Friday, September 24, 2010

The Mysterious Haiku Ninja

While I've been recovering from my miscellaneous assortment of illness and injury, I've been going for a lot of walks. I've also started trying my hand at a bit of amateur photography.

 I don't pretend to be anything approaching an expert in the practice, although it's always something that's interested me. I've been told quite a few times in my life that I have a unique way of seeing the world.

I think it comes down to the way I see patterns where most people don't. Read into that what you will. And while this tendency may create a lot of unnecessarily awkward social interactions, it does have some advantages.

I think a lot of amateur photographers are satisfied to simply take photos of beautiful things and that can often be a little boring. Anyone can take a picture of something beautiful and have it come out looking beautiful. I like to try and take pictures of things most people wouldn't like at in ways that make them more interesting. I guess that's an area where the whole pattern thing is kinda useful.

There are a whole lot more where that came from, from all around the area where I live. But natural patterns aren't the only things I've been noticing. As well as the often ridiculous government funded sculptures that litter the streets of Adelaide and its surrounding areas, there's quite a lot of street art near where I live. Chalk it up to the nearby presence of an art school if you like, but there are a number of scattered paintings. A stencil advertising some xxx rated ankles, the word vegan splashed around like a brand name. But my favourites are the little haikus I've started finding scattered around, small print on random bricks where people might not be looking.

Such as this one, from a laneway near my house:

"Good people exist
You are only noticing
The loudest voices"

 Or the sly Bon Jovi reference at this bus stop:

"I'm shot through the heart
And I have no-one to blame
But my own damn self"

Or this one outside a storage place:

"If I had three lives
I'd set one of them aside
To make bad choices"

Or this insight into the human condition:

"You will never be
As smart as you think you are
Right at this moment"

And my personal favourite, near a school:

"You must make a choice
The outcome depends on this
I choose you, Squirtle"

I'm interested in how many of them are around - I'm mainly limited to the area I can reach on foot when I go out with my camera. So if you live in Adelaide, keep an eye out and let me know.

-Smackie Onassis

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stories from the semi-distant past: Being in a band

So, I used to play in a band.

I've probably mentioned this. It consumed a vast portion of my life for a good two years. I've been trying to avoid talking about the band too much. They're still around in some incarnation or other and we aren't really in contact anymore. But, I was recently asked by a friend to write up some stories about what touring is like so, well, I guess I'll do that because that's just the kind of decent friend I am.

Joining the band was a strange experience. Even though I had been learning music my whole life (I learned basic music theory around the same time I learned the alphabet) I had never planned to do it in any professional sense. I saw all the kids around me with their guitars and far-away looks, picturing themselves as the deified rock legend they just knew they were going to become. I never even really considered it. Playing music professionally seemed like such an unrealistic fantasy and to be honest, I loved playing too much to risk tainting it with the disappointment of a failed career. As well as that, it was a very personal thing for me and growing up I was often extremely nervous about playing in front of other people.

By the time I graduated high school I had ten years of classical piano training, six years of saxophone lessons, four years of singing lessons and some self-taught guitar skills under my belt but still no ambitions to start a career in music. I remember conversations with friends when I was graduating that they started by saying, 'So, you're going to do something with music after school?', but I told them that I was going to go to uni and get a proper job, just like my parents wanted me to.

But then, just like in those fictional stories of young girls waltzing into the arms of success, I was out one night having drinks with a friend.  Her boyfriend was a drummer who I'd  met a few times but didn't know very well. To make conversation, he started asking me a few questions about myself, mostly about music. Musicians tend to use music as a conversation starter because, really, it's what most of them would prefer to be talking about at any given time. He asked me what I played and stopped me when I got to the saxophone, mentioning that his band was looking for a sax player. A few weeks later they invited me to join them on their upcoming New Zealand tour as support for The Specials.  I hadn't really realised it, but the band had been around for about five years at the time and had managed to work up a reasonable name for themselves. They'd supported the likes of Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and the Mad Caddies, which is kind of a big deal if you listen to ska music. Which I didn't, really, but I later remembered that they'd played support for one of the first all ages gigs I went to see when I was in high school and that the sleazy bass player had hit on not one, but two of my friends.

