​PADDINGTON 2 (FILM REVIEW) *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Based upon the characters and Paddington Bear children’s books created by Michael Bond, this second live action adaptation blew all of my expectations out of the water. I really didn’t know much about this going in besides the character of Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) wearing his trademark blue raincoat, red bonnet hat and loves eating marmalade sandwiches.

The film is set in the London district of Windsor Gardens where Paddington lives with the Brown family. After stumbling upon a pop-up book featured in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) shop, Paddington is determined to earn enough money to buy it for his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton)’s birthday. He tries his hand at working several odd jobs but sadly ends up messing things up and falling in a heap.

But an opportunity arises at a local fairground in which Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) puts on a staged performance. Things quickly go pear shaped when Paddington gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit and it comes down to the Brown family as well as a few of the prison inmates to prove his innocence.

Directed by Paul King, Paddington 2 mixed live-action sequences with storyboard animation, fantasy, comedy and musical themes. There are a boat load of cameo appearances from many talented English actors including Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd), Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) and Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

King and co-writer Simon Farnaby also cleverly wire together references to familiar classics including The Great Escape, Harry Houdini, the Master of Disguise and Singing In The Rain just to name a few. Of course some of action sequences do defy belief but these can easily be forgiven in the context of this story.

Be prepared to have a tissue box handy as Paddington 2 is loaded with many sentimental and hysterically funny moments. It is a hit for both kids and adults a like. 9/10

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​A NIGHT IN TEXAS w/ Resist The Thought, Iconoclast, Ame Noire & Munt666 @ The Workers Club, September 2018

I’ve calculated that it’s been around 6 weeks since I last attended a local gig. I can attribute this to a number of factors: life getting in the way, jugging other commitments, my mental health deteriorating, lack of sleep and energy, lack of money, the fact that most gigs these days are located around the inner suburbs of Melbourne. And yet there’s still a part of me that misses going out to shows and bumping into friends and band mates.

Social isolation is such a toxic, unhealthy thing to experience and it doesn’t help when you throw Autism Spectrum Disorder and the fact that most of my friends are busy into the mix. I still have a huge craving for social interaction and company with like-minded individuals, that is with a common interest in music. To find a sense of belonging. And I also miss watching bands playing live on stage. So all of this was enough to motivate me to attend this gig at The Workers Club tonight.

Of course with the AFL Preliminary Finals on tonight, the front bar of the venue was pretty busy. Luckily, I ended up bumping into the boys from RESIST THE THOUGHT and they kindly offered me to sit with them. I ordered my usual Workers parma with a pint of Old Mate pale ale. I felt really comfortable hanging out with these guys. Social situations will inevitably always be a challenge for me but a challenge can always be risen to and beaten.

The large flat screens showed a live telecast of the game between Richmond and Collingwood with the national anthem being sung followed by the first bounce. As I’ve stated in earlier blogs, I’m really not a passionate footy supporter even though my family does barrack for the tigers. I just can’t get into the sport no matter how hard I’ve tried. My focus was on enjoying my night and seeing a few bands play.

It didn’t take long for the band room to start filling up with payers. There was probably around 40 or so people over the course of the night which is relatively decent considering it was a footy night. I bumped into a few friends and band mates including Chris GreberUrsula KurasikElgin Huang JialeToby ThomasAlex HillTimothy James RichmondHeath Ese KongasDan Beech and Rondre Threethousand.

Naturally my anxiety decided to be an interfering little biatch and I began hesitating again when it comes to putting myself out there socially. Thoughts swung between “Well, I can tell they’re busy. I don’t want to interrupt them.” and “Oh god! I really have no idea what to say if I went over there.” But this pretty much happens in any social situation I’m in. Still I made a few attempts and felt good that I was hitting the reset button. Even though I do get flustered and overwhelmed at times, I’m better able to control it and not let it ruin my night.

MUNT666 are a Melbourne-based Black Grinding Death Metal band. I’ve known the vocalist Timothy James Richmond for a while now from this band The Seraphim Veil as well as bassist Rondre Threethousand from Overpower. The boys managed to put on an impressive opening set with intense beat down sections, piercing screams and hair windmills. They really managed to set it off and get a few members of the crowd involved too. Be sure to check out their latest single Seeds of the Machine here: https://muntgrind.bandcamp.com/

AME NOIRE are a Melbourne-based Melancholic Death Metal band who always put on a wildly entertaining live performance. The boys were pulling out all the stops with loads of chugging guitar riffs and powerful growling vocals. Lead vocalist Alex Hill has a talent for pulling off the most terrifying death metal facial expressions, showing the whites of the eyes and dropping some druel out his mouth. Similarly, bassist Toby Thomas is highly animated and puts in plenty of energy into his vocal performance. Their debut EP The Tree That Bears Rotten Fruit is available here: https://amenoire.bandcamp.com/album/the-tree-that-bears-rotten-fruit

ICONOCLAST are a Perth-based Heavy Groove Metal band. It’s been a couple of years since I last heard from these guys and now they’re back with Bailey Schembri (vocalist of Bury The Kings) filling in on vocals. Bailey is always bringing his A-game to live performances with gripping brutal lows and dark menacing screams. There was plenty of heavy breakdowns, low-tuned guitars and an intense mosh pit happening during their set. You can listen to their new single In Ashes here: https://iconoclastau.bandcamp.com/track/in-ashes

