The Aerialist

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It was a typical cold and wet Melbourne Thursday night. I wanted to be at home wrapped up in my feather quilt watching TV, not standing on a street in Richmond looking at a very pink and girly sign. I took a deep breath and walked inside. There was a set of wooden stairs that didn’t look all that safe. I climbed the stairs to the top floor and fumbled with the door that I couldn’t figure out how to open. I finally got the door open and entered the reception area. I was expecting everything to be painted bright pink like the studio’s website and advertising was. I’ve never really been a girly girl and have always been slightly wary of the kind of girls who like everything to be pink. Their understanding of femininity intimidates me. Their knowledge of things like flirting and how to do their hair goes well beyond anything I know. I’m lucky if my pony tail stays neat.

I was greeted at the non-pink reception desk and given a quick tour around the non-pink studio. The only pink was the logo behind the desk and on the paperwork I signed with a non-pink pen. My welcome pack was in a bright pink tote bag, but I could deal with that. I was here now. There was no turning back. I was going to do this, and I was going to enjoy it. I was going to push my boundaries and do things I had previously only dreamed about. I quickly got changed into my workout gear and entered the Aerial Hoop studio for the first time.

I first became interested in Aerial Hoop after attending an in-house competition night that a local Aerial Hoop school had organised. In the middle of the room a circus hoop had been suspended from the ceiling. It was swaying ever so slightly in the artificial breeze from the air conditioner. The chairs for the audience were organised in a tight circle around the hoop. The front row were hardly a metre away from performance area.  The waiting audience ordered drinks and spoke in low tones among themselves. The edges of the room were dimly lit and only a few lights were aimed on the performance area. From a corner of the room smoke from a smoke machine wafted slowly across the floor. I could get no clue from the room as to what I was to expect from the evening.

After the MC opened the competition, thanked the sponsors of the show and explained how the evening would work, the first performer entered the performance area. She took her place standing next to the hoop and the music began. She moved with the music. Her arms flowed across and around her body, her legs moving her around the performance area with purpose. Finally, she reached up and swung herself upwards, her legs reaching up over her head and into the hoop. From that moment I was in awe of every movement she made. The performer continued to move with the music, one moment dangling from the hoop with one leg and the rest of her body making beautiful shapes, to moving gracefully and sitting elegantly in the hoop smiling at her enraptured audience. Every movement she made was delicate and exquisite. When the song ended she alighted from the hoop to applause and gave a bow, thanking the audience for their attention. I couldn’t believe that was a beginners performance.

As the night progressed I continued to be amazed. Each new aerialist kept me in awe. They were each graceful and powerful. They had amazing control over their bodies and the hoop. At the end of the night I turned to my friend who had invited me along and told her that I wanted to do that. I wanted to sit in that hoop and look beautiful. I wanted to see the world from a new height and look down upon my audience and smile while they applauded me.

I entered the Aerial Hoop studio for the first time. The room was warm compared to the cold evening outside. The floor was soft and the lights were dim and gentle on the eyes compared to the harsh, bright lights of the reception area. Hoops hung from the ceiling at various heights. A class was finishing up. Some of the students were stretching. Many of the girls were dangling from hoops in various positions. They looked perfectly comfortable moving around the hoop. This was their natural habitat and it was perfectly normal to be suspended high above the ground. I was nervous and seeing the students and hoops made me suddenly scared. It’s not that I was afraid of heights. I just wasn’t that great with making my body do things. I never really mastered the monkey bars as a kid. I could never get my legs or arms to move the way I wanted them too. Anytime I did end upside down, I was too surprised to hang on and would fall off. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to touch the hoop tonight. I was happy to just look at it from a distance.

My first class was just me and another student who had taken the beginners course before. I made it through the warm up with no problems. I’m not an unfit person, but I wouldn’t consider myself to be fit either, but I do make a point to doing a few cardio sessions and some simple stretching every week. I made it through the cardio and struggled a little bit through the stretching. The teacher was super flexible and was bending in ways that made my body ache just watching her. Only 6 months before I had been unable to touch my own toes with more than my finger tips. I wasn’t worried about not being as flexible as my teacher. I knew for a fact that with a little hard work I would get there.

Then the teacher announced that we were going to work with the hoop. I could feel the blood drain from my face. We were to practice hanging from the hoop and at the same time improve our upper body strength. I took a breath and grabbed the hoop that was hanging above my head. I tried to not think about what I was doing and just do it. I lifted my feet from the ground. I hung. And then I wasn’t. My feet were back on the ground. My shoulders were screaming. At least I did it. Kind of.

