Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

The Case of the Disappearing Sharks

NB: Every fortnight I have my Golden Pen writing group at school write a story to keep them thinking and to practise their skills. I always write one as well, as it keeps me honed and often leads to more writing. Sometimes I write something I try to get published. More often I write something very weird without a proper ending. At this point, I post it here. I enjoyed the concept here but haven’t really written something that is a complete story. Take a gander.

Caroline “Yeti” Feats looked up from her game of Words with Friends and stared at the man standing before her.

“What did you say?” she asked, sure that she’d misheard. He was in his mid-twenties and wore a loose singlet top and board shorts. He also wore an expression of severe worry.

“Gone,” he said. “Every single one.”

Yeti shut off her tablet and stood up. Her eyes narrowed and she felt the beginnings of a headache pressing against her temples.

“It’s not April Fools’ Day, is it?” she mused. “You want me to find twenty-four missing sharks? That just disappeared from their tanks overnight.”

The man nodded. His long hair bobbed over one eye.

“And you didn’t go to the police?” she asked.

“Of course we did,” he said. “They’re on the case, obviously. But they’re looking for a thief, or gang of poachers. And I’m pretty sure they won’t find any. The sharks weren’t stolen. They just disappeared!”

Yeti sighed. Her forehead throbbed. On days like this she wished she’d never opened an ecological detective agency. Obviously, she was going to get all of the nutters. For example:

The case of the ninja starfish.

The mystery of the penguin burglar.

And now The case of the disappearing sharks.

“OK,” she said, opening the Notes app on her iPad. “I’m listening now. You better run me through it again.”

“You’re listening now?” the man said, annoyed. “Oh, all right.

“My name is Chad. Chad Morgan – no bloody relation. I am one of the keepers at the Melbourne Aquarium.  We have… we had one of the best collections of sharks in Australia. And then, this morning I came into work and went to feed the exhibits. And they were all gone.”

“All of the fish?” Yeti asked.

“No, and that’s the weird thing. Every other fish, whale, eel and turtle was accounted for. The only things missing were the sharks. The Great Whites, the Tigers, the Leopard sharks. The Dogsharks and Catsharks. I thought that the rays might be gone too, but it’s only the selachii subdivision that have gone.”

He was talking about the branches of the different families of the elasmobranchii – the family that contained sharks and rays. There was a family split, sometime in the Jurassic period, and the rays and the sharks evolved separately. And thus, in the present day, the sharks disappeared and the rays were spared.

“Was it just you?” Caroline wondered, pulling up her browser and typing ‘shark disappearances’ into the search bar. “Holy mother of – no. Not just you.”

She turned the iPad towards Chad and he whistled. The search had returned innumerable results – all breaking news articles – regarding the world-wide disappearance of various species of sharks. Unlike Australia, where the disappearances had happened overnight, in a large part of the world, the sharks had disappeared in broad daylight. Apparently, at precisely 4am in Melbourne, being 11am in Los Angeles, and 8pm in Paris, every shark on the face of the globe just vanished.

disappearing-shark“I had my camera out,” read one witness statement, at Shark World in LA, “and was trying to move into a position to minimise the reflective glare, and then there was a shark-shaped hole in the water, which exploded in a rush of bubbles. It made a fantastic picture!”

Similar stories came out of aquariums and sea parks around the globe.  In thousands of bubbly explosions, sharks in captivity in every country simply disappeared.

“I’m pretty sure this is bigger than me,” Yeti said. “And bigger than everybody, really. And- wait.”

Quickly, she scrolled down the page of search results with impatient flicks, scanning the headings for one important piece of information, conspicuous in its absence.

“Ha,” she said. “I don’t think I could take this job, even if I did know where to start looking.”

Chad raised an eyebrow at her. It was lost under long, bleached, shaggy hair.

“There is not a single report here of sharks disappearing in the wild,” she explained, scrolling up and down the list. “This isn’t a planetwide abduction. It’s not an ecological disaster. I’m pretty sure it’s a jailbreak.”

“Wha-huh?” said Chad.

“Let me speculate,” Yeti said, standing up and wandering over to the window. She looked out at the ocean and shook her head. “Sharks have been around for 65 million years, not evolving much over that time. They have had a nice niche in the food chain, and they’ve been content in that place. Until now. Now, humans are starting to become a threat. We’re fishing them to extinction, along with a number of other marine life forms. They’re no longer at the top of the food chain. And they’ve had to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said the ever-obliging Chad.

