Finding Damo

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

Archive for the tag “fame”

Go for Gold

wooo ahhhhh!And the Olympics are over for another four years. Eric Idle sang “Life’s a piece of shit” in front of the world and Wonderwall was sung by the most bored-looking bunch of musicians I’ve ever seen, and Posh Spice rode, terrified, around the arena on the top of a cab, and then we’re done.

And in another way the games have just started up again. In the paper this morning, the Melbourne headlines roared “Massive push for 2024 games!” With the immediate response being: “Sorry, no way. We’re not interested.” by the Australian Olympic Committee.

Oh, I don’t care! In 12 years, my stepdaughter will be at uni and my actual son/daughter could be starting high school and nothing is less important to me than whether we host another money-sucking, elitist sporting competition.

I’m being subjective, instead of objective. I should just report, and let you make up your own minds.

On a completely different topic, I took my students to a debate last week (they won – in the finals, woo!). The topic was that London 2012 should be the last Olympic Games.

Sorry, this is less than subtle.

The main points, completely uncontested by my boys, were these:

1. More money was spent on the Olympics than the Mars landing. In a quick glance at Google (my version of research), I see costings of 10 billion pounds, 15 billion pounds, or more, depending on whether you’re talking to a politician or a media personality. Just think what you could do with 15 billions pounds in a world where whole countries are starving!

the real Olympics2. The vision of the Olympics has been corrupted by sponsorship and greed. Olympic athletes are now more interested in personal glory than the glory of their country. This is evidenced (the debaters said) by the number of competitors who live and train and compete for one of the larger countries, even though they were born in another, less prosperous country. They go where their win is. Right down to the American Dressage competitor riding the winner of the 2008 games – a German horse.

And sponsorship! The two main sponsors of the Olympic Games: McDonalds and Coca Cola. How did this happen? In the room next door, my Year 8 debaters were debating whether the government should add tax to high fat foods. Does nobody see the conflict of interest here?

3. The Olympic Games have lost all sense of tradition. When was the last time you saw a naked Greek man running in the marathon at the Olympics? See what I mean? No tradition. Wait. Did I say “I”? I meant, see what the students meant? I was just illustrating the point. Even here, my debaters didn’t contest the argument.

At no stage were they debating that the Olympics as they are should be continued. Their argument was that they should not be discontinued. They put forward the idea that the Olympics should return to the simple concepts and traditions that made them such a good idea in the first place. Instead of dividing nations and causing competition, separating rich countries from poor, the Olympics should purely be about the sport. Have the flame of competition without the golden arches plastered to the side of the torch. Compete for the glory of the win rather than the future sponsorship deals a win will garner.

First stop in that path? Kill sponsorship. Cap spending at what is necessary to provide accommodation for the athletes – no new stadiums, no massive opening ceremonies, no Gallaghers at all. I think the world will thank me. Our opposition screamed “But then nobody will watch the games! Nobody will televise it! What’s the point?” The point is, I think, that we will have single-handedly removed the tempation to do drugs, cheat, spend thousands on super hero costumes masquerading as uniforms and restored the concept of competition to the forefront of the Olympic ideal. Who cares if nobody is watching? You know what? Who watches the Paralympics? These are people with FAR more Olympic spirit, competing for the glory of achieving something great, and nobody will show them on television.

My team argued that the games should definitely continue, but that the Olympic spirit would die if we continued with the bloated, parasitic monster of a model that is the current Olympics.

Sidenote: I thought that here would be a great place to put a picture of the “Olympic Monster” so I did a quick Google search. Instead, I came up with this article, about a sea monster, terrorising Olympic athletes…

olympic spiritAgain, bloated, parasitic monster that is the Olympics as it has become. In my head, the Olympics is the lean, muscled, Greek Adonis, wearing the laurel wreath and carrying a bright torch of competition and comeraderie. And if we take away the sponsorship and the shiny stadiums, and the Olympics disappear, we at least know that they haven’t died. That happened decades ago. Rather, they were on life-support, trapped inside their head, looking at that fine body wasting away to fat and rot, unable to die because nobody would let them.

If we won’t let the true spirit of the Olympics live again, at least let it die with dignity.

a political statement

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The Three Muses

The Three Muses by ShagThere’s an artist called Shag who creates these visually brilliant works, one series based on ancient Greek mythology interacting in modern/fifties society. My favourite work of his is a triptych called The Muses. In it three muses inspire three different artists – a writer, a photographer and a musician.

My sister Elise was the first person to point out that this very aptly represented us: Elise, my brother Justin and myself. Since then, I’ve been trying to match a time frame where I have the money to buy them and the prints are available. One for me the writer, one for Justin the musician, one for Elise the photographer.

You know about me. I never shut up about me. But I think it’s well worth talking briefly about my siblings, blessed of the muses.

