The World is your Oyster

Originally published April 2014 at Grapeshot
Words | Blake Antrobus

Jobs jobs jobs. The brutal, dreaded, soul-crushing reality that awaits the student outside the University. Part-timers already know the heartache of it all; ironing and starching the uniform, sifting through paperwork and coffees and feeling the drone of the boss and clients cut into your migraines like butter. Hospitality junkies, you have it worse. Putting aside the constant chiding from the customer, does it make you feel better knowing that the vomit and used serviette you emptied out from your pockets was worth the extra two-fifty tip?

Part-timers may have it lucky in the spectre of all things; a couple of hours during the day, dropping home to study or kick back, then rinse and repeat with the occasional tutorial to run off to. Let it not be said though, that even with the juggling of work, university, home and social lives that sometimes the performance falls flat. You can ‘have it all’ for one week, then the next you can have nothing when the crushing pressure of assignments or that one customer that won’t bite their tongue come crashing down on top of you.

Cynical? Yes. Realistic? No. The average human being at least recognises that a degree of organisation is needed to work around tougher deadlines. It may seem wise to constantly put yourself to work and drive through that gruelling day, but when the looming presence of the MAS203 essay creeps up that Friday. Then the guilt hormone kicks in – “Oh why me!?! WHY didn’t I think of doing that beforehand?! Why why why oh god oh god oh god…” et cetera. Perhaps it might be wiser, next time, to whittle off parts of your student work beforehand, rather than cramming to the end to accommodate for that one extra shift you had to pick up.

So what then of the prospect of jobs? Part-timers can’t stay part-timers forever. Surely after your studies are complete, you’ll start thinking of full-time employment? It is, bluntly, a minefield of headache-inducing trauma. Just thinking you’ve somehow got that job application under control, something chaotic blindsides you. Then there’s Medicare, credit cards, loans, car payments, drug updates, all that fun and jazz.

It may well be that you want to jump straight into the job market after graduation. The world is your oyster. If you’re still unsure, why not consider travelling or working abroad? There’s a fair bit you can do before settling down into the comfortable life of employment and ‘banality’. And in the future, if you have kids or want to tell stories at your rich dinner parties, you’ll have something that will inspire the next generation. Or, if you really just want to stay at Uni, you can just become a bit like Hagrid; grow a beard, build yourself a little hut and spend your days chasing dragons and bumming out around the Ubar.

Published April 2014, Grapeshot: Macquarie University Student Publication

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The Criminal Mediascape

Well, we had it coming. We have to admit it. After nine years of squatting in a Balinese prison and pleading for the cameras, Schapelle Corby was released from prison. It’s a historic move for justice, if not for humanity, by finally allowing for the release of a woman proven being innocent-

Oh sorry, wrong meeting.

Why is it that controversy sells better than hard-hitting investigation or ethical conundrums in our news life? The kind of media fervour (like the one above) surrounding these cases is always fascinating in the divide it creates for the crowd.

Let’s look at Schapelle again; a sweet, bubbly and otherwise innocent young woman caught in the hurricane of a drug charge. “It’s not mine, it’s not mine,” she pleads constantly to the Judge. The rallying and public support, on behalf of her family, in an attempt to lighten the sentence. Throw a fragile mental into the mix, and all of this contributes to the mixed image of a saint to the Australian people. It’s only natural that we should find the Schapelle case so compelling, for it resonates. It resonates with the ordinary underdog, the downtrodden, the ones who never got a chance. And the media, with sly jump-cuts and emotionally manipulative by-lines and story headings, can cook up a storm for the people who will accept it without testimony.

Schapelle Corby breaks down upon receiving her sentence. Source: AP

But let’s not be quick to brand people like this as ‘hardened criminals’. After all, we’ve got Chopper Read – described as ‘a local version of an underworld terrorist’, who’s claim to fame is his criminal spree between the 70s and 80s. His death last year incited mixed reception amidst the Australian public, with some even comparing to a modern Ned Kelly. It’s tempting to find part of Read’s story compelling, if not for the slew of claimed killings on his behalf and prison sentences that cloud his supposedly ‘inspiring’ tale. Then, there’s his childhood; a mixture of fundamentalism, brainwashing, abuse and violence that softens our perception of his dubious criminal record.

The irony of it all is that fame and crime work together like partners in crime. Miami was stunned at the sudden case by Derek Medina, who shot his wife and posted his confession to Facebook. More jarring was the line “you will see me in the news” – as if it was premeditated to gain attention or identify himself to the world. Yet Medina’s reasoning left a family destroyed and seeking answers. The hype around Schapelle and Read mostly involved monetary gain and failed to benefit or enrich the public interest.  It also strikes similar chords to the case of Lisa Harnum, who was thrown to her death by then-fiancé Simon Gittany. In the wake of the media coverage of his conviction, Gittany’s girlfriend offered an exclusive interview with Sunday Nightfor a hefty sum and air time.