“Let’s say every species has a certain amount of evolution in them. We’ve evolved dramatically from the hairless, edge-of-the-sea apes we started as. Sharks haven’t changed much at all. So they have a great store of evolution available.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works,” Chad said, beautiful brow wrinkling.

“Shush. Anyway, with the threat of humanity upon them, and their current forms no longer sufficient to keep them safe as a species, the selachii family have had a growth spurt. Somehow, they’ve evolved into a species that can transport. And they can probably communicate through telepathy.” Yeti pondered. Her headache was gone as the situation became clear. Chad was staring at her with a certain amount of nervousness. She ignored him. “So, suddenly able to travel over great distances instantly, and connected to their brothers and sisters in the wild, the sharks concoct a plan to free every shark in captivity at the same time!”

“You’re a loony,” Chad said, and turned to leave.

“I’m a genius!” she shouted at him as he hurried out the door. She turned back to the window.  “Of course, the thing to ponder now is, once the sharks have escaped, what will they do with their new-found skills?”

She looked out the window at the sea that she had loved since childhood.

“Of course,” she said, shaking her head and returning to her tablet. “It could always have been aliens.”

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Lock ’em up.

Before I begin I need to reiterate to any new Damo Finders that I very rarely do research before I rant. This blog does not contain scholarly rigour and I freely admit that pretty much anything I write here could be completely untrue.

You have been warned.

teenager in prisonOnce again, I’ve returned from coaching a debating evening filled with the half-formed thoughts of Year 9 students. This time, they were asked to argue “That children should not be incarcerated”. From what I could gather, they were arguing that children (legally, those under the age of 18) should not be held in detention, put in prison, taken to juvie, or the like. It was a challenging topic, especially for our side, who were trying to convince the audience that even a murderer would benefit more from a kind word and some therapy than a stint in the pokie.

Their arguments were that children’s minds are not fully formed before the age of 18 and that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong, and therefore cannot be held accountable for their actions and should not be punished for them. That placing children into institutions puts them in contact with other criminal types, increasing the risk that they will become hardened criminals through association.

The negative team’s best argument was that if the Victorian Police are willing to give a 12 year old a gun license, they must be pretty damn sure that the child knows the difference between right and wrong. They also felt that the greater good of society needed to be taken into account and that a murdering child needed to be removed from society for the good of society.

Good arguments. What do I think?

It is completely possible for a child to be a psychopath. A child doesn’t turn eighteen and then lose the ability to empathise with others. As far as I know, psychopaths are born, not made. There are children that are, if not evil, then at least completely amoral. They either can’t tell the difference between right and wrong, or they know and don’t believe that such distinctions apply to them.

If a child kills or assaults someone, not through an accident or loss of control, but through careful planning and forethought, that child can’t be allowed to continue to exist in society. Who knows? Maybe they can be “cured” or “rehabilitated” through intensive therapy. Maybe not. But until they are judged fit to coexist in society, they are requested to leave the pool. Play time’s over.

James BulgerThose are the extreme cases. Remember James Bulger? Jon Venables and Robert

Thompson – both ten – stole the two year old from a shopping centre. They walked him around town, beat him and kicked him, and then killed him and left him on the train tracks.

Did you know they moved them to Australia? Gave them new identities and gave them to us.

One of the important concepts highlighted in this case is that of “Doli incapax”. Legally there is a stage that a child can be held responsible for their actions. That they understand the concepts of right and wrong, and that death is a permanent state. Back in the early nineties, once it had been judged that the boys understood that death was permanent, they could be tried as adults. I’m pretty sure that’s no longer the case.

Either way, the argument is for or against putting children into detention. I say yes, for murderers and insane evil little Chucky clones (ever see The Good Son?) but no to those who commit crimes against property.

Sticking a child in detention that has been done for shoplifting or similar is like creating a master class for junior thieves. You can find out all sorts of nifty tricks when you hang out with other people with a similar mind frame.

“I’ll swap you some breaking and entering skills for some tips on pickpocketing.”

More to the point, incarceration creates an institutionalised child. It’s not a natural society. The pecking order is similar to prison. The concepts of helping out a fellow inmate or being kind are beaten or terrified out of the child and they learn that being stronger than the next person is the way to be. How is that going to help them in the real world?

Some would say it’s a perfect lesson. I say it’s the top of a slippery slope to hell.