Justin is two years younger than me. We were extremely close as children, often decked out in the same clothing and doing everything together. I was very excited when I heard he was born: “Guess what! I have a new brother AND a new dishwasher!”

As a child he was a crazy thing. The number of times he would end up in hospital with stitches… Well, it probably wasn’t that many times, but it seemed like a LOT. And I only caused a few of them. Off the top of my head: the time I pulled him off the top bunk, and the time I stuck a dinosaur in his head. Did he get stitches when I almost chopped his thumb off with the hatchet? At least that homemade bomb didn’t work.

Justin was the one who jumped off the High diving board first, climbed the highest up every tree, discovered that you could jump off the garage roof, onto the trampoline and then somersault into a pile of cushions we dragged from the caravan.

He hated reading. He even wrote a book about it: The Bird that read too much.

the Bird who Read Too Much!

Once we were in high school, we grew apart. We argued, we fought. He was sporty, I seriously wasn’t. Apparently I ignored him and he was resentful of that. I just remember that my friends and me were extremely uncool and so had to be shunned. Both of these are probably correct.

And he was right into the piano.

Both of us had lessons. I think I started earlier, and had very traditional lessons. Justin had a teacher that taught him to listen to music, taught him chords and how to belt out a tune that just sounded cool. I pretty much gave up on the piano then.

The three of us stayed away from the others’ areas of expertise. We can all draw well, play one instrument or another and write. I’ve even taught photography. But I’d never say I was a photographer or a musician.

We started spending time together again when we found out Dad had cancer. Our first Christmas together after this involved us going to the Juice nightclub and drinking way too much. So much so that we were still drunk the next day at Christmas dinner.

By this stage, Justin was playing the guitar, the piano and the drums. He basically just picks up n instrument, fiddles with it for awhile and then has a pretty good grasp of it for the purposes of ‘jamming’. He’s the musician, and he’s damned good at it.

Strewth!Now, he’s married with two kids and is incredibly successful at what he does. He worked as a park ranger for years, and the stories that came out of that job could easily fuel their own blog. He is saving the environment in a thousand different ways without the exposure of Steve Irwin. Although he has been on TV.

Elise’s muse leads her to a deep well of photographic creativity. She has an incredible eye for what is happening around her. Her sons are going to grow up absolutely hating the lens, but Elise is making the most of their cute years.

Elise is seven years younger than me. We’ve always been close, to the point where we lived together for a time at university. She did photography at university while I was completing my teaching degree. And then she did a teaching degree, which is where she met Daniel, her husband and father to their two wonderful boys. And a fellow pop culture aficionado.

I missed most of Elise’s high-schooling. I know that she was in a TISM music video, being taught by one of the singers. I know that she drank too much coffee when she was going to school at Ringwood SC. But that might be just because I was a country boy and didn’t know what coffee was until I was at university. Even then, Double Jolt was my caffeinated beverage of choice.

At uni, she was a major band head, right into her music. Then I started to see how good at drawing she is. She has a number of guitars with sketches on them, and was a regular photographer for a number of bands. Her eye for an image is spot on.

A few major images I have of Elise:

Elise the gumnut baby1. As a cute, pig-tailed pre-schooler dressed as a gumnut, which won her… I want to say Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t know why that picture and that image of Elise are linked together. It’s a weird prize, if that’s the case.

2. Lying on her back squealing with laughter after we’d held up a finger in front of her. Her face red with laughter and her eyes streaming, we could keep her going for half an hour, with mentions of E-Kidneys.

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball – 2002

3. In her graduation gown, with me in mine, both entering the grown-up world (me for the second time). The food that night was horrendous.

4. Dressed in red, standing in the sweltering heat, freshly married to Daniel and directing the photography. I never saw her happier.
Elise is a published artist. Together with Daniel, she’s been published in a book called: Co.lab Words and Art. That makes all three of us published now!

I honestly feel blessed by the family I ended up with. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Someone chose me a pretty good one.

Success

OK. Pick 3:

  • be fabulously wealthy
  • become a household name
  • marry a supermodel
  • become the boss of the company
  • create your own company
  • have kids
  • act on Broadway
  • Have hundreds of people attend your funeral
  • pass the million followers mark on Twitter
  • own your own house
  • get published
  • fill your passport with stamps
  • get married
  • be known in your field
  • have lived in over a dozen countries
  • reach old age
  • own the sports car
  • have a YouTube clip go viral…

Which of these three things mean Success to you? I’ve always wanted to be successful, but when I decided to make it a focus in Finding Damo, I found that I had to actually think about what that meant.

The book’s not finished yet. I’m not done thinking. But a few things have become blatantly clear:
1. Success is fluid.
2. Success is elusive
3. You should never be able to achieve it.
4. It is very different for everyone I’ve talked to.

