortunate for the shop owners because you'd probably be expecting good business if nearly a dozen people walk into your store. By this point we had collectively agreed that when we accidentally split up the code word to yell out was "group!" and hope it is answered so we could reunite and continue onwards like the oncoming storm of "just endlessly browsing" that we were.


Then we got food. Food was good but Jake (pictured above) bought a pizza that they did not want to finish. The problem was that none of us wanted the last slice either... so he started offering it to random strangers who walked past. They didn't take it.

Who wouldn't take an innocent slice of pizza off this guy?

It became a competition. We would grab it and offer to someone, get rejected, and pass it off to the next person who would similarly have no luck. Note: if you are to repeat this try not to offer it to small children. It makes you look creepy and probably will get you kicked out of the food court by security... after we were kicked out by security the next thing we did was try and give Jake's number on a piece of paper out to people in the street. Because passing out things to random strangers is not at all suspicious and has worked really well for us thus far? Screw logic this is an adventure. We went into another comic book store where people were browsing (with real intention to buy) and Mia whispered "offer it to that guy over there..."

"That guy" heard us and went "hmm? Sorry were you talking about me?" What remarkable ears. She explained how we were trying to get people to accept Jake's number. He accepted as a joke but on our way out someone pointed out that Jake's handwriting made it difficult to understand that his 7 was a 7 and not a 2 so he called out "I wouldn't call someone who can't write a 7!"

Will this burgeoning romance flourish or crash and burn due to Jake's substandard handwriting skills? I fear this ship will never become canon...

In the background firetrucks were driving around. There were a lot of police present. Someone was getting arrested. The police/firetruck presence was on for a while so as we walked in and out of stores we would occasionally see them.

The natural response is to take a group selfie with the firetruck in the background right?

Next was Myer where we discovered the comfiest couch in existence. I could've slept on that couch. It costed 6 grand. No one agreed on the best way to steal it or who would get ownership (I voted me, Jake voted himself, Mia wanted it for herself etc).
The natural response to any situation for out generation is to take a group selfie.

We chilled there for quite some time and no one kicked us out. No staff even bothered to ask us if we would move on instead of sitting on all the furniture. It was disappointing. The worst thing the staff did was when they asked if we needed assistance and we said we were looking for the toys section (for nerf guns). They looked at us and asked "aren't you a bit old for that?" but helped and then we found LEGO DARTH VADER:

Awwww yeah.

Can we stop for a moment to talk about store mannequins? I know they're infamous for not being good representations of the female form but those discussions rarely ever centre around things like necks. This is totally not how necks work:

That's not quite right. It's too long.

Something's wrong...

Kill it with fire!

Things were pretty chill from then on. Some point during this adventure we were all sitting around and someone was looking at photos on their phone that the person next to me had taken. I leaned over and saw their name (Matthew Cabrera) and recognised it. I had somehow spent a few hours with this person without learning their name (that's not that unusual) only to discover that I knew who they were. We had a bunch of mutual friends (oh Perth), I'd watched a music video the other day he'd worked on, and he even follows me on tumblr! Now why he didn't mention that earlier I don't know. Isn't the appropriate thing to say when you first meet someone "I read your blog"? Seriously, if you bump into me and you follow my blog or youtube channel please tell me. Someone else in the group did. They got a sweet high-five. It was great. After a while I realised that basically everyone there knew who I was in some way or another (mainly Facebook. We're in a giant group of 2700+ people together and I contribute regularly) even though I had only heard of a few of them.

We sat on a bench outside of a place that did piercings for $15. Jake dared someone to get one but no one did... and by then it was reasonably far into the afternoon so we parted. The group had thinned by then and there only a few of us left. I said goodbye to all the new people I had met, Mia had discovered the wonders of wandering around Hay Street (rock candy!... and comics), and I had gotten my exercise for the day.

All in all it was a fun day out and remarkably I didn't get sunburned. Huzzah! Really that's the true measurement of success for a day outside.

DFBTA fellow Perth Nerdfighters.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Post-University Blues

I hate the question "have you got a job yet?"

