Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: 50/50

File:50 50 Poster.jpg


Jonathan Levine


Will Reiser

'50/50' is a rare breed of film. It could have been written as a morose, over-sentimental drama concocted to milk tears from an audience, or it could have been moulded as a farcical lowbrow romp with no regard for the reality that is cancer. Thankfully, the film does not belong to either category. Instead, director Levine deftly blends humour and pathos to create what I believe is one of the most refreshing films of the past decade. 

'50/50' stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a 27 year-old who is diagnosed with a rare type of spinal cancer. The film's title alludes to Adam's chance of overcoming the illness. Adam is almost indifferent to the news upon first receiving it. He believes that all will be fine, eventually. As the film progresses, he realises the gravity of his condition and comes to terms with the prospect that death, after all, is a possibility. Adam is not alone in his struggle. He is kept level-headed by his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), who is responsible for most of the film's laughs (of which there are plenty). It becomes apparent that Kyle is using Adam's cancer to attract sympathy from women with whom he hopes to sleep with. Kyle also wants Adam to a find a woman of his own, after discovering that Adam's girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), considers his cancer too burdensome. As part of his treatment, Adam undergoes psychotherapy at the hands of Katherine (Anna Kendrick), who is altruistic though vastly inexperienced. Scenes involving Adam and Katherine are often awkward (not because they are bad actors) but also very tender and endearing. Adam is hesitant about breaking the news to his parents. He feels that his mother (Anjelica Huston) will panic too much. Besides, she already has to cope with her husband, who has Alzheimer's. Adam does tell his mother, but doesn't warm to her smothering ways. 

The film is loosely based on writer Will Reiser's own experience with cancer, where he was helped by a close friend: none other than Rogen himself. The film seamlessly shifts between moments of hilarity and tenderness. The shift is not forceful; the film does not toy with our emotions by using any cheap ploys or gimmicks. I will admit that I shed a few tears during the film: not because I was emotionally manipulated, but because I cared for the characters so much. Gordon-Levitt's performance probably won't be nominated for an Oscar, which is a shame because I think it deserves one. The film's trailer breaks down Adam's illness using a slightly altered variation of Kübler-Ross' 'Five Stages of Grief'. This is accurate as we see Adam display a myriad of emotions. As mentioned before, he accepts the grim news almost indifferently. This is his defence mechanism; his denial. There's a powerful scene towards the end of the film involving Adam and Kyle's car. I won't say what happens, but this is the pinnacle of Adam's frustration: his painful acceptance, expressed wearily through the confession "I just want it to be over. I'm so fucking tired of being sick."

Seth Rogen is the one constant throughout the film. From start to finish, he exudes this rare kind of buffoonery that springs from empathy rather than silliness. He knows his best friend is sick, and he figures that being miserly around him would do no help. On the night before Adam's major operation, Kyle does not want to bring it up with Adam. He would rather live in the moment and make the most of it. Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer play two older friends that Adam converses with at his chemotherapy sessions. Their performances, especially Hall's, add charm to the film, as we've all known people like them. They have grown accustomed to their conditions, and even poke fun at the illness as a way of coping. As Frewer's character remarks about the name of Adam's condition: "The more syllables, the worse it is."

Anna Kendrick was very impressive as Katherine, Adam's psychotherapist. I've only seen her in one other film: Jason Reitman's 'Up in the Air'. Others may know her as Jessica from the 'Twilight' films. She was great in Reitman's film and she is flawless here. Her character could easily have been a clichéd mess if played by a less-talented actress. Kendrick portrays Katherine with enough timidity to come off as naive and inexperienced, but also with enough enthusiasm to suggest that her and Adam could transcend their doctor-patient relationship. 

What's essential to understand about '50/50' is that it is not a movie about cancer. It is a movie about commitment and those who stick by us in trying times. It's about appreciating being alive and not taking our lives for granted. I was deeply moved by this film. I cannot fathom how anyone could dislike it. I would go as far as to say that, if you dislike '50/50', you are an inherently bad person. It has the power to please even the most grim cynic. 

5/5 stars.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Celebrity Fixation or: Why I Want to Meet Neil Finn

Are you desperate to meet a particular celebrity, but assume it will never happen and depress yourself over it? I’m going through that phase right now. I’ve decided that I really want to meet Neil Finn. I want to go up to the man, shake his hand, and tell him how much of an impact his music has had on my growth and development as a person. Even if it’s ten seconds. I want the man to know I exist because I admire him so much. It’s not one of those creepy obsessions. It’s not like I have a shrine devoted to Neil Finn. But when I listen to one of his songs, I feel like I know him. I’ve spent so many cumulative hours listening to his work. I’ve seen him perform live, as part of the Pajama Club (his latest side project). He was great that night. I was awestruck that I was in the same room as him. But once that show was over, I went back to regular life. I heard a few people who went to that gig saw him before it began, as he was entering the building. Oh how I envied them!
I often worry what I’d do if I actually got to meet him. I mean, when you have an opportunity in front of you that doesn’t come ‘round too often, you overthink the situation and are prone to stuffing it up. For example, earlier this year, I walked past Nathan Hindmarsh an hour before he was set to play against Manly. For the uninitiated, Nathan Hindmarsh is the captain of the NRL team I support, the Parramatta Eels. It took me a moment to actually realise it was him. When I did, I gave him a pat on the back and said “It’s really him!” He was posing for a photo with some fans while I did this, by the way. He gave me a puzzled look as if to say “Are you alright, mate?” It was terribly embarrassing and I couldn’t erase it from my mind for the rest of the night.
So, yeah, it would be great to meet Neil Finn one day, just so I could tell him that his music has been a gift to me, and to many others. It has been the soundtrack of many melancholic nights, as well as many happy ones. I’m sure he’s heard this all before, but fandom is a complex notion. There are just some people who you admire so much that you feel like you NEED to meet them before you die.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So...I Wrote a Poem About Unrequited Love

I cannot monopolise your feelings
Or cameo in your dreams
I’ll never sit with you and talk freely
Between coffee and Arnott’s Creams.

Because you don’t know the private struggle:
The thoughts that flail about
In the mind of the unloved man
Who stares blankly into space
And forgets as best as he can.

There’s always that craving;
That lust for supple skin
There is no desire as intense
No feeling that is akin.

I need that recognition;
Tell me that I matter.
Create a second groove in my couch
Before my self-esteem falls to tatters.