At the age of 20, working in a shocking job, but earning real money for the first time, my ambitions were simple: the house, a wife, three kids and a string of successful novels and computer games based around characters Dave and I invented.

At 26, working at Racing Victoria and headed for a semi-successful IT career, I went to a psychic. She told me that somewhere around 30 I would get married to a girl with long blonde hair, tied at the back with a red ribbon. We’d have two kids and I’d write a novel which would be published after a chance meeting with an overseas investor. That all sounded pretty good, although I’ve never had a thing for blondes.* Then I went to Japan, had a year where I could write for four hours a day, and got to meet all sorts of foreign people – none of whom have bought my book.

Yet.

At 33 I was living in Dromana, living the beach life. I was unmarried, unpublished, still renting, and had no kids that I knew about. My younger siblings both had all of this. My first novel was in editing limbo, I was building up a collection of “this is great, but it doesn’t quite fit” rejection slips on my short stories.

It sounds grim, put like that. None of the things at which I wanted to “succeed” were eventuating. But I was happy. Living by the beach, acting and directing in local theatre and very happy at school. The house and the kids seemed like less of an issue, compared to the fame and the sunny beachy days. I was getting ready to travel again. Lots of plans. My idea of Success at that stage could have twisted off down two very different legs of the trousers of time.

Have you seen Sliding Doors? Imagine that with even more Monty Python references.

Funnily enough, it was then that I met a girl – completely uninterested in a domestic lifestyle – who cemented my concept of success as “wife, kids, house”. She already had a house and wasn’t interested in marriage or kids – and that made me realise that they were things I couldn’t live without.

And now, I’m living the trifecta all in one year. Well, two out of three aint bad**. Now all I need is the fame and fortune.

That’s my success. I’ll get back to you on success for other people.

* Except Scarlett Johanssen, and who wouldn’t?
** Pratchett points out that, actually, it isn’t great. It’s only 66%.

The Money Fairy

So.

Have I told you about the Money Fairy? He or she is both blessing and curse. Throughout the years my relationship with money has been a tenuous one. I’ve never felt incredibly poor, but every time I try and get on top of my debts and into the black, something happens to dump me right back in the red again.

The Money Fairy

I get an unexpected windfall from the taxman, and then my car stops dead in the middle of Burwood Highway.

I work in Japan for a year, saving up a nice little nest-egg and then decide to go back to university full time.

I’m almost done paying off my loan, which will leave a good percentage of my wage free for savings and then I fly off to Europe for a couple of months.

Some people, including my fiancé, scoff at the Money Fairy. They tell me there is no such thing. But every time you say you don’t believe in the Money Fairy doesn’t exist, another Money Fairy dies, people!

Which may not be such a bad thing.

My point being, the Money Fairy won’t ever let me starve, but she never let me get ahead either. So when I find that there isn’t enough money to pay for the car rego one year, someone pays me back some money I lent them a couple of years previously.

Or I ask my Mum. She’s been a good agent of the Money Fairy.

But this isn’t about me.

I want to inflict Money Fairies on certain people. Kevin Smith? Needs a Money Fairy. Tripod. Money Fairy. Three of them to be sure.

Sam Raimi? No, he’s fine. Give him heaps of money and he makes Spider Man. I am NOT complaining there.

But I was saying to my fiancé last night: “I really want to watch Chasing Amy again. I love that movie!” I’ve always put Smith down as one of my favourite directors. His writing is brilliant and his movies are incredibly edgy.

Oh, hang on. No. Not are. Were. Someone in his or her wisdom decided to give him a massive stack of money and see what he could do with it. It’s hard to write about the woes and escapades of a bunch of New Jersey misfits when you’re eating a Nobu-burger from a gold-plated dining setting while your maid massages your toes. Kevin’s best work is now coming out of his Twitter account.

When Tripod released Open Slather, my friends and I all became instant fans. We went to gigs, bought t-shirts and cds and hoped that soon everybody would know how cool Tripod were. And then some people found out how cool Tripod were. And they got on TV. And started releasing studio versions of songs that were really only funny live…

But they did do Tripod Versus the Dragon. And I live in hope that they stay funny and stop releasing albums of re-recorded old material just to make money. And have to start scrounging for gigs again. And get funny.

Does true genius only come laced with a tinge of desperation? Is Stephen King’s Carrie superior in every way to Bag of Bones? The former was written while he was doing night-shifts at a laundry and teaching. The latter was written in his Maine mansion between signing limited editions and dabbing truffle oil from his chin with a lace napkin.

In my head, Claudia Christian is saying “I’m not bitter!” which was her catchphrase at the Multiverse Con, shortly after being cut from Babylon 5.

I’m not bitter. Or jealous. I really mourn the loss of quality, edgy writing that we discovered from these famous writers, directors and performers.

Simply because nobody thought to inflict a Money Fairy upon them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and reset the Fairy trip-wires around the house.

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