Saturday, May 25, 2013

There's No Sense of Ending This Semester...

Semester is "over". It doesn't feel over. I have exams which is weird because I don't normally have those for my course, nor do I have multiple at the same time. Even more strange is how this semester didn't end with a bang but a whisper...

See, I've done Film. Now I'm doing English. The difference between these are so immense it is like having grown accustomed to being beaten across the head only to suddenly be handed icecream. One of my teachers complained he thought his class was being lazy, as if they thought that literature was easy and the problem is: to me it is. Hence why, despite him obviously being a hard marker and me handing in my essay late, I did really well on it. What's hard about sitting down and writing an essay? My fingers are practically glued to a keyboard it's not like I even had to do anything but minimise the internet so I could sound intelligent somewhere else.

That sounds really braggy, and I'm sorry. I haven't always been this good at writing essays but I've been doing it for years. I'm halfway through my 4th year at University, I've written so many essays I've lost count. That's why, when suddenly there's no 5am starts to get to a film set for the entire day and being entrusted with several grand worth of expensive equipment, I think "wow. This is relaxing." Because it's something I can do and I can spend time doing it whenever I want. The only pressure that arises during essay writing is when you've started it too close to the due date.

I handed in my assignments while offering those around me chips. I spent a lot of my time on the final submission day hanging around with a friend before I'd actually sat down in a library to finish off my assignments. It was so casual, so stress free, so relaxing and simple and easy and... and...

It feels wrong. It feels horribly, horribly wrong.

I'm sitting around now not doing anything because... today is an average day? It's the day after final assignments are due! I should... celebrate? I should relax and take a break from all the stress? But there isn't one? My expectations have not been met. I did not become a wreck and come out of it triumphant and so sleep deprived that my bed became more important than life itself. There's no sense of... accomplishment.

It didn't challenge me enough so I don't feel accomplished. Now that's an odd first world problem now isn't it? "It wasn't hard enough." Oh waaaa. Waaaa. Boo-hoo.

But come on... you love it don't you? The day after. The excuse to lie down. The relief that floods your bones and loosens your muscles. That mental load you shove off and sigh away. The smile that creeps across your face as you realise it's over. You survived!

I... just... did... things. Does that feel worth it? Is it worth it if I'm not being challenged?

I hope so.

I've got exams, so maybe that will be a challenge? My past experience with University exams is that they're easier than expected. I study tons and then... realise I could've studied less. But I'll do it just in case. I want to have that push to be great. I'm not done being a student, and being a student means I still have things to learn. So I guess I'll start knuckling down, revising the things I learned this semester, and tackle those exams head on.

Then I can get my feeling of a well earned ending.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Survived Groovin The Moo 2013

I have the privilege to do volunteer photography at a bunch of music festivals (Southbound, Blues and Roots, and most recently Groovin the Moo) which is a pretty sweet gig. I get to walk around taking photos of people and can walk in and out of the festival thanks to the magic powers of the "STAFF" wristband and there's nothing stopping me from watching bands while I work for a few hours. I don't get paid but I get in for free.

After a bit of a road trip southward bound with friends we arrived at a carpark reserved for staff. There were two cars for the photographers (good ol' carpooling) but only one car would fit because someone had decided that one carpark space was insufficient and deliberately parked partially in two spaces. Naturally my friend wrote "you are a prick" on a piece of paper and put it on the front of the car for them to find. They had to know... they just had to know.

Then we arrived at staff registration where we were told we had to sign a form that said we were only allowed to use a "SRL camera" (unfortunately we had only brought real cameras). I didn't have to start my shift until 2 so I decided to walk around and watch the bands. First up was Foam (aka Nirvana 2: The Return of the 90s) that was led by a dude with hair so long that it looked like he was a mop with legs and a nose who was channeling the voice of Kurt Cobain the best it could. At one point I yelled out "Play Smells Like Teen Spirit!" and the guy next to me laughed. They announced they had one last song, started playing it, then realised they didn't have time and walked off promptly and politely so the band on the stage right next to them could start playing. What fine young lads.