Next we were to try and lift our legs into the hoop. Nope. I just couldn’t get my legs anywhere up near the hoop that was hanging above my head. Damn. Both the teacher and the other student told me it would take some time and work but I would get there and be hanging from the hoop before I knew it. The class wrapped up and I walked down the stairs into the cold.I struggled to lift my ear buds up to my ears. It was going to be hard but I was going to come back next week and get my legs up to the hoop and look beautiful and elegant.

Over the next few weeks, new girls would join the class. They had strength that I was only just starting to form. On their first go they achieved things that I was still struggling to do. A few weeks into term, I was feeling defeated. The new girls were moving faster than I was. I would never get up into that hoop. I had been working on my extra exercise at home and just wasn’t getting there. It was all beyond me. I might as well face it that my body was just not designed to hang upside down from hoops suspended from the ceiling.

After class I was putting on my shoes and checking my phone for messages. I looked up from tying my shoe laces. My teacher had rushed over and was crouched in front of me, coming down to my level. The students for the next class were waiting for her to start the class. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Good job. You did well.”

I was too surprised to do anything other than to smile and say thank you. I didn’t think she had paid too much notice to me during class that day. She had been spotting the students who were able to get into the hoop. I had been working through my strength drills that I had learned in the first week.

I didn’t expect to be singled out like that. But it was great to hear that I had been noticed. I didn’t feel quite alone in this extreme challenge I had given myself. My teacher was in my corner. Maybe, just maybe someday I will get into that hoop gracefully and smile down on the world from a new height.

Write Like

I want to write like Jane Austen
Centuries later I’m still relevant
My characters are never forgotten
My words just as beautiful and elegant

I want to write like Hemingway
Less is more to be descriptive
Writers will want to be like me someday
My style is simple and distinctive

I want to write like J. K. Rowling
My stories around the world resonate
Hordes of fans for my new book howling
That Stephen Fry will indeed narrate

I want to write like Raymond Chandler
Who created poetry from crime
Master of a witty style of banter
Marlow always working against time

I want to write like Stephen King
Who measures talent by pay checks
His stories and character's have a sting
They are scary and fun and quite complex

I want to write like Neil Gaiman 
With quirky characters and flip convention
Redefine graphic novel stories like he did with Sandman
And do so without any pretension.

Creating a Mighty New Show

This is an article I wrote for my journalism class at uni last week. The assignment was to write an article in the form of hard news on a local event. Luckily the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a local for me.

I just want to thank Caitlin and Rob for taking the time to be interviewed. I really appreciate it. They are both clearly passionate about their work.

 

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival celebrated it’s 30th anniversary this year.

The festival had 500 shows and over 2000 performers participate over 4 weeks starting over the Easter Long Weekend.

The festival has grown since it first launched in 1987 and is now ranked in the top three comedy festivals in the world, alongside the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

It’s not easy creating a brand new show every year for the Melbourne Comedy Festival, especially when you’re competing against larger national and international comedy acts.

“The comedy festival has very specific expectations from the audience, the punters and the jokies (comedy groupies)” said Rob Lloyd, the brains behind the show The Mighty Little Puppet Show which debuted at the festival this year.

The audience expect “very hard hitting, fast comedy all the time. It has to be really hard hitting comedy whatever the format.”

The Mighty Little Puppet Show, is an improv comedy show that ran through the first two weeks of the festival.

The show featured The Ritas, faceless puppets who have detachable extremities, that came to life as different characters each night and the show featured different guest comedians each performance.

One of the challenges of doing a comedy show where the audience is expecting hard hitting comedy is that “if their not laughing, you automatically think that their not enjoying it. Somethings wrong,” Mr Lloyd explained. “With the puppets it’s not the same, the crowd are supportive but very quiet.”

Caitlin Yolland, one of the regular performers in the show found that this was because the audience were “completely enthralled and mesmerised” with the puppets.

“Even just having the puppets having a hand rest on an audience members shoulders” was enough to engage the audience and keep them quiet. The audience had never seen puppets interact with people in the same way before.

“I thought it was just us that’s responding that way ‘this is cool!’ but the audience were loving it.”

“What’s really nice is the audience are interested. They are engaged the whole time.”