You’ll never know the feeling
Of wanting what you can’t get.
Kiss me now:
With passion;
Because it’s better to try
Than to regret.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten Obscure Films That You Must See

The following is a list of ten films that were not made for mainstream audiences, but should be seen by more people. They were most likely granted a limited release, and probably appeal to particular niches of society. The majority of these are independent or art house films. They are in no particular order.

Directed by: Neil LaBute
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy and Stacy Edwards
U.S. box office gross: $2,804,473

Here is a wicked film that toys with your emotions. The premise is that two misogynists (Eckhart and Malloy) devise a plan whereby they will seduce a lonely female co-worker only to shatter her feelings by breaking up with her. Things get interesting when one of men develops feelings for the woman. The two leads show impeccable comic timing, and Stacy Edwards is easy to empathise with as the vulnerable prey of Eckhart and Malloy.

2. SUBURBIA (1996)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn and Jayce Bartok
U.S. box office gross: $656,747

Based on a play by Eric Bogosian, the film's premise is simple: a group of slackers philosophically converse on the corner of a convenience store whilst waiting for their friend who has 'made it' as a rock star to arrive. I use the term 'philosophically' loosely; they talk about a whole range of things, but it's generally pretty powerful stuff. And not all of their discussion takes place on that corner; they move around the neighbourhood, but that corner is their second home, where most of the discussion takes place. The rock star friend doesn't arrive at the film's conclusion, instead he and his publicist join the slackers fairly early in the film. This is very positive for the film, as his inclusion shakes things up.

The convenience store is run by a Pakistani couple who frequently challenge the slackers about their lives. "Don't you have lives to live? Why choose this particular corner? Don't you realise that you are wasting your lives? Get off my property! You are all drunken and stupid!" Those aren't the exact lines spoken, but you get the drift. The film touches on issues such as consumerism, racism, freedom of expression, fame, the monotony of life, the effects of drugs and alcoholism. Yes, the film basically consists of plenty of talk, but that's what makes the film as excellent as it is. The characters are so real, and it's likely that you will empathise with at least one of them. The film is so tragic, in that it shows us the dark side of life, but isn't that what we need to see as an audience, in an era where Hollywood seems to sugarcoat their films with happy endings? You see, the reality is that not everything in life will go your way, that some people just 'exist', and make nothing of their lives, that there are people who are more well-off than you. 'SubUrbia' opens our eyes to the harsh brutality that transpires everyday in our world, that we may not be aware of. 

3. BAD BOY BUBBY (1993)
Directed by: Rolf de Heer
Starring: Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito and Ralph Cotterill
Australian box office gross: $808,789

A twisted character study of a 35 year-old man who is confined to his home by his overly protective mother. One day he escapes and sets out on a perilous adventure. The outside world is one big dangerous labyrinth for Bubby. He is not aware of regular social conventions, and he is mentally retarded. Nicholas Hope's portrayal as Bubby is one of the most intriguing performances I have ever seen. It's a brave role to embody, and he did it justice. One of the great Australian films, and not for the casual film viewer: this one's a real thought-provoker. 

Directed by: Miranda July
Starring: John Hawkes, Miranda July and Miles Thompson
U.S. box office gross: $3,885,134

I often call Miranda July my favourite hipster, a term which she would undoubtedly detest. But there's this innate quirkiness to her that makes her films so sweet. The characters in this film are so strongly developed, and they are quite diverse. Only July would make one of the focal characters a shoe salesman. What I noticed about this film is how quiet it is. It's quite a relaxing watch. You don't have to keep up with plot twists or fast-paced action, because there is none to be seen. You can just sit back and watch lives unfold before your eyes. Was speechless during the credits; ending was intensely beautiful.

Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney
U.S. box office gross$7,372,734

Semi-autobiographical story based on the experiences of director Baumbach and his brother coping with their parents' divorce in the 1980s Brooklyn. This film isn't sugar-coated. Baumbach makes use of a bleak colour palette to symbolise the feeling of isolation. All of the performances are genuine and heartfelt. I particularly liked Jeff Daniels' performance, as he broke out of his typical role as a rubber-faced funny man and took on a much weightier character. Jesse Eisenberg is also marvellous here, and it's likely that this is the role that laid the platform for his stardom. 

6. DEAD END (2003)
Directed by: Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa
Starring: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye and Mick Cain
U.K. box office gross: £106,801

Claustrophobic horror that plays on our most intense fear: the unknown. This film only needs a few characters and one main setting to make it work. I praise it most for its originality; I've seen very few horror films that are as inventive as this one. Is partially let down by the ending, in my opinion, but still very much worth seeing. 

7. GHOST WORLD (2001)
Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson
U.S. box office gross$6,217,849

If 'Hipster' was a film genre, this would be its most acclaimed feature. But do not fear! This film doesn't try to be pretentious. It knows that its lead characters are eccentric, and uses this as the source of many jokes. Can remember laughing to the point of tears while watching this - the wit is razor-sharp. Birch shows facets of her performance as Jane Burnham in American Beauty, but here she is allowed to inject more of herself into the film. Steve Buscemi never disappoints, but here he was especially effective playing Seymour. I often tell people that I empathise with Seymour more than any other character in the history of film. He is just so vulnerable here, and I ached for him on numerous occasions in the film.

8. HARD CANDY (2005)
Directed by: David Slade
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page and Sandra Oh
U.S. box office gross: $1,024,640 

I cannot believe that Ellen Page was only 17 or 18 during the filming of Hard Candy. The film is dialogue-heavy, and not only does she remember her lines, but she delivers them with conviction. Page plays a 14 year-old who lures a 32 year-old man into baring his darkest confessions to her after suspecting that he is a paedophile. The film is extremely graphic and is difficult to watch at times. Page becomes so absorbed in her role that I actually grew afraid of her, despite her natural innocence. Page and Wilson virtually carry the whole film, which isn't surprising since there are only five cast members listed in the film's credits. A gripping film that will etch itself in your mind.

Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Hope Davis and Nicholas Hoult
U.S. box office gross: $12,482,775

I've watched this film a few times. It's one of those films that improves with repeat viewings. The colour palette is even bleaker here than in The Squid and the Whale, helped immensely by the fact that it's always snowing, raining or overcast. Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is an enigmatic character. Throughout the film, he tries to prove himself as both a family man and a businessman, but luck never seems to come his way. People launch fast food at him as they pass him in the street (a hilarious running gag). He is divorced from his wife and is jealous of her new boyfriend. Michael Caine's performance is pitch-perfect. He play's Cage's father and delivers his lines with cold apathy, which is more effective than it sounds. There are brief moments of sunshine in this film, and they feel rewarding, too. The film manages to be touching without being overly sentimental. Oh, and who said Nicolas Cage can't act?

