Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strange and Beautiful

So all said and done apart from wonderful, delightful free meals throughout the week, the only actual physical, non perishable gift I got was from my sister in the form of lycra - and I can always use more lycra.

Anyway I probably, well definitely didn't help myself out by as usual answering the question 'what do you want for your birthday?' with no list of consumer durables to fill the void in my life.

Instead I answered 'I want to dance with a deaf girl.'

I wasn't trying to be funny or clever, I'm serious. It's an experience I want to have.

I want to do it because I think it would be strange and beautiful, think about it. We don't really understand why the brain enjoys music, and why furthermore when we hear music it reaches into the motor-functions of our brain and makes us want to move in sync with it.

Cut the hearing off, and what is dance - completely strange, the phenomena observed without music of somebody suddenly changing their motions for no apparant reason whatsoever. Don't think its strange watch this with your sound turned off:

with sound it all makes sense, without it it seems perverse.

But apparantly and here I reveal how little I have to do with the deaf or blind communities - blind people innately make hand gestures. Thus on some innate level people that have never heard music I suspect, understand it, enjoy it etc.

So I would like to guide somebody through the dance, through the motions of the music and see if they enjoy it (all consensual of course) and can connect with the music. I'm sure, deaf people go dancing all the time with their friends and shit, I'm sure in this day and age deaf people can do most things.

I just think it would be strange and beautiful, and thus I'd like to do it. One day.

Step one: learn how to say 'do you want to dance?' in Auslan.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Twelve Moments

So today's my birthday, blah. On monday I launched my new webcomic called 'twelve moments' when I say mine it's really 'ours' and it involves collaboration. It should take you some time to check it out so I won't say much here but what I will say is this...

The whole thing was designed to force me to work and become better (possibly upto decent) at drawing comics, layouts and shit. To stop me from being lazy, but it also created an opportunity for the peeps that write the comics to be creative and in particular create something they would otherwise be unable to create.

Those coming from a media background used to storyboards and what not take to it straight away, those who write in more literary traditions not so much. But I have been surprised at how good the contributions have been from people who universally have little to no experience with comics.

I think western comics have a huge untapped advantage in having a traditional model of writer-artist teams rather than the Japanese tradition of writer as artist. But this advantage has amounted to little, or much less than it should. Why? Because it is an artist dominated industry as my brother puts it. Artists want to work on their own thing and block peeps who can write from entering it. Everybody if offered the chance should write a comic, particularly with a risk averse hollywood only really making adaptations, if you are an aspiring director or screenwriter soon will come the days when you have to first release your film as a comic before anyone will produce it in order to establish a following.

Okay I've said my piece, this project has felt good, really good:

twelve moments by us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Group Assignment Asshole

For the second time in almost as many weeks I turned up to a tutorial solely to collect my mark. This time though I wasn't confident of actually passing. This wasn't an open book test with multiple choice section, this was for a report I only started the day it was due and handed in the next day.

I got 17/20 marks, and didn't even get pingged 10% for being late. I thus once again resolved I didn't need to be there and left.

Let me elaborate on this project. This project involved answering questions about two legal cases sighting the relevant legal issues. It had a word limit of 1600 all up. It was a group assignment, with max 4 members, minimum two.

Had I actually had the foresight to check when the assignment was due before the due date, I still would have immediately leapt on the opportunity to work by myself.

1600 words doesn't warrant enough effort for a group assignment. Group assignments generally cost me more effort than is saved by sharing the workload.

Interestingly in the lecture before the tute there is this guy that complains, habitually and since complaining about the number of 'asians' in our course I habitually avoid him without being impolite.

For reasons I can't fathom this douche cares about marks. He complains about our lecturer and thus was surprised when I told him this subject was my favorite. 'Because I don't care almost as much as the lecturer doesn't' being my justification.

This invited a discussion of other subjects and the group assignments. This guy complained about doing 95% of them. This complaint I would expect maybe from a first year, not somebody in their second year of their second degree.