I didn't go on that first New Zealand tour. Not enough time to learn the songs, get a passport, organise uni around it and all that. Plus, they had yet to tell their current sax player that he was fired and I thought that might be awkward. But I did join the band, and I did tour with them for some time. The first time I visited the town I now live was when I was on tour in 2007.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what to say about the experience of touring. It's exciting to play to a different crowd in a different city for multiple nights in a row, but it's also very stressful and exhausting. There's a whole lot of sitting in a crowded van for hours on end, usually wedged between another band member and a pointy piece of equipment. You survive on the smallest amount of sleep possible in order to make it to the shows on time and you pretty much have to eat like crap because it's too expensive and troublesome to find too many decent meals. If you don't eat meat, this usually means you end up living on chips, garlic bread and the taunting jeers of your bandmates. And after a week or so, that starts to get old.

For the time I was in the band we were in an odd but probably not uncommon position where we played some quite impressive gigs (yes, I have played on the same bill as Darryl Braithwaite, thank you very much), but were all still flat broke because the band made so little money. I think the best example of this polarity happened during the second tour of New Zealand, the one I did go on.

We were playing in a club in a place called Palmerston North. Apart from the club itself, all I can remember about the town was a pizza place called Hell's Kitchen that didn't cook my garlic bread properly and some talk of public showers, which is actually insanely tempting after a few days of touring.

Probably the moment of my life when I felt most like a rock star happened when I was sitting at the bar after the show. I was making small talk with the bartender to pass the time and mentioned that I had never tried tequila. Apparently, the man on the stool next to me was the owner and the next thing I know all three of us are doing shots of 1800 with lime, on the house. Pretty glamorous, right? It was, for a brief shining moment or two.

Jump forward a few hours and things were considerably less glamorous. Apparently, when they said we were sleeping at the venue to save money, it didn't mean there was any actual accommodation there. We just sort of had to find the least cold and sticky place we could to get some bastardised imitation of a good night's sleep. We were comforted somewhat when we found a carpeted back room with, joy of joys, a heater. But, the heater was soon removed by the owner because he was sleeping in his office. Apparently his wife had kicked him out. Maybe it had something to do with giving free shots of tequila to nineteen year old girls playing in his club, I don't know. But it was the middle of July in New Zealand and we were huddled on a floor with no mattresses or blankets. In other words, it was the coldest night I have ever spent in my life.

There's a whole lot more I could say about touring, and playing in the band in general. This feels like a very brief highlights reel, but I'm also savvy enough to know that this post is already long enough that I'll be lucky if anyone makes it this far as it is. I could probably tell some more of them at a later point, if anyone wants.

-Smackie Onassis

Monday, August 30, 2010

Natural Disaster Area

It seems a lot of my friends are natural disaster buffs. I've seen them gazing wistfully at tornadoes on news reports, talking sincerely about the tragedy while secretly yearning to one day see something like that with their own eyes.

It may surprise some of my friends to know that, even though I'm only 23 and have spent almost all of my life in the less exciting areas of Australia, I have personally experienced two separate incidents that were officially classified as natural disasters.

The first I don't remember so well, given that I was only two years old at the time. It was the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake and it made headlines internationally. All I can really remember is that I was in a Disney themed cubby house when it happened, but it was enough of a big deal that the last of the repairs were still being done when I was approaching my twenties. I also think it says something about Sydney that it was initially reported simply as a tremor in the Sydney area by their news services. Then of course they discovered that they were just getting the run-off from our quake and that it was bad enough that people actually died. Although in their defense, this was before the days of Twitter, where the world can be kept informed about these things half an hour before they happen.

The other one I remember quite well. It happened when I was at uni. In fact, I had an assignment due that day. This was 2007, year of the Totally Huge Storm. You probably heard about this if you live in Australia or look at weird pictures on the internet. A small cyclone caused massive floods, as well as a friggin huge ship washing up on the beach.

That's the Pasha Bulker. It created an unexpected tourist attraction, photo opportunities and numerous "Would you like to pash a bulker?" jokes.