Ms Yolland reflected that having a show that was different was useful when competing against the larger standup acts, “Having a point of difference is a benefit in a festival given that there is so much same sort of stock standard standup happening.”

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival closes this weekend on Sunday.

 

You can find out more about The Mighty Little Puppet Show here. I suggest watching the video Introducing The Ritas. Watching Rob and Caitlin working with the puppets is such a pleasure.

Books in the Cupboard

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I am finding that as I get older there are things about my life that are not as easy to remember as they used to be. There are huge chunks of my life that are now a long lost mystery to me. There are blank holes in my memory that no amount of thinking and trying to remember can be filled. This was made apparent to me recently when I discovered an old library copy of The Indian in The Cupboard at a book exchange in the community centre that I work at once a week. When I picked it up memories of the book’s story came rushing back to me. I remembered vividly the characters and the plot, the way I had pictured the characters in my head, and they way the movie did not do the book justice. I remembered vaguely reading the book for school and I remembered clearly enjoying the book immensely.
It disturbed me a little bit that I needed that tangible book in my hand to remember something from my childhood. That I couldn’t just recall the books that had inspired me, that had shaped me and helped to foster and grow into the book reader and lover that I am today.
For me books are now memories and souvenirs of different stages of my life. It probably helps that I use goodreads as a kind of book journal, where I can keep track of when I start a book and when I finish it. I can look at a book and if need be I can look up the dates I was reading it and remember where I was and what I was doing at the time. I have books that I was reading when I was traveling and more than any other kind of reminder I can look at them and remember what city I was in and what I was doing at the time. Looking at Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman I remember a cold and snowy German winter just before Christmas. I remember for the first time I was able to really picture London in my head and understand how the locations that were being described all fit together as I had only just been in London for the first time a few weeks earlier.
Without the book in my hands I can remember reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I can remember who gave me the book and where we were when he handed it to me. I can remember the pub I was reading it in, and how out of place I felt reading a book in a Greenwich pub and sipping a cider, when everybody else was watching the cricket. I was at the end of a long stint of constant travel, and I was happy to be in the same city for at least a few months.
I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was missing so much of my own childhood by forgetting The Indian in the Cupboard. That something so natural as the passing of time and creation of new memories left parts of my experiences unknown to even myself.
Weeks went by, and I would see The Indian in the Cupboard on my bookshelf, and I would wonder if all of my childhood was lost to me. Part of my concern was the separation of not just time between myself and memories, but also the space. Was living so far away from the people that shared similar experiences to me more damaging than liberating?
So I reached out to the few people that I went to primary school with that I am still in somewhat contact with on Facebook. These are the kind of friends that we like each others photos and life events, but I will not see them when I go to Sydney each year.
So I messaged them on Facebook and asked if they remembered reading The Indian in the Cupboard, if they remembered much else, like how old we were and maybe even what else was going on in our lives at the time. Their memories seemed just as lost as my own. They remembered reading the book, and that we would have been somewhere between the age of 7 and 11 but that was about it.
So I called my mum. She remembered even less than I did. “I was not aware of the books that you read in school,” she admitted. But she did remember this one, and was at least able to confirm that I had read it in primary school.
What I have discovered through this process of trying to remember is that even if I am unable to remember so many of the books I have read over the years without help, after long periods of thinking and talking to people I am able to piece together some fragments of the books that were given to me and have shaped who I am today.
I have my mum to thank for filling my bookshelf with books that had strong female characters; Little Women, Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables. I also have her to thank for recognising that at the age of 12 I was ready for The Hobbit and made sure my sister and I could get our hands on Harry Potter. I have my dad to thank for filling the house with Issac Asmov and other science fiction writers of the 70’s and 80s, and allowing to me to spend whole weekends reading his Asterix comic books which instilled in me a love of wordplay.
I have a close family friend to thank for making sure I had a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird when she had found out that I was 25 and had never read it, even if I would not get around to reading it until I was 30. I have my school librarian to thank for making sure I had stacks of books to read when I was sick and stuck at home when I was 15. I have her to thank for introducing me to Steven King.
And while I only remember one book from my High School English Classes, I have my high school creative writing teacher for teaching me that books are not just about stories, but also ideas that can shape and change.
I have discovered that even if I am unable to remember many books that I have read they are still part of me and have shaped me and my reading habits in some form or other.