I tried to espouse my 'yeah but you don't want a credit student doing a credit standard contribution when you could do it to a distinction, you're lucky to have them not contribute and the only way to buy them off is offer them 100% contribution.'

For those not at RMIT I don't know how other uni's work but with group assignments you get an assignment cover sheet and you can put next to each group members name their contribution - 100% is the status quo, which implies everybody contributed equally and thus recieves 100% of the mark. The only time you penalise somebody is when they contribute nothing, or if you just want to discourage somebody from asking to work with you again.

Anyway, this guy cut me off, and told me in his last report he asked a guy to rewrite his section 5 times then dropped him from the group when it 'wasn't up to scratch' this tough talk presumably impresses somebody but I just blurted out without thinking 'it's just marks...'

He responded 'it's just your future' which is something alarmist my mother might say. This immediately sent me into a reverie contemplating my future but that's a different post right there. He then made a spitting gesture and turned away. So that killed the conversation and I possibly should be thankful for my impulses.

Anyway, what future in this guys shoes is worth treating people like shit and dis/un/anti?/compassionately ditching them from a group for something as inconsequential as an assignment mark. Get some perspective.

For example, what are you actually trying to achieve through good grades. If an employer looked at your academic record they would see a high GPA or something and HD's a DI's and whatnot all over your report.

Presumably employers recruit by taking the GPA of every applicant and picking the highest one? Would you want to work for an employer that did that? No. You have to survive a job interview, here you see huge differentials in the effort:reward ratios.

The effort to reward of getting a good GPA is minimal relative to the effort to reward of not being an asshole. It takes very little effort to not be an asshole. You just have to be patient and understanding and compassionate. You have to smile a little and relax. It takes hours and hours to learn a bunch of theory of which you will apply 5%.

Furthermore the most oft repeated tragedy of recruiting is being hired for technical reasons and then fired for personal ones. You are 'brilliant' BUT your team hates you. This is why the interview is far more important than the resume review, and companies know it. They don't trust references, they don't trust grades and quite often treat the academics that instructed you with contempt.

So why the fuck be an arsehole over grades?

Anyway, I learned never to work in a group assignment with this dumbass, 1. he'd probably insist on doing work I'd be better off doing for him and 2. He'd probably demand I put equal time into it and 3. He's an arsehole, shit comes out of him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So I'm Superstitious

Last year I was taken by despair upon finishing the 21.1km half marathon. The sudden massive sensory destimulation got to me and I was crying sweat heading into the baggage collection.

This year it was the reverse. My emotional/mental breakdown began for reasons unknown at 6pm on Saturday night. My only theory is that I'd reached a point in time where I actually could let go and not be letting down other people as a result.

I went Yossarian and was overcome by a sudden desire to not wear clothes anymore. I shut myself in my room and drew, gradually getting more and more overwhelmed with emotion.

Consciously I told myself to hold off on the breakdown until I'd done the run. Then I eventually realised that if it was going to come now I should let it, there was no gauruntee I'd be able to tomorrow.

Thus I let the full weight of Shafika's death and the fact that tomorrow when I finished the race I would once again be all alone with nothing to do hit me.

This was depressing.

Then I opened up a new .txt file and wrote all the shit I had to do to feel better about myself. This made me feel better about myself, and I intend to keep working through that list.

I think more than anything though, I have these breakdowns when I get sick of being me. It takes energy being me, and thus every now and then I just need to retreat back into myself, be alone and recharge.

I also get superstitious at these times. I look for external sources of energy and inspiration. This is somewhat hypocritical of me, because I firmly believe the answer is never somebody else, the answer is something we have to create ourselves for ourselves by ourselves.

So I got creative.

I took one of my surplus sharpies and penned the number '23' on my left wrist. This is an accessable place to keep reminders. '23' should need no explanation, but in case it does it is Michael Jordan's number. Jordan is characterised by his relentless desire to win, relentless. He drives toward the basket, he expects all his shots to go in. It is the perfect mindset when you are trying to run a half-marathon faster than you have run any long distance race before.