As I mentioned, I had an assignment due the day this storm hit. And because I'm a good student damnit I went in to submit it in the morning before news of the storm broke. It was raining and I dashed into the hub, soaking wet but pleased with my time management skills. I looked around for the usual assignment submission services, seeing that things looked a bit awry. The following conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I just need to submit an assignment?
Staff: You can't, the place is flooding.
Me: But it's due today...
Staff: The entire campus has been evacuated.
Me: ...but it's due today.

Because I have my priorities in order, instead of getting the hell out of dodge I went straight to the Communications building to see if I could find someone to give my assignment to directly. Of course, the campus had been evacuated so the only other person there was the one other journalism student wandering around, repeating the mantra "But it's due today!"

Eventually, we combined forces to slip our assignments under the professor's door, leaving a courteous note explaining the circumstances. Meanwhile:

You'll be happy to know that we were not awarded any late penalties.

-Smackie Onassis

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A (Probably Unnecessarily) Long Entry About Narcissism

I've been thinking a lot about narcissism recently.

I've heard my generation referred to as narcissistic many, many times. And while nothing annoys me more than media commentators deciding that it's perfectly fine to make sweeping negative generalisations about an entire generation of human beings, well, I recently signed up for twitter.

Don't get me wrong, I've been loving it. I like having an outlet to send out short ideas. I may be one of the few people who feels this way, but I like the challenge of culling those thoughts down to the character limit without compromising the spelling or grammar. I really like it, ok? And as for that whole 'Why would anyone want to know what I had for breakfast?' argument that I keep hearing, here's a simple solution: don't tweet about what you had for breakfast. Tweet about things you find interesting, things you actually think other people would want to know. If people took the attitude of Twitter as a way to send out links and information rather than thinking they need to use it to tell everyone the most mundane aspects of their daily life, I think it would have a much better reputation.

But while browsing for people to follow, I've noticed a trend that makes me even more ashamed of being a part of the twitter crowd than I already was. There are hordes and hordes of people on twitter who tweet about nothing but tweeting. Their profiles read like a mash-up of begging, demanding strangers follow them, thanking  them profusely and going on to ignore them completely while harvesting more and more followers.

There is no point to this other than narcissism. There is no reason to follow the messages of a person who only uses those messages to amass followers. And yet, these people have thousands of followers, all just like them. None of them even looking at what any of the rest of them are doing. Just begging and clicking, begging and clicking. They follow people for the sole purpose of being followed back and no-one even pauses long enough to think about what an empty kind of attention-seeking this is.

You hear a lot of people crying foul about the possible effects of social networking on young people. Normally, I think this is a whole lot of bollocks. I think the whole 'shorter attention span' thing is more or less irrelevant when society has created a working environment where people need to be able to concentrate on multiple tasks at once in order to survive. But one thing I can't simply sit down and get over is how the encouragement of narcissistic behaviours will effect the younger teens on the internet.

Everybody needs entertainment, especially kids. Previously, kids would spend their entertainment hours watching tv, playing games, reading, whatever it is that kids do. Either way, their attention was on speculation, on fiction and fantasy. But I would wager good money that if you gave all the kids who have ever gone on to become adults the option of spending their entertainment hours focused on themselves, but in a more entertaining format, they would lap it up. They would see strangers acknowledging their existence and want more, just like these kids who scour the internet begging for followers. Human beings are born wanting to be acknowledged. It's just who we are.

But here's the rub. Studies are coming thick and fast showing that when parents imbue their kids with an inflated sense of self-esteem, those kids have a tendency to spiral into depression when they realise they won't get everything they want in life solely based on how special they are. So, what happens when kids are raised on a diet of narcissism and obsessive self-involvement?

My answer is hipsters. Hipsters happen.

Let me start by saying that by 'hipsters' I don't mean everyone who wears skinny jeans and listens to Broken Social Scene. That would describe most people I know, as well as most people I admire. I'm talking about the true hipsters, the people who are more interested in the fashion of music than the music itself. The people who spend three hours carefully crafting an outfit to make it look like they just threw it on after an art session, the people who make up bands to claim they listen to just so they'll get the 'indie cred' of listening to a band so obscure none of their awful hipster friends have even heard of it. For a better explanation of what I mean than I could ever give, read this excellent article by Christian Lorentzen.