The thing about the crowd at GTM is it isn't 18+ only so you get lots of teens. You've got the 14 year old kid with the 2010 Justin Bieber haircut, the 15 year old groups of girls with braces that clearly have somehow managed to get their hands on alcohol somehow, 16 year old boys on the prowl for hot teen chicks, and whatever other assorted teenage hipster-esque types you can think of thrown in and then segregated from the majority of the adults by a fence that surrounded the bar. As I was watching the rock bands on the triple J stage there was this one adult in a black trench coat, top hat, beard, piercings etc... the kind of serious looking dude you'd expect at a metal concert. He was watching the bands and looking around at all the teens and I could tell in his head he was thinking "I don't belong here... there are way too many kids for my liking... I've made a mistake."

There's something about teen fashion today that looks, to me, like a mixing pot of 60s, 70s, and 90s. There's certain kinds of clothes you could list from each decade and then play bingo with them. I lost count of the amount of blonde girls I saw wearing green cargo jackets. My friend and I were discussing how there were archetypal examples of fashion and how this created this feeling of generic familiarity. We had photographed crowds before and so when looking out at the see of faces it posed the question "do I know that person, or are they just a generic hipster?" As the words left my mouth I pointed to a random individual and then realised... hang on. I DO know that generic hipster! Then I rushed over to say hello.

But back to the fashion. There were all these 15-17 year old girls walking around with tight clothes and denim shorts so short they nearly weren’t shorts at all and I kept looking at these women thinking “Geez… cover yourselves up… it’s really freaking cold. How are you not freezing your nearly visible butts off? I’m wearing multiple layers and I’m cold!” It was ridiculous. How did they not realise that it wasn't summer anymore? Kids these days have no respect for the weather conditions. They party hard regardless.

Doing crowd photography is pretty simple. Stand around with a camera. It is like bait on a hook and if no one bites then simply wiggle the bait... the bait being the camera and the wiggling being asking someone for a photo. Frequently they'll agree, and when nearby people see you doing this they suddenly realise your purpose. You're the camera guy. It doesn't matter that they don't know what exactly your reason is for having a camera because the most important part to them is the fact that you have a camera. Suddenly the relaxing standing around is interrupted by a bunch of teens running up going "can we have a photo!? Can we have a photo!?" Which, of course, they can. It is my job. Then they would demand another one which... OK. You're only getting one uploaded but whatever. Then they thanked me, hugged me, and told me how wonderful I was which was super uncomfortable... who wants a bunch of drunk teenage girls touching them without warning or permission? Thanks? (Fortunately only a few did that but still... ask before you surround a person and embrace them all at once people...)

After taking hundreds of photos we have to sort through them to figure out which ones are acceptable to upload to Murdoch's Facebook page. For instance: any of them with people doing rude gestures are not allowed. At other festivals that sort of thing is pretty easy to avoid but at GTM for some reason teenage guys would see you taking a photo and quickly lean in from the side to give you the finger. Thanks dude? What does that achieve? I'm not taking the photo until you a) go away b) go away. I'm not blind. Anyway, the joy of the sorting process is that I get to sit down with food in front of a laptop (I bought chips. They were really fresh. I could tell because they tasted like dirt...) which just so happens to be in a tent bordered by the DJ stage at the rear of the festival where people uninterested in the real live bands can party hard to dubstep...

Constant dubstep. Constant loud dubstep. With such classic dubstep remixes as: Smells Like Teen Spirit Dubstep, Thriftshop Dubstep, Harlem Shake Dubstep, and Skrillex as Skrillex, remixed to be indistinguishable from Skrillex. BRAWWWAAARAWWUBUWUBUWUBUBUBAAAAAAHHH.