10. CATFISH (2010)
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Starring: Melody C. Roscher, Ariel Schulman and Yaniv Schulman
U.S. box office gross: $3,237,343

Documentary about a man who is filmed by his brother and friend as he develops a friendship with a girl over Facebook. I will not delve into the plot too much, because the less you know, the more rewarding the film is. I enjoyed how the film dealt with the theme of obsession; of a preoccupation holding your life hostage. The film's ending will either shock you or bore you, but either way, you most likely won't see it coming. It just HAPPENS, as though it is nothing out of the ordinary. Questions have been raised about the accuracy of the documentary. That is, if it is even a documentary, or merely a staged documentary. You can leave that up to yourself, although I'd like to think it's real. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Twitter is a Better Place Than Facebook

In this post, I will compare what are arguably the two most popular social networking websites on the Internet: Twitter and Facebook. In doing so, I aim to persuade you that the Twitter environment is a far more peaceful place than the Facebook environment. This post is not about Facebook's layout inefficiencies, or how it seems to barrage us with constant changes while Twitter remains consistent. This post is about the people who use each social network. In saying that, let me clarify that I will not be naming or shaming anyone in this post (although some deserve to be).

First of all, allow me to share my thoughts on the social functions of each website. I feel that Facebook is the social network you should stick to if you are solely concerned with fostering and perpetuating social relationships with people you already know. That is, you should 'friend' schoolmates, work colleagues, actual friends and acquaintances. Facebook is not the place to add random people just because they arouse your libido. It comes off as creepy and it can make things awkward. Facebook's emphasis on knowing people you connect with is entrenched in their terminology. For example, people you are connected with are known as 'friends', implying you should be on friendly terms with these people; that you would recognise them if you saw them in the street. You can 'poke' people on Facebook, as a way of letting them know you're there (or as a softcore method of flirtation; take your pick). Now, you wouldn't poke a random stranger in real life, would you? Maybe some of you would, but that's none of my business. The point is, Facebook is concerned with strengthening community ties. I see it as a small world inside a much larger world - a microcosm, if you will. Facebook has 'walls' and 'photo albums' - terms which evoke homely connotations. Clearly, this is a social network for people who know each other.

Twitter is a completely different beast. Unlike Facebook, you can 'follow' someone without even gaining their permission. Of course, if you choose to, you can tweak your privacy settings so that people must be approved before they can follow you. The majority of profiles, though, can be accessed and followed with the click of a button. Let me get this straight: you should NOT be on Twitter if you aren't willing to meet new people. If you want to stay inside your own shell, stick to Facebook. Twitter is all about global interaction. When I think of Twitter, McLuhan's theory of the Global Village springs to mind. This medium allows the rapid movement of information from all corners of the globe. The great thing about Twitter is that there really is a profile for everyone. If you wish, you don't even have to follow people, per se. You can follow companies, or numerous bizarre profiles such as 'Dogs Doing Things'. Most people are at first attracted to Twitter because of all the celebrities. I mean, it's like Hollywood, but in Internet form. But after making an account, you'll soon discover that only a small minority of celebrities will actually respond to your tweets. That's understandable, considering the copious amount of tweets they must receive in a day, let alone an hour. Once you come to terms with this shattered dream, you begin to realise that "Hey, there are actually some genuine people on this thing." This is the best part of Twitter. Making connections with everyday people that you don't even know. It's boring if you just follow your friends or celebrities. You already know the former, and you probably won't get any response from the latter. By following regular, everyday people, you start to create your own 'Twitter family'. And no, I don't think I'm hyperbolising. Some of the connections you make will really enrich your life, and it will sometimes feel like you've known your Twitter followers all your life.

Now, why is Twitter superior to Facebook? Of course, I will be drawing on personal experience throughout this paragraph, and I realise that not everyone's experiences will be the same as mine. Seeing as I am 18 years of age, the majority of my Facebook friends are people who I went to school with. I graduated with most of them, but there are also some who graduated before me, and some who are yet to graduate. Judging by this age demographic, I don't expect my homepage to be flooded with serious material that is intellectually-stimulating, nor do I expect a high level of maturity. Am I being too harsh on you, fellow Facebookers? Nah, I don't think I am, because those low expectations of mine have been met one too many times! Seriously, why do so many of you have to be immature, insolent assholes? I am aware that I post frequently, and I am aware that most of you couldn't give a shit about the majority of links I post. That's fair enough. I can't expect all of you to share my tastes in music, reading material, and the like. I am also aware that my status updates probably bore the crap out of you. Sure, I come up with the occasional status update which garners five or more 'likes', but the majority are ignored. I actually don't mind too much that my status updates are ignored, but it *does* annoy me when I see someone post a cheesy quote about love or faith that they ATTEMPT TO PASS OFF AS THEIR OWN, and they get over ten 'likes' for it. Or, even worse, status updates that hark back to the days of Bebo, such as "'Like' and I'll rate you out of 10" or "Who's up?" (asked late at night to see who's awake). Oh, and then there are those people who post nothing but disgusting rap lyrics for every status update. Of course, those status updates attract AT LEAST five 'likes'. Let's not forget those people who toss around words such as 'faggot' as though no one reading their post will be offended. Last night in fact, I read one of the most disgusting status updates I've ever seen, laden with blatant homophobia. I won't repeat it here, but if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know what it was. Another thing that annoys me about Facebook are those people who 'like' any comment that contradicts me. I call them 'lurkers'. For example, I'll post a joke as a status update, and some idiot will respond that the joke is crap (HEY BUDDY, DON'T LIKE MY JOKES? CLICK 'UNFRIEND'), and THEN, a 'lurker' will come along and 'like' the comment that says my joke is crap, but they won't offer any of their own insights. Oh, and how can I forget, THE SPELLING, GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION!? Look, you don't have to have the linguistic poise of Shakespeare, but please, if you can't string a sentence together or can't tell the different between 'their', 'there' and 'they're', OR 'your' and 'you're' OR 'it's' and 'its', then READ A FUCKING BOOK and then come back to grace me with your online presence. Anyway, I'm going to end this paragraph because I'm getting way too snarky and I'm going to make you all hate me (if you don't already). But yeah, the essence is: BE POLITE TO EACH OTHER AND CARRY YOURSELF WITH DECENCY AND DIGNITY. And if you don't like what I post, you can always click 'unfriend'. I'm not stopping you! Now you're all thinking "Dude, why don't YOU unfriend US if you don't like what WE post?" Well, starting tonight, if you post something disgusting, and I feel that having you cut from my life will not be of detriment to me, I will unfriend you.