The thing that seems to define this type of person is their narcissism. You can listen to hipster music and wear hipster outfits without being considered a hipster. It's hard to say when a person crosses the line but it seems to centre pretty strongly around their deep-seated infatuation with themselves. A good, strong sense of superiority over anyone who isn't a hipster also seems to be an important element. These are the people who clung to emo culture when they were teenagers and needed a new sub-culture to fit into when that one became mainstream, like a cultural hermit crab constantly outgrowing it's persona and moving to a new one.

I'm sure there are people who would disagree with me when I say that the archetypal hipster is little more than a narcissist in organic lamb's wool clothing. I can't think of any of those people of the top of my head, but I'm sure they exist. I would tell those people that to see this kind of self-involvement in action, all you need to do is go to a gig. My favourite example comes from when I went to see Camera Obscura at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne. This was just after I'd been injured, so it might have been a good idea for me to stay at home. But given that I was seriously injured, had lost my job as a result and had already bought the tickets to a band I'd been listening to since I was a teenager (when I had precious little money to spend on entertainment), I went along anyway.

I was not well that night. My head was a mess of concussion and my body was causing me a lot of pain. I was on the brink of passing out all night, so I decided to just hang near the back where I could sit down if I needed to. Unfortunately, while the crowd surged around me, I felt a particularly strong wave of light-headedness and knew I needed some fresh air. I tried feebly to push past the throng of cardigans, but I was extremely weak. Not only did the people around me not move out of the way to let me past, but when I actually fell to the ground at their feet they didn't even give me a second look. I got out and was fine after a bit of fresh air but I am still furious about it. People have tried to justify this behaviour by suggesting that they thought I was just drunk. I don't see that as any excuse. Even if you are going to make the assumption that a person is drunk, then go ahead to judge them negatively as a result of that assumption, what excuse do you have not to even ask if they're ok?

There is no excuse. The answer is that the people around me were simply too self-involved, too busy waiting to see if any of their friends would show compassion first, too focused on being witnessed to be singing along when they knew the words to even give any attention to the human being literally collapsing at their feet.

I'm not one to bag our generation for narcissism. As I said, you can't judge an entire generation of people based solely on the actions of that generation's biggest attention whores. And it's not like I've done any studies, so I can't say that one thing is caused by another.

But I guess it's something to think about.

-Smackie Onassis

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Dark Side of the Internet: A Guided Tour

First of all, before anyone asks, I have no idea how I found any of these. No idea. I follow a lot of random links and then instantly forget how I got there. Just like in real life.

Regardless of where they came from, I have a nice little collection of these online oddities filed away in a bookmarks folder labelled, simply, 'wut'. These are a few of my favourites.

To set the tone, here is the dude with the World's Biggest Chin
That is so much chin. It's like four separate chins all combined to form one massive chinny appendage on one poor guy's face. I could die happy if I saw him eating in a restaurant and had the opportunity to say to him, 'Sir, you have a bit of chicken on your... chin,' and it is a whole chicken leg. The poor guy is actually trying to raise money for an operation to have it removed by offering the sale of advertising space on the chin. As my housemates pointed out, this is not a very good offer. Imagine: he finds a sponsor and gets their logo tattooed. Investors grin surreptitiously at each other. Then, he wanders across the street to the hospital and has the whole thing lopped off and tossed aside. Not a lot of bang for your advertising buck. Unless, I suppose, you are promoting an expensive new product that would appeal to surgeons.

So we've started off with a few light-hearted laughs at somebody else's torment, let's move onto something that will almost (if not definitely) knock your socks off.

Time Travel Police

If the title alone hasn't convinced you, you should hurry up and read that. It may be pretty much one big run-on sentence, but it is worth it.

The very first thing the author of this site does is declare that what he is about to say is totally not a hoax. Here's a hint: saying 'THIS ISN'T A HOAX I SWEAR I SWEAR!' before you even tell anyone what you're talking about isn't a good way to convince people that you're telling the truth. Before you have even finished that sentence people will be looking at you with shifty eyes, subtly working out where the nearest exits are.

As soon as the author has established that he is totally not foolin' y'all, he goes on to inform us that the UK government has established some kind of Time Travel Safety Net. Now here's the thing: I don't think that happened. I'm sorry to seem skeptical, mysterious anonymous conspiracy theorist, but I think if a major first world government started spending parliamentary time discussing time travel, I feel like I would have heard about it.