Rachelle Louise talks with Ross Coulthart on Sunday Night. Source: Channel 7

Hell, let’s just be bold enough to admit it: controversy sells. Part of us will always root for the underdog, criminal or not. It’s nice to know these things happen, or that things will benefit from them, but we love controversy to the point that hundreds of thousands of dollars will be laundered into the modern appropriation of a media circus. Even Ned Kelly, our famed Australian bushranging hero, was a petty criminal by normal standards – and yet we have ballads, stories and tales of his daring endeavours against the corrupt state.

Review of 2013

Originally published March 2014 at Grapeshot
Words | Blake Antrobus

Ho ho et cetera. It’s that time of year when we need to delouse the closet in our room, and rejuvenate our eStudent records. Don’t forget to brace your wallet for the textbooks and readers that you may use once, and then discard like McDonalds Happy Meal Toys. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, 2014 has finally arrived, and somehow, our blurred and drunken memories of the New Year’s seem sadly anticlimactic.

Whether or not our beer goggles have finally worn off, the memories of those past nights can be easily remembered by looking around the room. It’s only a matter of time now, and they’ll piece together, revealing your drunken mate Andrew rocking out to the tune of ‘Afternoon Delight’, in his Barney the Dinosaur costume. Next, you’ll see him waking up on the floor, blinking like a dazed cat, and suddenly realising that it isn’t water covering his suit…

I wish I could say that this is everyone’s case: partying to the point of no return in the morning. Some of us, however, choose to reflect on the year that has just past, sober, and take the opportunity to prepare for the new one. After all, T.S. Eliot said so himself, “for last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice”. We may  have already covered New Year resolutions, but looking back on what’s been said and done in 2013, is something we here, at Grapeshot, encourage, and even endorse.

Indeed, what a year we have been through together – Miley did her ‘thing’ at the MTV awards night, Godzilla, hypothetically, leveled Boston, North Korea had its Cuban Missile Crisis, Snowden successfully trolled the NSA in a major security leak operation, and, to add insult to injury, the U.S. government had major turbulence with its health care reform and shutdowns, making it a bad year for Obama.

Not all of it, though, has been doom and gloom in the international picture. After all, we’ve seen the election of the new Pope Francis, making sweeping changes to the organisation of the Church. We’ve also seen the major help operations in the Philippines after natural disasters devastated the region.

Then there’s our local scale, where we’ve seen mixtures of tragedy, and comedy, in our escapades. Thomas Kelly will forever be in our hearts, after his death at the hands of a coward-hit sparked major crackdowns on alcohol. We saw flames and flood in Victoria and Queensland respectively, and all jumped in to face the danger. Then, as the cherry on top of a great year, we saw Tony Abbott rise to the throne as the new Dark Overlord of the New World Order (okay, we know this isn’t true, but considering that we loved and hated Rudd, it was bound to happen).

But what about living in the present moment, now? Digging up ancient history is nice and all, yet we should be focusing on our future achievements and successes! Maybe some of us would like to see King Jong-un duke it out with Bush in the middle of the Sahara, or find out that the Dalai Lama was a Jedi knight the whole time. The Onion may well be ‘America’s finest news source’ for a good reason (taking the piss). Naturally, we may never see some of these things happen, but it’s always fun to make joke hypotheses at the expense of personal integrity.

Published March 2014, Grapeshot: Macquarie University Student Publication

Sydney’s Tale of Violence

Police on patrol at Kings Cross. Source: News Limited

A young man at the cusp of adulthood decides to celebrate his weekend in the company of his close friends and significant other. In the search for a decent venue he decides that the best way is to celebrate in a nightclub and enjoy the benefits of the nightlife; alcohol, dance and excitement. He and his friends are cautious enough to plan ahead, organising drop-offs and carpools, designated drivers and the like beforehand. They are determined to enjoy their night.

Meanwhile, another young man of a similar age decides that, under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol and the aggravation of testosterone, decides to celebrate his night by inflicting grievous harm to another human being. In his own terms, he will do it just for the sake of ‘bashing someone’. Because of the circumstances, he is unconscious to the consequences of his own actions, but is nevertheless conscious enough to decide that this path is the right one to take. Accompanied by several of his friends, under similar influence, they head out towards the nightclub scene. They are determined to enjoy their night.

By the many have finished reading this it seems that a certain shadow of dissent has been cast eerily close to reality. And already, many have pieced together the remainder of the story; the two parties meet (either for a fleeting moment or in confrontation), someone is hit and rendered unconscious, one party flees, and the police and paramedics are alerted to yet another assault in the course of the long night. Such a tale, although fictional, seems all too telling of the recent spate of assaults across Sydney. Thomas Kelly. Daniel Christie. Familiar names and faces that have involved several of the following criteria: nightclubs, alcohol, and dominant male aggression. It is by a tragic combination of all these factors that has seen their lives, and more that have not been mentioned, perished by nothing more than an instantaneous moment. And in the wake of destruction are the families, their lives shattered by a single punch, and the lives of ordinary Australians, further put at risk by the reckless string of behaviour.