*Deep breath* Now! Twitter is a much friendlier place than Facebook, on so many levels. If you tweet that you're having a bad day, people will actually attempt to comfort you. They will ask if you need to talk. They will give you virtual hugs. To be fair, I occasionally see that on Facebook as well, although it often takes the cheapened form of "inbox me, babe." The other day, I was having difficulty with a cryptic crossword, so I expressed over Twitter that I needed some help. That tweet was retweeted a few times, and it didn't take long for the help to come flooding in. If I had expressed over Facebook that I needed help with a cryptic crossword, the status update would most likely go ignored, or I may have been met with something like "lol ur gay who does crosswords". I attribute my rediscovered desire for leisure reading to Twitter. People in the Twittersphere post the most insightful and fascinating reading material! Hey Facebookers, ever wonder where I find all the links that I post on Facebook? Yep, you guessed it - from Twitter. A lot of intellectual conversation takes place on Twitter. And it's not only 'intellectual' because of the topics discussed, but also because the people know how to deal with each other. There is very little rudeness on the site, but when there is, you can just block the people giving you strife.

Time to wrap this up. This post wasn't written to persuade Facebookers to migrate to Twitter. As most Tweeps (Twitter peeps) have expressed "We don't want you here." But seriously, if you genuinely feel that you might enjoy Twitter, you can give it a go. Maybe it will change you for the better. Just don't carry over those ugly Facebook habits.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Earlier this week, I finished reading a self-help book called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I read it after hearing the title mentioned in the film Diner (which is recommended), and then looked it up on Wikipedia. I had never read a self-help book before, but I thought that I could do with some tips on how to get people to like me. I know that I'm not widely hated, but I am aware that many people on Facebook (maybe even YOU) find me annoying, and that I have difficulty making friends. What's remarkable is that the principles espoused in the book are still relevant in contemporary times, despite the fact that the book was first published in 1936. Carnegie uses examples to explain each principle, and the tone of the book shifts between instructional and humorous. This blog entry will merely summarise each of the chapters from the book, and thus provide a checklist of sorts that will inform you how to "win friends and influence people." Apply these principles and people WILL like you more than they already do. In short, Carnegie's book teaches people how not to be an asshole. Oh, and it has sold 15 million copies worldwide, in case you were wondering.  

Twelve Things This Book Will Do For You
  1. Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.
  2. Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.
  3. Increase your popularity.
  4. Help you to win people to your way of thinking.
  5. Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.
  6. Enable you to win new clients, new customers.
  7. Increase your earning power.
  8. Make you a better salesman, a better executive.
  9. Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.
  10. Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.
  11. Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.
  12. Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
  3. If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatise your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Seven Rules For Making Your Home Life Happier

  1. Don't nag.
  2. Don't try to make your partner over.
  3. Don't criticize.
  4. Give honest appreciation.
  5. Pay little attentions.
  6. Be courteous.
  7. Read a good book on the sexual side of marriage.




Thursday, September 15, 2011

Things That Make Life Worth Living

Woody Allen's Manhattan is a gorgeous film. Shot in black and white, it captures the beauty of New York City in a way that colour could not. Allen plays Isaac Davis, a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer who temporarily dates a 17 year-old girl called Tracy, before deciding that he would be better suited to someone closer to his age. Towards the end of the film, when Isaac's relationship with the older woman has failed, he realises that he enjoyed Tracy's company all along. This realisation comes to Isaac in the form of an epiphany, almost. He is lying on his couch, voicing the things that make his life worth living into a tape recorder. The final thing he says is "Tracy's face", before he races out of his apartment building and reaches Tracy moments before she leaves for London. Allen's "What makes life worth living?" scene has stuck with me ever since I saw Manhattan, a bit over a year ago.

I thought I'd have a go at my own monologue (in the style of Allen's), about the things that make my life worth living. Here goes:

Alright. Why is life worth living? That's a very good question. Uh...well...there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. what? Okay. Um...for me? I would say Neil Finn, to name one thing. And Oscar Wilde, and that sense of urban alienation captured in Edward Hopper paintings. Nighthawks is a personal favourite. The thrill of almost being caught masturbating. Extra cheese on pizza, naturally. Shaun Micallef. Stephen Fry. Uh...the plastic bag scene in American Beauty. That whole film, actually. Making eye contact with attractive strangers on a train, especially when they reciprocate for a few seconds. Michael Hutchence-era INXS, for sure. The Simpsons before it jumped the shark. Uh...the karaoke scene in Lost in Translation, and the fact that no-one knows what Bob whispered in Charlotte's ear at the end of that film. The Internet - that's a major one. Oh, and I mustn't forget animals. Especially pets. And High Fidelity by Nick Hornby - my favourite novel. And Woody Allen, especially his monologues and characterisation of self-referential neurotic protagonists.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sympathy for Children: An Outmoded Concept?

Last Saturday, my cousin and I headed out to Parramatta Stadium to watch our beloved Eels take on Manly. The Eels lost (as expected), but that wasn't the only thing that sent us home a bit aggravated. My cousin, who is 25, entered one of those 'catch-the-ball' competitions that takes place at halftime. The competition works like this: a guy launches a few balls high in the air, and each competitor takes turns in trying to catch the ball. It works out like a spelling bee - you are eliminated once you make an error (in this case: not catching the ball). Well...that's how it SHOULD work out. You see, there were three other competitors lining up against my cousin - two adults and one child. I'm guessing the child was aged between ten and twelve, give or take one year.

In the first round, my cousin caught his ball, as did one other competitor (one of the adults). Despite this, the two people who failed to catch the ball were given second chances. It soon got out of control, and I lost track of how many times various people had caught or dropped the ball. All I know is that my cousin caught every single ball that was kicked. He even beat the other three in a race to catch the ball (which was dubbed 'the final round'). This was the point where the competition runners, comedians Tahir and Rob Shehadie, should have ended the competition and declared my cousin the winner. However, they informed the competitors (and the crowd) that there would be one more round! The final round would be contested between my cousin and the child. The kick from Rob Shehadie went up. It was a fairly shocking kick, and neither competitor had a chance of taking it on the full. Despite this, my cousin was chasing the ball along the ground, and was just about to grab it until it was kicked away from him by Tahir. Can you guess where the ball ended up? Yep, you guessed it! In the kid's arms. The kid was declared the winner of a Parramatta Eels jersey which could be signed by a player of his choosing.   