He goes on to say:

You are receiving this E-Mail from the Synchronity Time Police (UK Division) it is a general announcement bringing you News of a New Organisation against Time Travel Crime, our Web Site is still under construction and we are aware that we are the VERY FIRST Synchronized Community fighting Time Travel Crime, but how can we do this if Time Travel is not yet possible? we can't actually arrest any Time Criminals because there aren't any yet but we have set up this service because we think that people should do something NOW to prevent Time Travel ending up in the wrong hands and we don't want it to end up like the internet which is very hard to control and police because it is not owned by one single individual,

I had to cut him off mid-sentence because that last sentence was about three paragraphs of rambling about the internet. First of all, can I just say how much I love the things he chooses to capitalise? Synchronicity Time Police makes sense. But Web Site? News of a New Organisation? Those do not need capital letters, sir and/or ma'am. As for the content itself, well, it kinda speaks for itself, doesn't it? I think any comment I could make would do little but take away from this natural wonder. That being said, I totally call first dibs on doing a Time Travel Police song. Keep your greedy mitts off it, the Gregory Brothers.

Let's move on... the GREAT BAMBOOSICAL.

As far as I can gather, this is a movie musical that aspires to teach people about the benefits of bamboo. Sounds kinda dodgy, but dodgier ideas have worked. The first sign that this isn't one of those comes when you see that their tagline appears to be:

 "You'll laugh the beef right off the menu!"

I... I just... thankyou, the internet. Just. Thankyou.

Despite promoting the apparently hilarious side of bamboo knowledge, this is an issue the producers of Bamboosical take totally seriously. They have a list of facts promoting the health benefits of bamboo-based food products. Hell, they even have a picture of Beck eating a burger, captioned with the phrase 'Beck loves it!'. The best thing about this is that you know I'm not making it up because here is the damn link right here.

But what of the music of Bamboosical? They don't appear to have any sample songs, but here is the product description of their CD:

Ridin' Ranger is the mute hero from the film "The Great Bamboosical." He brings the top secret recipe of the Bamboo Burger™ plant-based patty to feuding Bambooyans and Rednecks. This CD includes 6 cosmically cool cuts from the film Soundtrack for only $9.99 (plus S&H). Profits go towards the cost of filming "The Great Bamboosical". Order your CD today and enjoy a rhythmically rocking ride with Ridin' Ranger!
Obviously the message of Bamboosical is a subtle one. Also, the hero is mute? Isn't it a musical? Isn't he supposed to be preaching the gospel of bamboo through song? A mute hero in a musical could actually be a really good idea, but I am willing to wager that the idea has not been brought to it's full potential here. There is a lot more to see on that site (I am particularly disappointed that the link marked simply 'COWS' doesn't appear to be working), but I can't possibly go through it all. Mainly because I want to go have a hot shower and a lie down and being on the computer is preventing me from doing that.

And so, our tour ends here.

-Smackie Onassis

P.S. If you haven't voted on my poll you are officially not my best friend.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Dark Confession

I have a horrible, shameful confession to make.

I once spoke on the phone while I was in a public restroom cubicle.

Of all the things that modern society finds inappropriate, that one is pretty bad. It often surpasses using mobile phones on public transport in lists of people's technological pet peeves. I have sometimes joined in such conversations, nodding my head in agreement and making sure to point out that I would certainly never speak loudly into a phone on a crowded bus. All the while, I remain conspicuously silent when it comes to the restroom* issue.

I'm not proud of it, ok? I never thought I would be that guy. The person creepily going through their address book every time they lock the stall door. Loudly cracking jokes into the phone in between grunts. Sometimes going the extra distance to call someone just to breathe heavily into the mouthpiece, the sound of defecation barely audible in the background.

It wasn't like that for me. Really. I didn't want to do it. If anything, I fought it.

I was preparing myself for my first interview, for the first feature article I would write as a student of journalism. It was to be a personality profile. I had stretched my memory to think of any interesting connections I could possibly take advantage of. Until, suddenly, I'd stumbled across an old phone number in my address books, a rather strange young man I had befriended at a drama camp years before. I remembered his exuberant, ultra-flamboyant personality, alongside his repeated claims that he was a reincarnated psychic. I also vaguely recalled his attempts at white free-style rapping.