RESIST THE THOUGHT are a Sydney-based Heavy Melodic Death Metal band who I sadly missed the last time they were out touring in Melbourne. And so tonight I was determined to stick around for them and I was really glad that I did. After a six year break from the local music scene, the boys have returned stronger than ever before. There were loads of massive breakdowns, tight guitar riffs and brutal screams to be heard during their set with some friendly banter in between songs. Be sure to check out their new single Awakened Salvation via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/awakened-salvation/1434603266?i=1434603826

A NIGHT IN TEXAS are a five piece Technical Deathcore band based in Brisbane. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for their set but make sure you check out their most recent single Scorched Earth here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4PxW4iEbfk

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 122, September 2018

On Monday morning, I attended the NDIS Planning and Beyond information session, organised by Windermere – a community services organisation and held at Endeavour Hills Library. It’s been a couple of weeks since I had my planning conversation and so it’s now a waiting game before I hear back from the NDIA about my plan being approved. Whilst I knew that some of the information I’d hear about today would be redundant, I still felt like attending to reinforce and clear up a few things in my mind and also to learn about the kinds of services Windermere could potentially provide to me.

The info session was presented by Emmanuel Bour, who is the NDIS Transition Manager, and assisted by Nicole Peresso, who is the Consumer Engagement Coordinator. Everyone who attended today’s info session got a bright orange bag filled with information brochures and a handy checklist for planning. I found the presentation to be very insightful covering many of the terms in the NDIS glossary including Reasonable and Necessary Supports, Local Area Coordinators, Support Coordination, the NDIS Price Guide, the Planning process, Plan Management and the Review process. https://www.windermere.org.au/news/ndis-information-sessions-planning-beyond

Even though I am further along in the process than some of the other participants who attended today, there are still some areas that confuse the hell out of me and I found a few parts of the info session to be a great learning opportunity for me. Mainly the steps involved after you receive your plan (from understanding the plan to managing your funding) and the different types of plan management. I think after comparing all of my options, I feel reassured that I’ve made the right decision going for getting a plan manager.

It would be way too much stress and pressure to handle self management especially during my first year on the NDIS. Not only would I have to sort out how the funding is divided, but I’d also have to select all my services and providers, do all the invoicing and claiming of payments, keep all of my paperwork and keep track of all the transactions. Yeah I don’t think so. I’d rather handball that responsibly to somebody else because I’ve got enough on my plate as it is. https://www.windermere.org.au/services/ndis/managing-your-ndia-funds

I also learned about the review process and my rights to make changes to the plan if I’m not satisfied with it. I wouldn’t say that I was 100% confident with how my planning conversation went but it also could have been much worse. But it’s good to know that I could review my first plan if it turns out to be a disaster. Despite how draining and overwhelming these NDIS info sessions can be, I’m glad I attended because it always seems to make things a bit clearer in my head. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/reasonable-and-necessary-supports/decision-review/application-review-reviewable-decision

On Monday night, I attended my Men of Doveton program held at Doveton College. Tonight the group learned how to play Rugby League. This is a sport that I’ve never played before, not even in primary school or high school so this was completely new territory for me. The differences between Rugby and AFL are actually pretty significant from the larger ball shape and passing techniques to scoring points and the rules of the game.

Learning how to hold the ball and pass it backwards was a little tricky and yet I somehow managed to pull it off quite well. We also learned how to score a touchdown (insert Mark Holden from Australian Idol fame). My throwing and catching skills have certainly improved over the course of this program and so has my participation in the games. Tackling and making close contact is something I’ll probably always feel uncomfortable about but at least I’m trying. http://howto.yellow.co.nz/sports-and-fitness/rugby-league/how-to-understand-rugby-league/

In the second half, we listened to a talk on addiction by a lady named Pauline from Monash Health in Dandenong. Honestly this was hitting a nerve for me and I couldn’t explain why. I think part of the problem was the attendance tonight was smaller than usual and I felt like I didn’t have anything worthwhile to contribute to the discussion at all. I’ve had times where using social media too much and eating too much comfort food was becoming a major problem for me but I’m not sure that I could class them as addictions.  https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction

Pauline discussed alcohol has become such a widely accepted drug in today’s society with a easy of access and consumption. The overuse of prescription medication has also become a massive problem which a lot of users finding it hard to stop taking them. There are many risk factors involved in drug addiction including loss of job, relationship problems, social isolation, mental health issues, loss of identity and a feeling of hopelessness. The most common ages are between 30-55 years old with majority of users being male and over half being homeless. https://au.reachout.com/tough-times/addiction

The best ways to overcome a drug addiction are acknowledging that you have a problem, having supportive family and friends, and finding a good GP who will listen and understand what you’re going through, counselling, social support groups and internet resources. There are also many other addictions including substance, gambling, gaming, exercise, internet and social media. https://www.adt-healthcare.com/addiction/types-of-addiction.html