I deal with teenagers every day. Only once in a blue moon do I have to deal with a child around whom I am genuinely uneasy. There is good in almost every child. But there is always the exception to the rule.

I’ve seen a student who was the most surly, angry boy in the school smile with genuine appreciation when I told him his work was good. I can’t say that his attitude changed that much, but his mother told me during parent/teacher interviews that he really liked my class and talked about it a lot at home.

lord of the fliesChildhood in general is like Lord of the Flies. The power plays and shifting alliances are complex and endless. Teenagers are in constant fear of being embarrassed, of breaking an unwritten rule, of being ostracised or excluded. The rules are many and you often only find out you’ve broken one after it’s too late. And everything is done under the shadow of the authority figures in their lives.

We can only be the best role models we can be. We can listen and give advice. We can point them in the right direction and hope that something sticks. And we can fire up their imaginations so that they have more productive ways to exhaust their energies.

But if they’re out there killing people, then hell yeah, lock ’em up.

Rant over. Lighter topics next week.

I’m your only friend…

At the end of my first year of university, I was having a bit of a rough time. I’d had very little sleep. I’d just told someone how I felt about her and been unrequited. I wasn’t sleeping (completely self-inflicted) and had fallen asleep during an exam. It was a low point.

In fact, it really wasn’t a low point. I’d had a great year. But being out of home for the first time, I’d gone a little bit mental at university. Sleep and study were secondary to booze and this wonderful new thing called “The Internet”. By the end of the year I was at the end of my tether and was completely strung out, emotionally.

The Internet was new and wild (bear with me, I’m getting back on track), mainly text-based and incredibly addictive. We were learning to program. We were discovering how to interact with other systems and other schools. We all had online personalities in an age before online personalities were mainstream. We were talking to people in other countries and other universities. The world had opened up and I wasn’t planning on missing any of it.

comprehension!Side bar: When I first found out about the Internet, our mentor Fiona took us to a computer room where dozens of students were “online”. A number of them were playing a MUD – a Multi-User Dungeon. It was called Discworld, and as I watched over one guy’s shoulder, he chatted freely with people in a number of different countries, all trying to solve a quest and making random conversation. Each sentence ended with a colon and a right-bracket.

“Is that some sort of sign-off thing?” I asked. The guy looked at it in puzzlement for a while, then laughed and told me to turn my head to the side. Thus I was introduced to the smiley. And its overuse. Oh, and incidentally, to the Discworld. It all comes together.

ytalk exampleBack to the narrative and the slow trundle towards a point. Using a tool called ytalk, I was chatting with a girl called Haggis, who went to uni down in Melbourne at La Trobe. We’d arranged to meet up during exam week. She arrived in the middle of this low point. I was lying on my bed, my friends were making commiserative noises. I really didn’t want to see anybody. And probably wasn’t in the right frame to meet this girl I’d been chatting with online.

She came in, realised I was upset, reached into her bag and stuck a cassette tape into my tape player:

And my life was changed forever.

I’ve never been so instantly cheered up as I was by that song. Lorraine’s (that’s Haggis’ real name) tape contained a number of songs from a few different albums, including Shoehorn with Teeth and of course Lighthouse in your Soul. It was a mix tape, and I still have my copy of it hiding somewhere in the house. It has been chewed up and wound back in. It has been taken apart and replaced in a different cassette tape case. And it was the beginning of an obsession that would only be rivalled by Red Dwarf and Terry Pratchett.

They Might Be Giants have been a major influence on my life. They sing in a manically cheerful fashion, even as they talk about skeletons and people’s heads falling off. They have been used in Tiny Toons animations,

wrote the theme song for Malcom in the Middle,

did the sound track for the Power Rangers movie and Coraline…

And they’re back in Australia for the first time since I came back from Japan in 2001.

When we found out that they’d be coming back to tour with Nanobots, the Facebook messages went wild. We had the option of going to see them at Groovin’ the Moo in Bendigo, or at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.

“A true fan,” you say, “would do both!” Which is true. But a true fan, with a child and a mortgage, has to choose. So we chose the Corner Hotel. One night only, when we bought the tickets. Since then, a number of new shows have popped up.

I’ll transcribe this later:
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I was introduced to the Whitlams through They Might Be Giants. They supported TMBG at one of their shows, before No Aphrodisiac shot them to stardom. They also gave me The Lucksmiths, although they didn’t ever really rocket, so much as saunter gently upwards and out of sight.