Fortunately this led to fellow friends and photographers sitting around and making fun of dubstep to pass the time. We dug into the clich├ęs, the climactic crescendos and bass drops - everything. That sort of thing is my favourite part of getting into these festivals for free. Not the bands, but the company that I spend my time with. I actually don't know the majority of the bands that play at these things. I go with the intention of taking photos and then maybe finding new bands to listen to based off how much they catch my attention live (Cloud Control is one such band I had never heard of before seeing live and now I quite like them). For me it is a chance to hang out with Uni friends I've known for years and relax as well as go off and see a live show if I so choose.

The night neared its end as I watched The Temper Trap (one of the few bands I knew of and the one I specifically wished to see) perform. As they music played I sung along, my breath flowing out as mist in the cold, being illuminated by the light shining off the stage. I love the end of festivals. The favourite band plays, all the effort of the day seeps away, and I'm there watching, listening, engaging with a performance.

In the end it was fun. Sure, there were things that detracted from it but that's festival life for you. That's the story of my first Groovin the Moo experience.

Advice for High School Students

Dear kids in high school right now...

I have some advice for you. Advice I really wish someone had told me when I was in high school because it is kinda super important. It is about the very point of high school. See right now you're probably procrastinating doing some kind of homework that involves polynomial equations (functions? Something?) or reading some bit of assigned literature you'd otherwise be enjoying if only you didn't have to think about it. And for what? None of this is going to be relevant to your future employment right? You're not learning important things like how to do taxes? Well... yes, true. But does that make it pointless? No.

OK so you are simultaneously blessed and cursed right now because you're in high school and that seems like a difficult concept to grasp but it is true. See you're in a golden period of your life where not doing something you don't want to do has no immediate consequences. I managed to avoid doing multiple assignments, hand things in late, and generally not put in effort for half of my high school life. It's possible to get by without actually engaging properly, and some of you probably feel like doing that. "This isn't immediately relevant or obviously to my future so I don't need to do it." If things are hard you can just scrape by, graduate, and forget everything you ever learned about coefficients and all that other weird maths hoo-hah. I know I can't remember a damn thing about anything number related...

But here's the thing, and I'm putting it as nicely as possible so don't get offended... shut up about it and just do the work.

You heard me. Yes, High school may seem pointless learning a bunch of standardised stuff you really don't care about but that is simply a lack of forethought. I did high school. I survived. I'm out of it now and kinda in the real world. Thing is, the very point of high school is to suck. Yes. High school is designed to suck. That may seem blatantly obvious to you but it sucking is only a means to an end not the end itself. Sucking has a purpose. You are going to be faced with a bunch of horrible, bland, boring, uninteresting, and seemingly pointless hoops and loops to jump through which you don't want to do... and the point is to shut up and do it anyway.

Because that's life. High school is a life simulator. Sure, one day you may just get your dream job and there won't be any hoops to jump through so much as casually stroll past once you get there but until then things will most likely suck. You are inevitably going to be faced with things you don't like, like a difficult essay for a University course you're doing. A course actually designed to get you what you want. The real world requires work and the work isn't always going to be fun.

The grand practical skill given to you by high school is not whatever they are teaching you in class (though one class might appeal to you) but the skill of sitting down and doing something regardless of how you feel about it. I love my University courses, I really do. they're interesting and wonderful and looking back I have certainly learned a lot that I will take with me to a future career... but at times it has been awful, dreadful, and dull and I had to do it anyway to continue onwards to the good stuff... and that is just part of life. If you sit around being entitled and thinking you can cruise through things later on because high school lets you then when you step out into the real world you'll trip and fall face first into the ground. You'll be behind and need to figure out how to catch up, to sit down and work for hours on end despite your problems with the task at hand.

They're teaching you how to study. They're teaching you how to work. If they cannot give you a passion for their subject than at the very least that is the gift you must take away from high school.

So next time your schoolwork sucks remember that it sucks for a reason... and do it anyway.