"No," I say for the umpteenth time. The question isn't so bad by itself because it is just someone being curious about your life. It's good to know they care. The problem comes with the inevitable follow up.

"Have you tried X?" or "you should get a job" or "why haven't you got a job yet?" and "don't worry, just keep trying you'll get one eventually."

These don't really add anything to the discussion it's more of just words thrown at me in the form of cliche sentences. X is often something very simple and basic like "putting resumes out all over the place" or "looked online for available jobs" and the answer is always (always) "yes... of course." I should get a job? Oh thank you. I was not aware of this. The fact that I cannot afford anything I want was not an indication. The endless months of complaining that I cannot afford anything were really just to annoy you. Why don't I have a job? Because no one has employed me. There isn't any other reasons. It's not like there are secretly massive proboscis sticking out of my forehead that only you can't see and the satanic tattoo that covers it is putting employers off. Simply put: people just don't want to employ me. Why? I don't know. Some kind of mental deficiency, probably. Why wouldn't you employ this kawaii individual?

(I don't get it either.)

Then there's the ever cheery optimistic "just keep trying." It's like telling someone hanging off a cliff to "just hang on!" It's technically very good advice and advice I'm sure to follow, but it's not really necessary to say. Oh sorry, here I was thinking that maybe I should let go. I don't know about you but those jagged rocks of permanent joblessness and poverty sure look enticing compared to this belittling conversation we seem to be having.

I don't need job advice I need a job. It is almost guaranteed that a dozen other people have contributed the same thing as you to this discussion previously. I do not exist in a vacuum of information that relies on you to come in and direct me like a clueless individual who has been meandering aimlessly bumping into things thinking "why aren't I getting paid for this yet?"

I would super love to get paid to aimlessly bump into things by the way so if anyone knows where there's an opening going for that kind of position please tell me...

It is disheartening being unemployed day in and day out. I have two degrees... in infamously low-employment rate fields. The answer is simple: freelancer. I do that already. Know how profitable that is when you're starting out? Hint: freelancers have jobs on the side to support themselves while they pursue the job they love so much they've employed themselves to do. I don't have that... or much to prove just how great I am at my freelancing.

So there's a problem that needs to be fixed and it will be. Gradually. The problem is what do I do about money in the meantime? Answer: find someone who will pay me to weep and moan about having no job while I lie on their floor maybe?

Job hunting stresses me out. It gives me a headache. I do it daily anyway. I've been doing it for a very very long time... before I finished my degrees. The constant denial, the extreme disinterest, the 1 interview per every 100 job applications (this may be an exaggeration... the ratio is probably more like 1:80 but that's still pretty terrible) and rarity of even the courtesy of a rejection email wears on the place where my soul be if I weren't ginger. It feels as if the world is filled with jobs that require exactly all the skills I don't have, or do, but don't have 1-2 years experience being employed in to be qualified for a job. It feels hopeless. How could it not be pointless if thus far it hasn't worked? Is this not just a monotonous rehash of last month's job applications? My resume and cover letter only ever improves and yet my results don't. It has been reviewed, rewritten, revised, and revitalised over and over in case there was some flaw in it that prevented me from getting a call back. I swear I've handed in my resume to the same places so many times and yet they still keep putting up staff wanted signs. Excuse me? You don't need more staff... you have me.

You all have me...

*Shakes fist menacingly*

*Sighs* Well... this has been a moments reprieve from the endless drudge of going through every single Job listing on Seek (the only search criteria is "Perth"... I'm not letting one slip away from me just because it's 40 minutes drive from me) and I should get back to my daily routine of smashing my head against a wall while yelling in every direction "EMPLOY ME! EMPLOY ME! I'M AVAILABLE!"

When not blogging or job hunting David Cox can be found making music videos, taking photos, promotional material, and updating his Youtube channel. If you would like to get him to make any of these types of media for you then he can be contacted via email at DavidPCox (at) (absence of @ to prevent spam). If you ask nicely he will also send you a selfie. You want a selfie don't you?

(so dramatic)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bamboozled Was Terrible and is a Shameful Entry to Tropfest.