My cousin later revealed to me that Tahir and Rob even admitted that they would let the kid win, that "that's just how it works." Well, my cousin was fuming. And so was I. My cousin has supported Parramatta for his whole life. He bleeds blue and gold. He attends practically every home game - not just for the first-grade clash, but for the Toyota Cup match as well. He even made sure that his engagement would not take place on the day of an Eels game. And what does he get in return? He gets robbed of victory by two guys who think it's 'cute' to let the kid win. "Oh, he's only a kid." TOUGH FUCKING LUCK! When my cousin entered this competition, it was stipulated what he had to do to win. I'm sure the kid was fully aware of the rules, too. It really doesn't matter what the prize at stake was. It's a matter of principle. My cousin did what he was told to do, expecting to receive what was promised to him, but was hard done by in the end. How is this fair? Why don't they just open the competition to kids only if they're solely interested in pleasing the younger fans? Or, if they really had to, they could have given my cousin the prize on the field, AND given the kid the same prize behind closed doors. It's just wrong to lay out a set of rules or guidelines and then tweak them at your discretion because you're persuaded by sentiment. My cousin said he'd be ringing the club to complain about the incident. I'm not sure if he's gone ahead with that yet, but if he has, I hope they've given him what he deserves.

Now for some general thoughts on the topic of kids always getting their way. I realise that children have especially fragile emotions, and sometimes we are required to give them what they want so they don't complain...or throw a tantrum. But the issue here is not how we should treat children individually; it's how we should treat them in comparison with adults. In essence, we should not give kids an air of superiority just because they're kids. We should not assume that, as children, they agree to being given unfair advantages. Some precocious kids would argue that it's unfair to be given the upper hand based on age. What do we do when we want to reward a kid but that kid happens to be a disrespectful little rascal? And yes, there are plenty of children like that. Should we just ignore the more righteous, older person under the assumption that "they won't want it as much"? As a society, we need to stop judging people based on demographical information, like age, and start judging people based on character. If children grow up getting everything they desire, then how are they going to adjust to adult life, where borrowing a dollar off your parents for the ice cream truck becomes sitting down with your partner, pondering how you are going to pay off the mortgage? As children, we need to learn that, in life, not everything will be clear skies and rainbows. There will be hard times when only you, the individual, can solve a problem.

I've always loved Red Symons' role on Hey Hey It's Saturday, as the mean-spirited, cynical judge in the 'Red Faces' segment. When a child comes on stage and sings, Red does not fall to his/her charm. He assesses the performance realistically, and if it is less than satisfactory, he is not afraid to say so, and may rate the act a two out of ten. We need more people like him in the world.   

Monday, August 1, 2011

"It's Catchy"

It's no secret that I am not a fan of the contemporary music landscape (see My Thoughts on Today's 'Music'). From both a technical and lyrical standpoint, I feel that many of today's 'artists' just don't cut it. Note: 'many', not 'all'. Of course, taste in music is a subjective matter, and plenty of people listen to and thus endorse the music that is found in your typical Top 40 chart. And to each their own. Whilst I may have an abundance of problems with modern-day pop songs, I do not deny the right of others to listen to such music.

Despite my libertarian views on music taste, there is one reason for liking contemporary pop songs that irritates me. Ask a friend why he/she listens to Kesha or Katy Perry, and I can almost guarantee that one of the reasons, perhaps the first they list, will be "their music is catchy." This begs the question: is catchiness a positive quality to have in a song? I believe it's a double-edged sword. A catchy song can perpetuate an artist's name in the industry. If you write a song that people will *remember*, you are likely to develop a fanbase who will demand new material and stick by your side. People will recognise your song if they hear it playing in a supermarket. You may even have your song featured on Australia's Funniest Home Videos during some montage of cats doing funny things. You will not fade into obscurity anytime soon.

The downside of a catchy song is that it will generally receive excessive radio play, and as we all know, overplay is a sure-fire way of killing the authentic freshness of a once-vibrant song. Also, and this may be a big call, a catchy song is a form of musical propaganda. Some artists are aware that their songs don't contain much artistic merit, so they insert a contagious hook to obscure their flaws. That way, consumers of their music may bypass the horrid lyrics. They may not pick up on some casual pitch problems (Auto-Tune should take care of these, anyway). I believe that such a move dumbs us down as consumers of music, under the assumption that we do not want substance in our music, and that we're only after a "sick beat." The truth is: some people ARE after exactly that, and nothing more. Some do not care for original arrangements and profound, challenging lyrics. That is fair enough, although artists should not assume that everyone is after mindless music that's only good for moving your feet to.  

Am I saying that catchy songs are bad songs? Not at all. I just feel that a song shouldn't be worthy of praise because is it 'catchy'. It should be 'catchy' as a result of its good qualities. I happen to love many songs with contagious hooks, but I don't hinge my love of those songs on those hooks alone. A few days ago, I added a Lady Gaga song to my iPod for the first time ever. That song is The Edge of Glory. I like how it builds to a climax, features a nifty saxophone solo by the late Clarence Clemons and exhibits Gaga's vocal talents. Yes, it is catchy, but as a pop hit, it really works, and I feel that Lady Gaga has improved dramatically since coming into prominence. She is now more conscientious about her craft, and has been successful in carving out an image for herself. She also seems genuinely appreciative of her fans. Here is the performance that convinced me that she is talented. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Home: More Than a Physical Construct

If you are reading this now, it's very likely that you are doing so from the comfort of your own home. Look around for a moment. Go on. Turn your head to the left and to the right, then look behind you. Look familiar? Or maybe you're reading this while waiting at a bus stop, and if you are, are you wondering what's for dinner tonight? Are you excited about Game Three of the State of Origin tonight? Maybe you've just had a long, tedious day and can't wait to rest your head on a pillow and go to sleep. Whatever you're thinking, chances are you are looking forward to going home.

In the classic Australian film The Castle, Bud Tingwell's character utters some of the most profound words I have ever heard in a film, and yet they are so simple. He says: "You can acquire a house, but you can't acquire a home. Because a home is not built of bricks and mortar, but love and memories." I'm writing this blog in the confines of my bedroom. It's a room I know very well. I know my entire house quite well, actually, for I've lived in it my whole life. It's not a fancy home. It's relatively small, the colour scheme is a bit dull, and even some of the furniture is shabby and partially ruined. But it's a roof over my head, and I have so many precious memories involving it. It is the place I feel most comfortable, and I am sincerely grateful to live in it.