This was the guy. This was the guy that I would interview to set the precedent for my degree.

I called a few times, sending a few texts and leaving messages on his voicemail, at first to no avail. With my deadline looming, I started trying to think of alternatives but there wasn't one as appealing as this one. Then, suddenly, finally, he returned my call. I happened to be on the toilet at the time.

I heard my ringtone go off and saw the name flash up on my little Nokia screen. Instantly, I felt faced with a new height of social dilemma. This could be my only chance to actually get in contact with this guy to arrange an interview. An interview that could possible set the bar for my degree, even perhaps my career. But I was on the toilet. And someone else was in the stall next to me. Do I ignore the call and risk missing the opportunity? Or do I carry out polite society's most heinous atrocity?

I chose the latter. And I got that interview. And for the reward I got, I feel no shame for my repulsive actions. Well, maybe a little bit of shame.

If you're wondering, it turned out that my interview subject had started doing psychic predictions on TV morning shows (which I hadn't seen because I was a uni student with a uni student's definition of what consitutes 'morning'). He even went on to feature in a short lived reality show that faced Australian psychics off against each other to discover who was Australia's Most Psychic Psychic. A kind of blend between Medium and Australian Idol, I suppose, although I remember it being cancelled almost instantly. If you don't believe me, his website is here.

So, friends, yes. I have used a mobile device while seated on a public toilet. Shame me if you must. But before I am shunned from society altogether due to this disgraceful confession, I'd like you to think how you would react in the same situation.

-Smackie Onassis

*I'm never sure how to refer to toilets. Every possible word seems inappropriate in a different way. When I was in highschool, I just embraced the fact that everything was going to be inappropriate and just started to refer to the toilet as the 'Wee-hole' but I'm not sure I can get away with that on the internet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reality Tv Has Made Me Question Reality And I Don't Like It

I have a lot of opinions about reality TV. I tend to avoid it as a general rule, not because I don't like it, but because I believe that allowing producers to profit from more cheaply produced reality shows could have dramatic implications for Australia's creative industries. Simply put, if the bosses in an underfunded industry realise that people will volunteer to be exploited on camera for free (or the mere chance of a prize) and that they don't have to go through the added expense of hiring writers, actors etc, they won't hire those people. Which, if it goes on for long enough, means no more jobs for writers and actors in Australian television, and no more original content for viewers of Australian television. Bad.

But recently I've noticed another side effect of those few, unavoidable viewings of shows like Australian Idol, Search for a Supermodel and all those other talent contest type things. In years past when I looked in the mirror and decided that I looked at least passable enough to go the pub, I believed it. When someone told me I had given a good performance, I believed them. But at some point I noticed that  hey... those hideous creatures who audition for the modelling shows think they look good too...

At first, I shrugged off the idea. Those girls were deluded enough to slather on the facepaint and waltz right on to the set of a modelling show. Those bitches be trippin' right down the catwalk of crazy. I'm not going to go out and do anything like that, I don't need to worry myself with this kind of insecurity.

But then I noticed (it was on in the background, yeah?) just how many people on the reality shows live in a reality completely removed from anyone else's. Even the ones who don't seem overtly crazy (but not overtly talented either) have completely inflated ideas of their own abilities.

And then, through the wonders of television, you meet their family and it all makes sense.

If you've ever watched the earlier auditions on any of the 'Idol' shows, which you have because of course you have, you might have noticed that even the most tuneless, tone-deaf, singing suckhole seems to have at least four or five people around them to tell them that they truly are an amazing singer, that they're going to take the world by storm. These people are liars.

Don't get me wrong, they are well-intentioned liars. They've been brought up learning that a white lie is just dandy when it boosts someone's self-esteem, that self-esteem is always to be right at it's highest possible point, and that encouragement is something you are obliged to give someone. Plus, they like seeing the people they care about feel good about themselves. That's understandable. They think they're doing their friend/child/student the biggest of favours in sending them out into the world with confidence.