Tuesday Tunes – Bad Mood

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Sometimes there are days where we all have a bad mood. Nothing seems to go right no matter what happens. Getting out of bed was the worst decision of the day and even though it isn’t even lunch time it’s best to just end the day, go home and just crawl back into bed. Bad moods happen. There is no denying that. I’ve had a few bad mood days recently. Mostly because I have been letting things that I have no control over stress me out. I don’t know how everybody else feels about bad moods, but I certainly don’t like them. I have different ways of tackling them. Sometimes it’s telling cheesy jokes, other times it is a cup of tea and a book away from other people. The other day it was playing angry loud music while I worked on an assignment.

I had Bad Mood by the Vaccines on repeat loudly the other night. There is something mood up lifting and mood enhancing about listening to somebody who is in a worse mood than you sing “I’m in a bad bad mood” over and over again. I’m sure there are some kind of studies that link music to mood. After about 1/2 an hour I was back in my usual, some what good mood ready to tackle the assignment I had been putting off.


Follow the Tuesday Tunes playlist on Spotify . If you have any suggestions for songs that you think I would like or know why music today is missing something music from the 90s had, feel free to leave a comment below.

What I’ve Been Reading Saturday 9th May 2015

I’ve had a busy and stressful few weeks so I have been pretty slack at keeping up the blog, but I have been doing lots of reading. Here is the best of what I have been reading this week.

Brain Pickings looks at how microbes and bacteria change what it means to be me in Our Microbes, Ourselves: How trillions of Tiny Organisms Living Inside Us are Redefining What It Means To Be Human
Sometimes eating is not about actually eating, but how we feel. 5 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Chuck Palahniuk and “Thought” Verbs. This would make such an exciting, yet difficult, experiment. May try this during semester break.
More Chuck Palahniuk. These tips are a few years old, but still relevant and useful today. 13 Writing Tips from Chuck Palahniuk.
Sometimes I let stress get the better of me. This list is a great reminder that stress can be controlled and doesn’t have to overwhelme. 13 Stress-Inducing Habits and How to Avoid Them
As somebody who enjoys old films both at home and at the cinema, I also do wonder if modern films have ‘conquered our imagination.’ Stop Laughing at Old Movies, You $@%&ing Hipsters
Have you read anything interesting this week?

Tuesday Tunes – Foolish Games by Jewel

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There has been an awful lot of 90s nostalgia going on at the moment. I saw somebody the other day wearing ripped jeans, a white tank top and a flannelette shirt tied around their hips. They looked like they came straight out of a Smash Hits magazine (Who remembers Smash Hits? or I am just showing my age?) I read while I was in high school or straight off the set of Dawson’s Creek or 90210. I have also found that myself listening to the music I listened to when I grew up.

I rediscovered Jewel the other day after finding out that Savage Garden’s albums are not available in the Australian Spotify catalog. In all honesty when I think of 90s music I think of Alanis Moressitte and the Backstreet Boys. Jewel doesn’t come instantly to mind. Which is such a pity because I really do quite like her music. There is something about the music that I listened to when I was a teenager that is missing from the music that is released today. I’m not sure exactly what is. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out and let you know.

This song actually reminds of a girl I went to school with. She had the sheet music to this song and would play it in our high school music classes. She was much better at playing the piano than I was and it was always a pleasure to listen to her. She may have even sung it once too at a performance night. The song is delicate yet strong and full of character like she was and still is. While I’m not saying my friend was full of teenage angst, the song is full of the angst that the 90s was full of. We were all trying to find our place within the world and with the people around us. We were establishing what it meant to have feelings, especially what it meant to have feelings for other people. It was a confusing time and Foolish Games is all of that rolled into a sweet piano melody.

Follow the Tuesday Tunes playlist on Spotify. If you have any suggestions for songs that you think I would like or know why music today is missing something music from the 90s had, feel free to leave a comment below.

I like stationery

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I have a pile of unused notebooks in my cupboard and another under my bed. I have a canvas bag full of markers, biros and highlighters. I have sticky notes mixed in with my socks, and my desk drawer is overflowing. I suspect that I have enough pens and paper to get me through the next few years and still have some left over. Writing is not just about the words that go onto the page, but what the words and scribbles are made with.
As much of my life becomes more and more digital I am putting a physical pen to a physical piece of paper less and less. Yet they are still a huge part of my everyday life and how I work, learn and organise.
Today I wanted to share with you two of my favourite pens, what I look for in a pen and just the awesomeness of these tools of writing.