Our homes, like the people who occupy them, go through drastic changes sometimes. The objects within our homes are often as special as the home itself. Renovations mean that a room, or even the whole house, is supplied with a new atmosphere. We may change the layout of our own bedrooms, even if it involves switching the positions of our bed and our wardrobe. Change is bittersweet when it comes to homes. It may signal the end of a much-loved pastime, such as the time my older brother wanted to move into the spare bedroom of my home, which, at the time, housed a pool table. There was not enough space for a king-sized bed AND a pool table, so the pool table had to go. Once it was removed from the spare room, we did nothing with it, and it was left to perish in the rain. Change also marks an opportunity to experiment with new surroundings, which can be exciting. I remember the first shower I had after having my bathroom renovated. The water felt so powerful, like it was massaging my back. Everything smelled fresher, too. I was marvelling at the change, not to mention that my old bathroom was in a horrible state. The dinner table is very much a symbol of unity for most families. Not all families have a strict regime where dinner must be eaten as a family every night at the same time, but whatever the case, you have most likely consumed the majority of meals in your life at the dinner table. Think of the sense of occasion that sometimes accompanies dinner. You not only eat food as a family, but you often engage in friendly banter or talk about your daily experiences at school or at work. Steps are another feature of our homes that we take for granted, or use subconsciously. When you think about it, you use steps whenever leaving your home or walking up to your verandah. If you live in an apartment, walking up and down steps will obviously be a more conscious action to you. In fact, it could be said that in apartments, steps become stairs. But steps are also made for sitting. I often use my backyard steps to sit and ponder about dilemmas, or as a vantage point to gaze at clouds. You cry tears on steps. You share jokes on steps. You embrace on steps. You can do a lot of things on steps, now I think of it. And what about our pets? Those creatures that we love unconditionally and that bring us so much joy. Earlier this year, my family lost our beloved dog, Boyo, after having him among us for about fourteen years. We buried him in the backyard in what was a simple yet incredibly emotional process. He is a part of our home's history now. He practically lived his whole life in the one home, and that home would be his final resting place. 

I've always thought there's something quite Romantic about the notion of being alone after everyone has left a party you've hosted. We've all been there. We've hosted a party at our house - for a birthday, engagement, Christmas, etc - and there comes a point where there's only one guest left, and when he or she leaves, you are overwhelmed by mixed emotions. You wish they could have stayed for just five more minutes, or that the night just hadn't ended. Sometimes you just pour yourself a refreshment, put your feet up on the couch, and say "Thank fuck that's over." No matter what your post-party thoughts are, there is one thing that being alone after a party reaffirms. It drives home the fact that you own a home. People leave at the end of the night because they have their own homes. Sometimes when you host a party, it doesn't even seem like *you're* the host. You may feel dominated by your guests, as though you don't have a say in how to run the procedures. But when everyone leaves, and you stand as an isolated figure in the middle of your lounge room, it sinks in: "This is my house; this is my home." During a party, it's as though a house comes alive, as though it inhales oxygen to accommodate the people in and around it. When everyone leaves, the house exhales and returns to its state of tranquility. It has returned to its familiar setting; it is comfortable to re-establish that connection with its owner.

Many people my age see their homes as a prison - a place where they feel 'trapped' or 'enclosed'. I cannot understand this line of reasoning. How can a place that you've grown up in be a prison? The home should be the most comfortable place of all. For me, it is *leaving* the home that poses more of a problem than *staying* in it. Humans have a natural tendency to shy away or even fear the unknown. It is why so many people are afraid of death, as well as the dark. I do not have agoraphobia. It's not so much a fear of leaving my home, but rather a fear of facing the unfamiliar. I will now present you with a situation that you've most likely found yourself in at some point in your life. Have you ever been at a friend's house and needed to use the bathroom? Of course you have. Now, compare your state of mind in this situation with how you'd feel if you needed to visit the bathroom at your own home.When we need to 'go' at our own homes, we just go. It's second nature to us. However, at a house that does not belong to us, we feel as though we must take extra care with everything. Dilemmas such as "Do I leave the seat up or put it down?" and "What will I do if I stain the bowl!?" arise, and I don't know about you guys, but such thoughts make me extremely paranoid. Indeed, some people are so afflicted by this fear that it reaches phobia status, where they cannot go to the toilet anywhere else but in their own home. One of my favourite scenes from any 90s movie takes place in American Pie, where Paul Finch must face his fear of defecating at school after Stifler spikes his mochaccino with a laxative ( I digress, but I thought I'd use the bathroom example to provide some insight into how we take the comfort of our homes for granted.

When we're at home, we can eat what we like, sit how we want to sit, turn the volume of our music up high, and let's not forget things like sex and masturbation. Now, tell me, how can a place with this much freedom be seen as a prison? Sure, I realise that some people grow up in harsh surroundings. The home can be a place of domestic violence, sexual assault, quarrelling parents on the verge of divorce, but let's face it. The *home* is innocent; it's the people inside it causing the harm. If our homes weren't meant to be a place of comfort and familiarity, there would be no such thing as homesickness. It's something I've been plagued with before. It's a horrible feeling - being away from the place that you know like the back of your hand, and having to fend for yourself in foreign, at times alien, surroundings. This Sunday, I'll be leaving with some friends to go away for a week up the Central Coast. I'm sure I'll enjoy myself. After all, these people *are* my friends. Memories will be forged on this trip, by all means. Conversely, I know there'll be a touch of homesickness that creeps over me. I won't be sleeping in my own bed. My use of social networking will be scarce. I won't see my family. But considering all of this, it's a positive thing that I am going. It was the Russian filmmaker Tarkovsky who defined 'nostalgia' as a longing for one's home so sweet and sharp one might almost leave home in order to feel it. That is the beauty of leaving the house, of immersing yourself in a place that isn't your own. The homecoming will feel so much sweeter, and you'll be able to appreciate what your home provides.

So, what is a home? Well, it's many things. It's a refuge to protect you from nature's elements and the ills of society. It's a friend who rides the emotional rollercoaster of life with you, and who will always be there for you when you've given up on someone. It's a witness whose walls see you through your darkest hours, and who knows the things you obscure from the rest. It's a place that supports your treading feet and lets you carve out your life story in its walls. Home is bliss.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Age is Just a Number

Surprise surprise! I've decided to revisit the world of blogging. I told someone on Facebook a month or so ago that my blog was not "on hiatus", but that my blogging days were in fact over. Clearly, I was thinking too rashly. Today I return with a post that is rather personal, but one that I feel the need to divulge. Looking at the title of my blog, you would probably assume that this post will be about love transcending the barrier of age when it comes to marriage. Well, you're wrong. This blog is about how I am 18 years old, yet I don't live the life of a typical 18 year-old. Sociologically, I am younger than 18. Psychologically, I am older than 18.