I've done this before, but it was not enough this time, I switched over and wrote '37' on my right hand wrist. 37 is the number of weeks Thriller was number one, it is also the number Ron Artest wore in the 2009-2010 NBA season, Ron Artest after winning the championship in Boston with the LA Lakers turned to a news reporter and said 'I would like to thank my psychiatrist' Ron Artest is crazy, but got his head checked and kept calm to come up big when they needed him in the playoffs and particularly game 7 of the NBA finals. Ron Ron was on my right wrist in case I went crazy, incase I had an emotional episode before the finish line.

I also had some beads sent me from South Africa that had been blessed by an African Priest, now I'm not religious, but I am it seems superstitious. And I had recieved a card with the blessings on the beads I now wore upon my neck. I took my sharpie and wrote these words on my chest for the run, believing that once labelled I would indeed possess these qualities 'Faith, Hope, Love, Courage, Trust, Endurance, Protection...'

For those lay to the marker community, Sharpies are a breed of texta, not a knife just incase you were starting to worry.

Anyway, turns out sharpie ink isn't that easy to wash off.

But when it came to the run, everything inverted. I felt fantastic. I overtook people the whole time. I thought I might be a chance to do it in 1 hr 30 minutes. I overtook the 90 minute pacemen before the halfway mark. The more I ran the better I felt, the harder I ran.

I also decided last minute to wear my giraffe stockings, even though the nylon doesn't breath well it just felt a bit somber wearing all black. It turned out to be the biggest competitive advantage. Every spectator complimented them. I got massive cheers from a cheersquad dressed in pink. It was the biggest boost.

I only got overtaken in the last 800m or so by guys that turned out to be marathon runners. If you are running a marathon in under 2:30 you are seriously fucken fast, so I didn't mind. I sprinted across the line to finish in 1:25.33 (1:27 something by the starting gun) In ballarat speak that's 3.5 laps of the lake at 24 minutes per lap. It was the run of my life. All my best runs have been characterised by superstitious trinkets and emotional breakdowns.

I'm superstitious it turns out. What of it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Equity vs. Efficiency

Just 14 more sleeps till the next NBA season tips off. I want/need NBA back in my life but I'm honestly not too excited about this season, at least nowhere near as excited as I was last season for the starting date. Last season the offseason brought Ron Artest to the Lakers and Rasheed Wallace to the Celtics, it promised to be epic and sure enough 80 regular season games and 3 playoff rounds later we saw possibly the greatest finals series in recent history.

But this year is different, Lebron pussed out and went to Miami along with Chris Bosh in a move that promises some of the most meaningless championships to the Miami franchise ever. Conversely all the excitement doesn't come from the Miami Heat super line-up but from the prospect that anybody that beats the Miami Heat this year or in the next five will win one of the most meaningful 'David v Goliath' championships in the history of the game.

Because in one free agency season, the NBA went from something midway between AFL and English Premier League to English Premier League.

In professional sports the relevant league can take two paths - equity or efficiency. Equity is promoting a level playing field presumably with the aim of ramping up competition. Efficiency is to concentrate talent as densely as possible and remove losers from the mix.

In AFL you see possibly one of the better 'equity' sporting models in the world's professional sports. They have measures like the Salary Cap and Draft to ensure that teams are roughly equal. A 'winning' team is penalised in the draft and has a harder time attracting new talent to rejuvinate the club. A 'losing' team is rewarded in the draft and over time can build a list of talented players that can mature and reverse their fortunes. Similarly the Salary Cap prevents too many of the leagues elite joining the same team and becoming some kind of super team. Sure it still happens - the three-peating Brisbane Lions with 3 Brownlow medallists in the mid-field and just about the best player in the league in every key position comes to mind. But on the whole it works pretty well.

By contrast the English Premier League the richest team can sign all the best players, hence you have 4 or so big teams (I must confess I'm speaking from a largely ignorant base here) and then a bunch of also rans that can get relegated out of the league. That's an effeciency model for you. The extreme going to the Spanish League with Real Madrid...