Bamboozled sucked and I could have done better. Lots of people could have done better. I've seen many student films better. It was also horribly deeply offensive.

Now if you haven't seen the offending film you should, or don't if you want to avoid it, but it helps you understand why I am annoyed better if you do:

It won Tropfest. The prestigious and massive short film festival Tropfest that requires your film be specific to it's yearly changing keyword. No really... that... thing.

This year's was: change. And Matt Hardie cleverly took this theme and made a film about a female to male sex change who meets an ex-boyfriend whom they spend a night bonding and catching up with... and getting wasted. Then they wake up next to each other. See that has great potential as an idea. It could have gone this great progressive way where Pete goes through a change of his own... one of acceptance and realising that hey, he might be bisexual (not gay because he has a history of dating women and getting with a guy does not erase his previous heterosexual behaviour so this film gets "biphobic" tacked onto it's already long list of -phobic's - but no one seems to have mentioned that) and so we see the theme of change going even deeper into both a social message and actual character development (of which there is basically none in this film. The development is: surprise! I'm actually a giant dick!).

To redeem itself Pete could've rebutted their snide jeers with "so what?" and then it would've been so much better. That would have fixed it right up and made the point clear! It could have been actually good! It would have defended being gay instead of laughing at it and so the joke is entirely on the cruel and vicious camera crew but instead they end with horrible taunts and humiliating footage of his exposed body, zooming into his butt as if to say "hahah you had a DICK up there! Isn't that gross?" They might as well have kicked down his door and yelled "HA YOU'RE A FAGGOT!" at him for 30 seconds before cutting to black. The lack of slur does not remove the offensiveness.

It treats transgender issues as a punchline. "Ha, they're different so let's turn it into a joke. This highly sensitive issue about important life changes isn't actually important, it's all just split decisions, jokes, and exploited for the sake of petty revenge." There are no good characters. Pete is... just a random dude... Harry is a manipulative cunt, and Helen is a massive spiteful bitch who held a grudge for 11 years just to intoxicate her ex to the point where, yes, Harry just raped Pete (he was too inebriated to legally give consent)... then they humiliate him on camera and laugh at him.

"Hahahaha you're a faggot who just got date raped what a funny thing!"

That's it. That's the joke...

Apply palm to face and groan slowly and softly until pain and anger subsides.

Now the director has defended the film (of course he has) by saying this:

“I’m copping it hard from some people. I guess that just going to happen with such a controversial subject matter. But I’m not homophobic and I don’t think the movie is homophobic or transphobic. People are completely missing the point... The main character decides to sleep with the transgender person because he loves that person for who they are. But it’s not even a transgender character… it’s someone playing a trick on him. It’s more a comment on media and the extremes to which reality TV could go… It’s satirising.”

But... it's bad satire. You didn't do your job properly.

How many times have we heard the words "I'm not homophobic" in defense of something clearly homophobic? It gets mentioned so often. I don't want to hear it. If anything it makes you look like a worse person.


Apologise and learn from your behaviour so you don't do it again.

That's it. That's how you be a good person. You cannot say "this isn't actually offensive" as you are dismissing the people you are offending, and in this case it's the already oppressed and silenced queer community. The queer communities voices are far more valid on a piece of media that poorly represents them than a bunch of annoying straight people going "why can't we just laugh at you? Why are you getting so offended?" The film is all about change... negative change... backwards. As in the fact that it won is a sign of a society regressing backwards. In the times of the massive step forward of Gay Marriage being legalised in the ACT we still have incredibly offensive media being awarded for being offensive.