I'm an 18 year-old university student who is unemployed, and without a driver's licence. I *still* haven't gone for my Learners test (see I Have No Drive to Drive). These days, it seems, you can't have a social life if you don't drive, or don't have money to go out. I'm currently in my two month university semester break. The last day of semester was the 1st of June; it is now the 29th of June. I haven't seen my friends at all in this time. Not once. In fact, the only time I've left the house to go somewhere was when my mum and I went to see a concert in the city a few weeks ago. I would have invited my friends instead of my mum, but I don't think any of them would care for the music of Neil Finn. This blog is not about bad-mouthing my friends. I realise that my friends *have* invited me places, but I have declined, sometimes without citing a reason. They usually ask me to come out with them to a local club, but I don't see the appeal in it. They like drinking alcohol more than I do, and they like playing the pokies, which I don't like doing at all. I can't go out as easily as they can. I don't have my licence, so I can't just drive straight to a place and meet them all there. I feel like a nuisance when I have to ask for a lift.

But the hardest aspect of all this is the lack of money. On the rare occasion that I go out somewhere, I need to borrow the money from my mother, who does not work and is a pensioner. As you probably know, I don't live with my father as my parents are divorced. My father does not support me at all financially. My older brother is practically the stand-in for my father. There have been many times where I've declined to go out simply because my family could not afford it. Does it make me a selfish and lazy person because I don't have a job to support my family? Yes, it probably does. The truth is, I just haven't been raised with the "traditional family values" that many middle-class families espouse. Neither of my parents undertook tertiary education, and they've never had fancy jobs. Right now, neither of them work. I don't have a father figure who's there to ask me "What is it you want from life?", and help me chase my dreams (not that I have any major ambitions). I don't have a bank account that my parents contribute to in the hope that I'll one day settle down with a wife and kids.

I am spoilt. Not superficially spoilt, in the way that, say, Paris Hilton is. It's just that I'm spoilt with love...from my mother. She's never ordered me to get a job, or to get my licence. She often tells me to live life how *I* want to. She's always been very flexible like that. The main thing that matters to her is that my brother and I are *happy*. Am I happy? I'm never truly happy, but I'm usually content. I have some horrible moods creep over me from time to time, but for the most part, I'm fairly optimistic about life. With all this considered, do I sound like an 18 year-old? I think I sound like a 15 year-old. I'm just not *living* life right now. I should be going out with friends and making a bit of cash to get by, but I'm not. My day consists of watching TV and communicating on social networking sites. Don't feel sorry for me, because it's all my fucking fault.

Now that all the heavy stuff is out of the way, it's time to move on to the part of the blog that will possibly make me sound like a snob. Rest assured, I don't intend to sound like one; I just feel that this topic cannot be adequately addressed without discussion of this. Whilst I am like a 15 year-old sociologically, this is not the case psychologically. I *know* I am smart. There, I said it. Not trying to boast, but if plenty of people have told me this, it must be true. I think there's a link between this lack of social life and precociousness. Because I don't leave my house all that often, I have more time at home to research topics that fascinate me. Sometimes I'll read through random Wikipedia articles, just to learn something new for the day. Ever since primary school, I've had this propensity to learn and pick up things that I overhear. I don't just watch The Simpsons because of the numerous jokes and sight gags. I watch it for the references to pop culture. I was probably only 7 years old when I first saw the episode Treehouse of Horror V. Despite this, I knew that The Shinning was a parody of Kubrick's The Shining. Sure, I didn't know what a 'parody' was, or who Kubrick was, but I spotted the reference because I'd seen bits of The Shining on cable television before. It is this ability to remember fine details and relate them to something else that has made me the precocious being I am today, I believe. As most of you would know, my tastes in music and film are unorthodox for a person of my age. Give me The Beatles over Lady Gaga, and Rear Window over Transformers. This is not a concious choice. I do not think "I want to be more sophisticated than everyone else, so I will immerse myself in classic music and films." It just so happens that my preferences were conditioned in me from an early age.

As a Facebook user, I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with some of the status updates I read, and some of the ridiculous pages that are popping up. I've seen status updates along the lines of "I wanna have sex with somebody", and there was nothing satirical behind them. The pages, on the other hand, are getting out of control. Not only do many of them contain atrocious spelling, but there are a fair few that are downright rude and disgusting, too. Now, I'm generally not the type of person to get politically correct about such matters, but I feel that too many people are just creating these pages for shock value, taking advantage of the relative freedom of Facebook. Does all this complaining make me seem old? Maybe so. But I think a lot of this 'premature maturity' has to do with interacting with adults on Twitter. I'm sorry, Facebook peeps, but the people of Twitter are more enlightening than you are. I can hold intellectually-stimulating conversations with them, and they are generally more understanding and compassionate than the people of Facebook. Of course, many people have both Twitter and Facebook, like me. It's those who solely use Facebook that are generally the least enthralling. In essence, when you communicate with adults for long enough, a part of you begins to behave and think like an adult.

It's funny, isn't it? I'm so hopeless when it comes to living life. I mean, *really* living it. Earning money and spending it, driving a car, going out, etc. But I guess no one has the right to declare what constitutes 'living'. Conversely, I'm ahead of many people my age when it comes to matters of the mind, whether it be my abounding general knowledge or cognitive thinking. I've been alive for 18 years - my flesh and being have been around for that duration. I'm probably wasting my youth as the days go by, but it will all be better, someday.


Friday, February 18, 2011

How to Find the Song of Your Life

It's been ages since I've written a blog. If you're a fan of my blogs, then I'm sorry for my absence, but motivation has been scarce as of late. Anyway, I've decided to write an entry about this 'formula' that I concocted to find the song of your life; the song that you were born to listen to. The truth is, the song you end up with doesn't define your life, but it's fun to pretend that it does.

I was recently browsing Wikipedia, and after frequently ending up on disambiguation pages, I thought to myself "Wow; there are so many album pages on Wikipedia, even really obscure albums that belong to niche genres." This gave me an idea. I would begin on a particular year, then find an album that was released in that year, and then randomly pick a song from that album. All of this would be decided by chance, and the song that fate selects for me would become the song of my life.

Things you will need to carry out this formula: 
* This website:
* A die (dice) with letters instead of dots, or this website:
* Wikipedia.

Go to the website You need to generate 1 random integer between 19 and 20 in order to decide whether the album comes from the 20th or 21st century. Make sure the preference is set to 'Open Sequence'.  Press 'GO' when done (duh!).
Use the same website to generate 1 random integer between 0 and 99. This will determine the final two numbers in your year. Depending on whether you were given a year in the 20th or 21st century, you may have to submit your search a few times to find a year where Wikipedia determines that albums were released. E.g. There is no Wikipedia category for '1933 albums', and we aren't in the year 2022 yet.