The NBA has a salary cap and arguably a superior drafting process to the AFL (it's a lottery with the odds based on a teams performance, the weakest team has the best odds, but no guaruntee- this prevents 'tanking' in theory) however if you are a rich team like the Lakers you can exceed the salary cap and just pay a luxury tax on those players contracts. If you can get a super eam together and sell out your season then it's certainly worth paying the tax. The Lebron to Miami wasn't quite this situation though, it was almost a voluntary/collusion decision by the players to become the Real Madrid of the NBA and potentially ruin the sport.

Enough has been said about Lebron such that Lebron is better left forgotten. The cruel thing about free agency though is that you can have a star player one season that gives you the leagues best record, then they leave and you get nothing in return (except for a big pile of money you don't have to spend on that player anymore) and you have to suffer through a season before you get any draft consideration.

This is true also of the AFL except that the AFL isn't really conducive to one player being able to take over a game like the NBA is, thus the departure of a superstar isn't necessarily going to push you from first to last, but maybe from first to 8th. Yet in a league with more teams, it's quite possible (and probable) that the Cavs can go from a regular season 1st to 30th just like that.

I prefer equity in sports. I would have rather watched Wade and Bron face off for a championship than cooperate. Just as last season watching two teams of seasoned champions duel it out was just about the most stressful and rewarding viewing experience of my life. I can only hope the Celtics manhandle the Heat out of the playoffs this year and we get a rerun of last years championship series.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Big Assumptions

Why am I in school?

I feel my school assumes I want a job. I can't look after myself and thus I need somebody to emply me. How best to disguise myself as something they actually want. How to standardise me so they can make an objective decision on who to take. How to numerise my knowledge so it can be measured with a tape measure. The longer my knowledge the more employable. That's the assumption.

They assumed wrong. I want an education first, a job second. I only want a job for its education purposed. I want a job I can learn from, otherwise if I'm not learning I'm happy enough to shake a cup on the street.

Why did I go to high-school?

I feel my high-school assumed I wanted to get into university. They assumed correct, but I wanted to go to uni to have fun. But reflecting on it, this was the general assumption, almost every interaction a student had with my school held the university objective in mind. Thinking back there were a lot of students that this was entirely inappropriate for. Possibly me.

Why do we go to primary school?

I honestly don't fucking know. To learn to read and write? maybe. there's a lot of students that don't even by the end of year 12. I suspect we go to survive. School is in large parts day care. Our parents need to be back out earning money, we need somebody to take care of us. We go to school once we have reached an age where our communication skills enable one person to manage 30 kids or so.
Primary school was fun though. I wish University was more like Primary school. More finger painting.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Thing Is This...

This sentiment was contained in yesterdays post, but I thought I'd scoop it out of the water with my dirty hands and give it attention now.

I'm happy.

That's the kicker. These days I really only have two moods: happy and competitively aggressive. The others are still there but they are a very thin slice of the pie. I'm not even that angry cycling anymore.

I did in an abstract way enjoy my old lifestyle of working all day, looking forward to lunch and yelling at the contestants on the biggest loser, but since basically '06-'07 I've gone from not liking myself to quite liking myself. Being an angry, sad man to being a pretty happy dude.

How? Abe Lincoln has the secret I think: "I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." and that's more or less what I've done, I've decided to be happy.

There's some other things I've done too, like made a concerted effort not to be a fucking cunt.

I sought feedback, I tried to build up self esteem... blah blah blah it's really not much. Not much at all.

But all those articles you read about how happiness has nothing to do with money or possessions. Those articles we read backed up by empirical studies and what not, that are all true but we routinely ignore. They are all true. I'm living those articles. It is hard to apologise for my existence right now, as Yogi Berra said: "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there." is a definite risk to my current happy lifestyle but fuck it, when I come to a fork in the road, I'll take it. That's my plan.

I can always become a billionaire astronaut cowboy later.