Of course it all becomes clear when the aspiring performer steps, alone, into the judges' arena and their whole world comes crashing down around them. They now have the word of industry experts that they can't sing to save their life, and the video footage (often screened repeatedly) to prove it. Not only do they have to deal with the fact that they are hopeless in the one area they've always been led to believe they are uniquely talented in, but they also have to deal with the knowledge that the people they care most about in the world lied to them. And that those lies eventually led to them being humiliated on national TV. You can see why so many of them prefer to cling to their delusions.

People seem to have this idea that 'encouragement' equals blind praise. In my amateur theatre days,  nothing annoyed me more than the way praise and compliments were little more than social commodities. One person would get up to demonstrate their performance and the rest would clap and cheer, tell them they were brilliant, with the promise that if they replied enthusiastically enough, they too would receive the same treatment. Everybody likes to be told they're brilliant, none more so than amateur actors. The problem with this system presented itself if you happened to be the type of person who actually wants constructive criticism. How can you improve your performance if no-one will even tell you it wasn't your best yet? Believing that you have nothing to improve means that you don't work on it and, in extreme cases, leads to the kind of delusion you see every season of any given reality show.

So now I'm in a complicated position where I can no longer truly believe that a compliment is genuine. Did that person really like my singing, or do they just want a compliment in return? Do I really look nice, or is that person just telling me what they think I want to hear? Does it really require the risk of national humiliation (or at least smaller scale humiliation) to know if you really are good at something?

Welcome to the world of limitless insecurities, friends. I'm sure you will make yourself at home.

- Smackie Onassis, who assures you she is not fishing for compliments.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On My Mysterious Ethnic Origins

People seem to have a great deal of trouble picking where I'm from. I get mistaken for a tourist quite a lot while wandering around the Adelaide CBD. Admittedly, this is probably because I get lost very easily and pronounce 'dance' in a way that seems to make the souls of all South Australians wither up and die. That's the test you can do to see if the person you're talking to is an SA native. Pronounce 'dance' or 'graph' with a hard 'a'. If they immediately start clawing at their skin and writhing in agony, they're South Australian.

Admittedly, I do have a strange accent. I don't know what it is. It's not anything. But for some reason, people never accept that as an answer. People have pegged me as American, Canadian, English, Italian, South African and New Zealandian*. I've given up trying to explain it. For a while after I moved to Adelaide, I tried to pretend that this was just what people from Newcastle sound like. I stopped doing that after I gave that answer to a regular customer at the cafe where I used to work. He was a fingerprints expert from the State Police Headquarters, which was across the road. Most of our regular customers worked either there or at one of the nearby law firms. Nobody ever tried to rob us, even when we started stocking a coffee blend we called 'ROBUS', written on the jar in all caps above the cash register.

Fingerprints Doug, as we shall call him, stopped me when I brought him his tea one morning to tell me he'd been trying for a while and couldn't pick my accent.

"I'm from Newcastle," I replied, casually.

"Really?" replied Fingerprints Doug, "Because I'm from Lake Macquarie, and I've never heard an accent like yours."

This is the problem with constantly dealing with analytical experts. You can't even get away with the slightest, whitest lie. This is the biggest downside to sharing a house with a qualified forensic chemist. He knows exactly when you have or haven't done the dishes.

These days I've changed my response to 'I'm Novacastrian', followed by the silent hope that the asker will be embarrassed about never having heard of it (it just means someone from Newcastle, if you're wondering) and drop the line of questioning.

But apparently, it's not just the accent. After Meattrain decided to start fooling around with some celebrity face match software, we have confirmed that I am officially ethnically confusing. My results were as followed: Jamie Lynn Spears, Rita Hayworth, Paula Abdul, Halle Berry and an Asian actress I hadn't heard of and consequently can't remember the name of. Oh, and Ron Howard? I guess those faces combine for the most ethnically ambiguous face possible.

I actually had an ex-boyfriend who used to insist that I was Italian. I'm not sure why, but I'm pretty sure it can be explained by the fact that he was balls crazy. As in, 'I have to wash your body before every act of sexual intercourse' crazy. It is embarrassing how long it took me to realise that this was a very strange form of foreplay.

For some reason, he'd got it into his head that I was Italian. At first he just asked me about it, on the basis of my appearance. I set the record straight that I had no Italian heritage whatsoever, at least not that I knew of. Yet, somehow, from 'No, I am not in any way Italian,' he managed to hear, 'Yes, I am Italian. Please constantly use it as an explanation for my behaviour, any behaviour.'