Now that you've determined the year that your album/song was released, you need to use Wikipedia to narrow down the album that the song of your life comes from. For the sake of this blog entry, let's just say your year is 1986. Start at this page and click on '1986 albums'. Here's where your letter die becomes handy. Roll the die. Whatever letter you get is the first letter of your album. Let's just say you roll a 'C'. The song of your life will come from an album that begins with 'C', and was released in 1986. Keep rolling the die to narrow down the spelling of your album title. Let's just say the second letter you roll is an 'R', and the third letter you roll is an 'O'. In this case, you are left with only one album - Crowded House by Crowded House. Sorry, couldn't help but use my favourite band for the example. For albums that begin with a numeral, e.g. 3 Doors Down by 3 Doors Down, you can either discard them completely (like I did, admittedly), or spell out the numeral as a word, e.g. three instead of 3 (duh!). Once your album has been spelled out, click on it.

Finally, to discover the song of your life, you'll need to return to the website that you began with ( Crowded House features 11 tracks, so I would generate 1 integer between 1 and 11. Hence, 1 integer between 1 and [final track number], for whatever album fate provides you with. The generated number is then corresponded with the album's track listing to reveal the song of your life!

For those interested, the song of my life is Pieces of Quiet by Khanate, from their self-titled album. Trust me to be given a song that goes for 13 minutes and 24 seconds! I listened to it all, and I hate it. It belongs to the 'drone metal' genre. Here are the lyrics to the song:

Under a bed, a leg and a saw, red teeth gnaw
No more whine, no more whine, quiet time
No more whine
Metal teeth red, red teeth gnaw, leg and saw
Under a bed, a leg and a saw, red teeth gnaw
Silence, while I strip - bones (gnaw, so quiet)
Dark - and quiet, we go...into quiet time
No more whine
...your bones...


Here is the complete song:

Well, I hope you enjoy discovering the song of your life. If you're bothered, share this formula with your family and friends. Perhaps you could make a playlist of the songs that your friends ended up with. Be creative! 


Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Don't Get Drunk, and I Don't Smoke. Leave Me Alone.

Last night, I went to a friend's 18th birthday party. I had a really good time - not because I got smashed, or because I indulged myself with numerous cigarettes. I enjoyed myself because I got to spend some quality time with mates, and had some of the best conversations that I've ever had. Of course, there was alcohol at the party, and I didn't mind that at all. If you drink responsibly, there is nothing to worry about. There were also a few guys smoking cigarettes at the party. While I frown upon this habit, I realise that people have the right to smoke, and that I should leave them be.

A problem arises when people try and coerce me into drinking alcohol. Now, I am not a teetotaller. That is, I do not abstain from drinking alcohol entirely. When I drink alcohol, it is almost always beer. Spirits don't really appeal to me. My only alcoholic beverage last night was one beer, which has been the trend in most parties I've been to. Most of my friends had some form of alcohol last night, and some of them were either drunk or tipsy. Most people who didn't drink were designated drivers. There was a point in the night where Smirnoff shots were poured. I expressed that I didn't want one, because I do not like the taste. Regardless, my 'friends' (well, one or two of them) still pressured me into drinking a shot. I don't easily succumb to peer pressure, and so I declined their offers. One of my friends, Lucas, is another person who doesn't see the big deal about alcohol. He's even less willing than I am to drink the stuff. Still, he was being pressured into drinking for most of the night. One 'friend', Nicholas, did something completely stupid. Nicholas offered Lucas $50 if he took one shot of Smirnoff, and wait for it...$60 if he threw up. Now, this behaviour is just fucking uncalled for. It really, really pisses me off. Which level-headed person would pay a friend to drink alcohol against his will? It's fucked. Some people 'get off' on alcohol. Nicholas, who was a designated driver, encouraged others to take shots all night. This is what I mean by 'getting off' on alcohol. For him, watching two guys take shots at the same time is akin to how Romans watched gladiatorial contests in the Colosseum. A massive spectacle. Another thing that annoys me is when drunk people continually announce "I'm drunk," as if they expect a round of applause. The only thing they'd get from me is a shake of the head, and perhaps a sigh. Getting drunk is not a positive thing. It doesn't make you better than any sober person. It is not a thing that should be glorified. By the way, if anyone with an alcohol 'problem' or addiction is reading this, I do not feel sorry for you. You weren't born with such a problem; you brought it upon yourself. Another striking moment from last night is when one of my friends, Anthony, mentioned an upcoming party, and said to Lucas "If you're not gonna drink, then you shouldn't go. That's the only reason why people are going." Lucas replied "But Steven doesn't drink." Anthony's response took me by surprise. He said "Steven's an exception. People expect Steven not to drink." I don't think I replied to Anthony's comment; I was too lost in my thoughts. Why do I attract that label? Why must it be a big deal that I hardly drink alcohol? Why must people who don't get drunk or tipsy be seen as 'different'? Why have parties changed their purpose from a social sphere to interact, to a place to vomit your guts up? That moment occurred early on in the night, and it was then that I decided that I would write this blog.

The second issue that is on my mind, as you can gauge from this blog's title, is smoking cigarettes. Now, I wasn't offered any cigarettes last night, thankfully. That would have been awkward. Generally, smokers aren't as pushy as drinkers. Smokers generally realise that their habit is a negative one, but simply state that they are addicted. Most smokers that I know do not wish the habit upon friends and family. Drinkers, on the other hand, will almost always ask "Are you sure?" when you decline an alcoholic beverage. They are proud of their habit, and want others to join them in their drunken stupor. Last night, a friend who smokes changed chairs because his cigarette smoke was too close to my face. He did this out of his own will, and then exclaimed "A smoker should never bring a non-smoker down." That was very nice of him to say. If only more smokers could be as considerate as he is. This paragraph isn't being written in the same vein as the previous one. I'm not expressing my disgust for those who smoke, merely clarifying that I don't smoke, and that I never will. Can you believe that I've grown up in a house of smokers? That's right: Both of my parents, as well as my brother, smoke. Just about all of my brother's friends smoke. My neighbour, who frequently comes over to my house, smokes. I'm sick of being an innocent victim of passive smoking.   

To conclude this entry, I leave you with a final thought:

Am I the normal one, because I don't succumb to harmful temptations? Or am I the strange one, because I'm part of the minority who has no curiosity to try such substances?

Feel free to answer that question for me, but only if you're going to answer sensibly.