We went to the Factory Showroom tour, still raw from my breakup with Cath. As an act of revenge I picked up a girl who was only there to see the support act.

When I came back from Japan, TMBG were doing their Mink Car tour. I even left Japan a few days early so that I wouldn’t miss the concert. We rocked up to the concert with pink letters on our forehead. At the end of the show, they announced that they would be performing a rare Flood show – the entire album from start to finish – on the following night. We left the concert, jumped online and bought tickets to the following night.

The number of nights my friend Shay and I would lie under the trees outside the Kyabram Fauna park, singing Whistling in the Dark and other TMBG classics.

They Might Be Giants have been the soundtrack to my life, from the end of my first year of university until pretty much the present day. Having said that, and in all honesty, I am no longer even in the slightest bit obsessed with them. The last couple of albums have had a couple of catchy songs and a couple of very thoughtful songs. They still know how to put together an album. But they’re not going to bring me instantly out of a depressive funk as they used to do. And I didn’t go to Groovin’ the Moo as well as the Corner Hotel. I didn’t buy the new album as soon as it came out. And I don’t have a t-shirt that still fits.

My iPhone signature still says “I don’t want the world, I just want your half.” I can still sing Flood from start to finish (and sometimes this happens in Greek restaurants late at night). But I don’t have the energy to get as excited about them as I used to. Or they aren’t providing me with the songs to get excited about. I was going to end the blog saying: “Either way, it was fun, but the love affair is over.” And then I went to see them love and a little fire rekindled inside my heart. I’m still a fan.

And we’ll always have Istanbul (not Constantinople).

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The Bucket

This last weekend was my first wedding anniversary. This has nothing to do with this entry. However…

We went to a French restaurant. I didn’t remember ever going to a French restaurant until my sister reminded me that in Canada my parents had to stop my brother from ordering the snails. This restaurant didn’t offer snails. It did offer steak tartare. So that was my order of choice, knowing that I wouldn’t eat it normally. And then the waiter (cool French accent tinged with Canadian) told me the specials, which included…

banquetasterixWILD BOAR!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine on the same food as Asterix and Obelix, so steak tartare would have to wait for another day.

During the course of the evening I brought up the concept of a Bucket List. It seems that everyone has one. A list of things you have to do before you kick the bucket. I have previously brought up the idea of a post-bucket list – a list of things that I want to achieve after I have kicked the bucket.

But I haven’t really discussed the things that I want to achieve beforehand.

In a blog that deals (in theory) with the concept of success, this seems very remiss. And so, I present to you: THE FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST.

Some of the things on this list are a tad outrageous. Some are completely normal and there’s no real reason why I haven’t done them yet. I want to have a number of items on the list that are achievable. Otherwise, why have a list at all?

A very funny man by the name of Michael Workman (FBTW) made the point that our lives would be a hell of a lot more fulfilling if we swapped our bucket list with our list of daily chores. And so, if we had a bit of spare time left after learning Swahili, we might manage to get some washing done.

I want to do all of the stuff on this list. If I get something done, I’ll let you know. I won’t make it the main focus of the blog. There are hundreds of Bucket List blogs out there. But I thought it was worth a once off. The list will be maintained as a separate page on Finding Damo, and I’ll update my achievements there (for the one or two people that are interested). Until then, however, a look inside the strange wants of Damo, in his search for success in all forms.

finding damo bucket list FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST

 Fashion

  • Own a purple suit.
  • Make a penguin costume for each member of the family.
  • Make a troll costume.
  • Replace an eye with a computerised copy – an iBall, so to speak.

 Food

  • Snails
  • Witchetty Grubs

 Travel

  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • England (the rest)
  • France (the rest)

 bucket picturesCreativity

  • Publish a comic strip.
  • Write an app.
  • Make a short film.
  • Make a feature film.
  • Have an amateur play produced (outside of school) – 1 act or full length.

 Fame

  • Get paid to act
  • Achieve, or at least be nominated for, Teacher of the Year.
  • Be an extra
  • Get a novel published (I already have short stories published – thanks to Alfie Dog)
  • Have a YouTube clip go viral
  • Have a play produced professionally

 Learning/Reading/Watching

  • Pull a car apart and put it back together.
  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Learn to play the harmonica
  • Get back up to speed on the piano
  • Read War and Peace
  • Read Gone with the Wind
  • Read Les Miserables

Family

  • Be involved in the creation of biological offspring

Obviously, I am a man of simple needs. Let me know if you can help me achieve any of the above!

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