When I look for my ideal pen there are a few things that are a must for me:
1. I’m not a huge fan of ballpoint pens. Sure they go smoothly enough over the surface of a page, but there isn’t anything graceful about them or the way they make my writing look pretty average. I much prefer rollerball, or gel ink pens. May
2. The tip can’t be too big. My writing is big enough without it taking up even more space on a page than it actually needs. My writing also looks worse and is harder to read when writing with a thicker pen. I really quite like long, thin tips.
3. The ink must flow smoothly and cleanly and not come out of the pen in random blobs that get smudged easily and makes my page messy and get over my hands and are impossible to scrub off.
4. The ink shouldn’t be seeping through the page. I don’t think I need to explain this one. Ink bleeding through the page is annoying.

The first pen is the Kikki K Rainbow Gel Pen Essential – $1.95 AUD

This pen is a pleasure to work with. It’s a thin pen, which is a nice change from the rest of the Kikki K pen range, which I find to be a little too bulky. It’s thin and light enough to throw into my handbag and not have it get lost in the bottom somewhere. It has also so far survived the handbag test – the lid stays on nice and tight and so far has not leaked all over the place despite all the moving around and getting knocked about in my handbag. The colour range is simply delightful. It is a simple pen that earns it’s name – it is a becoming a true essential pen for me.

The second is the Easy Writer from Typo – $2.99 AUD

This is the pen that inspired this post. It meets all the above criteria and more. I was in love with this pen from the first uncapping. To start with this pen fits perfectly in my hand, I love the way it grips, it has a nice non-slip plasticity-rubbery casing and the tapering out towards the bottom of the pen is a nice touch. The plastic diamond tip is an unexpected feature that makes the pen’s pointed tip pretty to also look at. I’ve picked up a handful of these already and I can’t wait to continue writing with it.

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Tuesday Tunes – Budapest by George Ezra

Tuesday-Tunes-BudapestThis week’s tune has been on high rotation on my iphone for sometime and it has appeared in a few of my regular playlists too. This is another song that I can’t help singing along to. I can’t help but sing out really loud “Give me one good reason I should never make a change.” I am unable to explain it.

I keep coming back to this track most mornings on my walk to uni or work. I love it because it is a great mood lifter. There is something about the beat and the tone of the lyrics that boosts my mood every time. And with the autumn weather here in Melbourne starting to prepare for the miserable and wet weather it is renown for, a great morning pick me up song is always called for.

Though I do have a secret that I have to admit about the lyrics of this song. Ever since I heard it for the first I thought most of the lyrics were nonsense words, especially the lines “I’d leave it all,” I thought George was singing “Do bee do.” Combine that with the all Oohs, who can blame me. Now that I know the lyrics, I still can’t help hearing all the nonsense. I’m attached to what I originally heard in my head, I guess.

While writing this post I did a little googling because that is what I do. I came across this video. It’s worth watching just for the little bit at the beginning about the origin of the song. I also have never been to Budapest despite having tickets and accommodation booked, but that is a story for another day.

Follow the Tuesday Tunes playlist on Spotify here. If you have any suggestions for songs that you think I would like feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday Tunes – Crystals by Of Monsters and Men

Tuesday Tunes Crystals

Week two of Tuesday Tunes comes after a pretty relaxed four day weekend that was well overdue. I don’t very often get 1 day off from work and uni so having four days was pretty amazing. I’ve reset my mind and I think I am ready to tackle all the work I know I have between me and the rest of the semester, I think. This week I wanted to share something that currently reflects the mellowness of my current mood.

I discovered Of Monsters and Men by accident about a year after they released their first album, My Head is an Animal. I like to listen to them when I need a little bit of a pick me up. This may be after a long day at work and I am walking home or while I am trying to find motivation to study. I find the album, refreshing, invigorating and simple. Much like a mellow Sunday afternoon should be.

Crystals is the first single Of Monsters and Men have released from their upcoming album, Beneath The Skin, which is due out in June this year. The track does not disappoint. It continues with their signature simple but catchy melodies, the all too singable lyrics and drum beats that are impossible to not tap your feet to. Crystals is just making me impatient for the upcoming album.

Follow the Tuesday Tunes playlist on Spotify here. You can find last week’s Tuesday Tunes – Wait In Line here. If you have any suggestions for songs that you think I would like feel free to leave a comment below.