See, intention doesn't really matter when judging a film. I think Matt Hardie would love it to count as it is his only defense "I didn't mean that! I meant the opposite of that!" but it doesn't. If you cannot get your point across then you simply have failed to do it effectively which means you are a bad storyteller. If you didn't have that bit of defensive explanation to guide you through the film it would've been harder to see the meaning behind it and thus the film doesn't stand alone as a firm piece of work. There's no clear indication of what he is trying to say present in the film itself. "The main character decides to sleep with the transgender person because he loves that person for who they are." 1) No they were raped 2) They were clearly uncomfortable about this situation when they woke up, moving away when touched, looking confused and distraught like "did that really just happen?" 3) Then he gets accosted for this supposed "true love." The film never defends Pete, only the offended audience defends him, which leaves plenty of room for someone to see it and have it reaffirm their homophobic attitudes. The film technically doesn't say anything to the contrary that it is anything but funny to laugh at gay people so it suits whatever opinion you want to put on it. If you choose to see it as an attack on the homophobic media then you can read it like that (if you ignore all the points I'm trying to make) but the unfortunate reality is people think this sort of poor treatment of gay people is funny so being presented with a situation where they can laugh at that only reinforces their homophobia. Whatever progressive intent it supposedly has fails to actually come through as it is offensive to progressive people and reinforces negativity in non-progressive people.

Then there's the comment "it's not even a transgender character... it's someone playing a trick on him." YES. THAT'S THE POINT. You turned transgender identities into a PUNCHLINE! An idea that can be easily manipulated for the sake of petty revenge! At no point do I see any shred of respect towards transgender individuals. The fact that they weren't one to begin doesn't mean that everything up until the point that was revealed wasn't a bad representation of them.

As for satire it is indistinguishable from the negative media it aims to satirise. The issue is it does not come off as parody, it does not come off as witty or intelligent, it just comes off as offensive and hurtful. It just adds to the already cemented idea that it's OK to laugh at people for being gay. There are no negative consequences to the camera crews actions, we're encouraged to laugh along with them because see get it? That's the joke. It's funny. Laugh. I said laugh damn it! *Waves award in your face mockingly* It's not a piece of genius to take playground taunts and put it in a film. Satire is about making fun of the majority and it hasn't managed to do that at all. Parody requires more than just the imitation of the thing it is parodying (I admit it does really mimic those hidden camera prank shows) it needs more self-reflexivity and irony put into it. It's poorly done and even if it really is satire it's ill advised and mean spirited satire. The thing is the audience gets it... just Matt Hardie doesn't.

It may attack the media but it does it at the expense of the queer community and it doesn't even get it's point across effectively.

The only way this really has helped empower the marginalised queer community is to give them something specific to be vocal about... and then shut down by a wall of apathy and disinterest. Take a look at the youtube comments and you will find a bunch of dismissive comments telling people to calm down and stop caring. It's funny after all:

"Hahaha minorities being laughed at is funny! Gosh, representation sure means jack shit huh?" Admittedly there are quite a few people agreeing with me that it is offensive trash but there is this unfortunate mix of "this is horrible" and "it's just a film!" as if somehow that means anything? Yes. It is an offensive film. We know this.

No matter what your intention is it still comes across as trying to laugh at queer identities. To argue it is satire once again reinforces the fact that you are bad at satire because you shouldn't have to explain the joke to people for them to get it.

Even if it were a well intentioned film with an actually non-offensive plot it's execution has utterly destroyed that and makes it a bad film.

...but it was a bad film to begin with so why did it win? Seriously though let's ignore the fact that it is incredibly offensive. It's not particularly interesting. Two old friends randomly encounter each other and have a night out to catch up. Not that original. If student films weren't so obsessed with suicide and drug overdoses after opening shots of an alarm clock and a montage of the main character getting dressed then they'd be making those types of films by the bucket load. The two wake up next to each other the next morning. Not even remotely anything but a cliche. The classic punchline of a night out drinking montage. There's no depth to the cliche story that is only distinguished from others like it by the (offensive) transgender revenge plotline. There's no character development, or even characters worthwhile paying attention to. Even the non-offensive jokes weren't that funny. It was shot moderately OK. There is literally nothing particularly special about this film... it's just... a short film... 

It was at best an OK film that flips off it's audience and tells them to laugh. Laugh, you terrible human beings, laugh at the giant homo.

The judges apparently thought it was the best damn transphobic/homophobic rape joke they've ever seen! $10,000 to you, Matt Hardie!

So considering this is the competition I can expect I guess next year I will enter Tropfest... because hey, how hard could it be right? I don't even need to treat my characters like people who have dignity and sure as hell don't need depth to get in either!