Further destruction results from the inability of police and prosecutors to effectively contain the situation. It follows the sheer lack of evidence and the unreliability of the perpetrator, both before and after the incident that makes any form of prosecution difficult. The trial of Kieran Loveridge, for the murder of Thomas Kelly (murder, not manslaughter), was ill-conceived from the start; no-one can prove in a whit that this was a pre-meditated crime, let alone attempt to convict him based off small-time offences beforehand. Furthermore, the storm of media furore over the incident made the impersonal personal; it turned the family’s desire for punishment into a public desire, and conveyed further dissatisfaction and cynicism when the sentence was finally handed down. Worse still was the reaction from the public towards the sentencing, which bore eerie similarity to the Zimmerman ruling of last year; based on emotion more than reason, misinterpreting the system of justice, and hailing the apocalyptic end of the prosecution system.

Thomas Kelly was king-hit and killed in July 2012. Source: news.com.au

Kieran Loveridge leaves St James Road Court sentencing hearing in custody, for the manslaughter of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly. Source: News Limited

Perhaps those disgruntled about the sentencing are missing the bottom line; Loveridge is now in jail for a period of time (that, admittedly, could have lasted longer). If anything it demonstrates the power of the media to rally for a cause. Add the fuel of moral outrage and the infectious spread of social media to the mix to give birth to the myopic attempts of journalists to cover these stories. Today I encountered yet another piece discussing the aftermath of Christie’s death, which (rightly) denounced attackers as ‘gutless thugs’. But I was otherwise dismayed at what other people passed off as ‘serious journalism’; no more than summarising the current situation and expressing moral indignation at its plight. More alarming was this quote further in:

There are tens of thousands of Australians who frequently engage in what those abstemious folks in the health lobby describe as “dangerous” drinking. They do so without sending anyone to hospital, or to an early grave. I am one of them. So is almost everyone I know. For me, “dangerous” drinking brings with it the risk of winding up in a karaoke bar and singing a woeful version of Air Supply’s “All Out Of Love” or having a savage argument with my mate Darien about the result of the 1978 SANFL grand final.

Of all the stupid and uninformative articles that have attempted to tackle the issue, this one takes the crown. Defending your own substance abuse whilst condemning people like McNeil for their use of other anti-social drugs seems to be the height of hypocrisy, even if these people do not engage in such reckless and dangerous behaviour. And yet again no solution beyond lockouts and prohibitions has been offered – a telling factor of people merely wishing to comment on the issue at hand rather than attempt to help solve it. (Writing this article as such will draw controversy, as I am yet to present any solution myself). Now I am not attempting to defend the people who committed these assaults by stating ‘they were drunk’, as if it were a patent excuse to let them off the hook. But consider this statement from Dr. Bruce Bartholow of the University of Missouri, who has studied the effects of alcohol on brain processes:

It’s not as though people do drunken things because they’re not aware of their behavior, but rather they seem to be less bothered by the implications or consequences of their behavior than they normally would be…

Perhaps it’s best to try and engage it from the start; the attackers of  both Kelly and Christie had high aggression levels, came from difficult family circumstances (at least in Loveridge’s case) and were involved in sports or activities that likely heightened their drive of masculinity. (In Loveridge’s case, we have Rugby; in McNeil’s we have mixed-martial arts). Their excessive consumption of alcohol, and the social pressure of being surrounded by their friends made any recognition of the consequences of their action impossible. (Loveridge himself mentioned “I swear I’m going to bash someone tonight.”; McNeil was out with his partner before the altercation). Without any sense of judgement they attacked their victims, thus landing us into the complex picture we find ourselves in. That’s it; case closed. Attempting to hair-split conspiracies or nutty proclamations about the dangers of the nightlife is mostly irrelevant to the crazed circumstances surrounding the death of the two young men.

Daniel Christie was king-hit on New Years Eve 2013. He died in hospital less than two weeks later.

Perhaps the solution lies deeper than merely cracking down on the bad behaviour in the middle of the night. Targeting prohibitions, lockouts, crime hotspots and the like are all solutions with benefits unto themselves, but they will not address the root of the problem, rooted inherently in perceptions of masculinity and psychology. Aside from all this – done as a start, rather than a band-aid solution – we should be attempting to educate young men on the dangers of such behaviour. We should be teaching people the dangers of any excessive alcohol consumption, regardless of the situation. We should be confronting the stream of aggression present in young (and old) men, and encouraging them to channel it into hobbies and sport, rather than bottling it up and letting it run rampant from a few drinks. We should also be educating people that, in any circumstance, the nightlife is as dangerous as much as it is fun, and that level-headedness and self-control are the best ways to stay safe and have fun, as opposed to the common notion of ‘drink more…and more…and more…and be merry.’