For example:
"Geez, it's chilly tonight."
"I'm fine."
"That's just because you Italian girls don't feel the cold."
"I... I'm not Italian. I've told you this. Many times."
"Ha, you Italian girls. I dunno."

-Smackie Onassis

*I'm not going to pretend I've figured out what word to use when referring to a person from New Zealand. Even when I toured the place a few years back, I couldn't get a uniform answer anywhere I went. New Zealand, please call a meeting and decide what we can call you. And don't just say 'Kiwis' this time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Poll Update

Heat Three of the band name poll closed with 'Randy Bourbon and the Day of Regrets' taking home the gravy.

Heat Four gives you fine folk the opportunity to choose between Sneaky Baldwin, Today's Urban Youth, The Duplicators and Hey There Jimbo What's Cooking.

I'm sure you will choose wisely.

And if you're wondering, yes I do have more of these. So many, many more.

-Smackie Onassis

Are you there God? It's Me, Smackie Onassis.

When I was growing up, my family were quite religious. Not overzealous, door-to-door, preachy religious or anything like that, but my parents went to church a lot. They were both on the parish council, and Vicar of Dibley was my mother's favourite show. If it had been released a decade or so earlier, I might well have been a Geraldine rather than a Sarah Jane. Dr Who is a much cooler show to be named after, right?

The church my parents were members of was quite progressive - their local head honcho was openly gay and had been in a committed long-term relationship with one man for most of his life. They lived in a little cottage adjacent to the church. One of their most popular priests was a woman, and they frequently had inter-faith services where they invited people from Jewish, Muslim and other Christian groups from around the area to encourage religious tolerance. They also had services where you could bring pets. I remember being quite tempted to borrow my friend's python for the event, but then noticed the biblical parralels of my situation and decided against the idea.

Being as progressive as they were, my parents never forced the idea of God onto me, and I was never made to go to church with them. I was taught science and evolution as fact, and then religion as choice. You can see how I came out of childhood with a very different perception of religion to most people. It was only until I set off into the big, scary world that I saw what some people were doing under the guise of religion and went 'WAIT WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU STOP THAT. YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.'

I never really knew how to feel about the whole God thing when I was growing up. What I did know was how to cut a win/win deal, where both wins were for me. There was one particular day when I was young when I really didn't want to go to swim training. I don't know why, but it probably had something to do with it being the middle of winter. So, to test the waters of religion, I got out my prayer hands.

Ok God, here's how we're going to play this, I began, If I don't have to go to swimming this afternoon, I will totally believe in you. For reals, God.

I smirked to myself, considering that all I had to do was believe in something and I could get what I wanted without even having to get up. And if there wasn't a God, what did I lose? I'd have to go to swimming, but I probably would have had to anyway. As it turned out, I didn't go to swimming that afternoon, although I later realised that my mother forgetting to take me to one of my millions of after school activities is hardly proof of a supreme being. This coincided with me realising that this was a deal I could really only use once and I had kinda wasted it.

I guess it's pretty safe to say I never really took organised religion that seriously. The only thing I can really remember about my brief period of Sunday School attendance was the time I took along my favourite doll. It was a replica of the E.C. doll from the old ABC Kids show 'Lift Off' and when I sat down in the little circle of chairs they set out, I put E.C. in the seat next to me. After the roll was marked, the teacher asked if there were any new people there that day, as she did every week. I put my hand up and said,

'Yeah! E.C. is new!'

The teacher probably laughed at first, because how adorable, right? Keep in mind that I was actually the most adorable child ever: 

That's me with the ringlets. Unfortunately for my Sunday School teacher (and all future teachers), the ringlets probably helped with my ability to lead a crowd.

'Ok, seriously though. Any new people today?' she asked.

'E.C! You haven't put her on the roll yet,' I insisted.

Then, all the other children joined in until the teacher was forced to change the subject. So naturally I repeated this exercise every week until the poor woman was forced to change her weekly announcement to, Are there any new students who aren't the doll? and my parents decided to let me sleep in on Sunday mornings.

-Smackie Onassis