I also struggle to feel included sometimes. This week I was starting to question whether I truly belong with the Men of Doveton group. It could possibly be my anxiety and self doubt interfering, that feeling of not being enough, and that really hurts sometimes. As somebody who is a naturally quiet person, I can easily get overlooked in a group situation. But on the other hand, I’ve made it this far. I’ve only got 4 weeks to go and dropping out now wouldn’t be a wise decision. I won’t be left behind. https://www.caseystadium.ymca.org.au/whats-on/upcoming-events/event/men-of-doveton-free-health-program-2/2018/07/30

On Tuesday morning, Mum and I drove down to Mornington to visit OPTIMIND, which is a specialist mental health clinic. After doing a couple of weeks of research at home, I settled upon trying out this particular clinic to find a psychiatrist who can help and support me with my sleep problems, mood swings and general mental health issues. The site is located in Main Street, Mornington and is quite a small yet inviting practice which tries to get away from the stereotypes of being cold, clinical and daunting. https://optimind.com.au/

I handed in my referral from the GP to the female receptionist. I narrowed my options down to Dr. Jeremy Stone but after being informed that his waiting list is over 6 months, I reconsidered. The good news is that there are another six psychiatrists to select from and their waiting times are more reasonable at 4-6 weeks. So hopefully the admin staff will be able to find one of them that fits my needs. https://optimind.com.au/services/psychiatry/

On Tuesday afternoon, I caught up with my friend and founder of Behind The SceneByron Hall at Noble Park Subway. I honestly needed this after how dismal my social life has been lately as there’s not many friends that I hang out socially with. It felt good knowing that I’m still a valued member of both BTS and the local music scene in general. We spent an hour and a half or so just catching up over lunch and I felt pretty comfortable being in Byron’s company. Whilst I don’t visit Noble Park very often (hoons, crazy drivers, gangs, drugs, crime… no thanks), I made an exception for Byron and glad that I did.

On Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from the receptionist at OPTIMIND in Mornington. I was legitimately surprised as I only just handed in my referral a day ago. It turns out that there was an availability to see Dr. Ricardo Peralta at the end of October and that I could also see him at the Patterson Lakes clinic which is a lot closer to home for me. So far my experience with Optimind has been extremely positive as I worried that I’d be waiting weeks on end to hear back from them to see an available psychiatrist but I guess lady luck is on my side this week.  https://nepeanspecialistgroup.com.au/specialists/dr-ricardo-peralta

On Thursday morning, Mum and I went to the Morning Melodies social function held at Trios Sports Club in Cranbourne. Unfortunately our arrival went a bit pear shaped when the door lady Shirley wasn’t able to find our names on the attendance list. Pretty soon Mum was starting to get upset and I was experiencing some situational anxiety from things going out of control. Thankfully the bistro manager Jason came down to diffuse the situation and offered us complimentary coffees for the mix up and the inconvenience.

When it comes to being a customer, I can see things from both sides of the fence and I was really pleased that Jason was able to fit us in. He made up a table for two especially for us which to me demonstrated excellent customer service. He could have just turned around and said “Too bad, so sad” but he didn’t. The staff running this morning’s function were also very kind and considerate to us and in that moment, I felt lucky for the first time in ages. We even won two prizes in the raffle which is a very rare thing for us.

Today’s performer was a man named Retro Joe who looked like a cross between William Orbit and Tim Ferguson. He was hysterically funny with his many costume changes and far from subtle interactions with the audience. Watching him change into an Elvis outfit was a particular highlight. He played many classic hits including: Frank Sinatra’s New York New York, Neil Diamond’s Crunchy Granola Suite, Elvis Presley’s Burning Love, Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, Dion and the Belmont’s Runaround Sue and The Monkees’ I’m A Believer.

On Thursday night, I went to a Body Pump class at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne. It’s honestly tough for me to bounce back from the mid-afternoon slump especially when you’re sleep deprived, have episodes of anxiety and generally can’t be fucked going to the gym. But I keep telling myself that it’s worth the effort and the energy to do it. Tonight’s class was facilitated by a fitness instructor named Sarah who made the class really fun and enjoyable.

Of course considering I haven’t been going to the gym much in the last two weeks, most of my muscles and joints were on fire including my biceps, glutes, hammys, knees, shoulders, neck…pretty much everywhere. I dreaded lunge track really got me especially doing several rounds of lunge pulses on each leg and then slowed down ones. Ouch! Same thing with the push-ups. And whilst these are exercises I generally don’t enjoy due to the pain and fatigue factor, I know that I have to keep working on them to increase my strength and also to burn excess fat. That’s the plan anyway. https://www.lesmills.com.au/bodypump

“When did I arrive? I don’t recall ever leaving Alaska. Why do I hate the dark, when I’m alone? I was on my way, To a brighter day, I’m still chasing around. But somehow I still believe that this is home. It’s so good to be home.” Sky Sailing – Alaska (2010)

“I was 22, alone with nothing to do and I couldn’t sleep. ‘Cause all those cold days returned with their old ways of causing. New apathy.” Sky Sailing – I Live Alone (2010)

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 121, September 2018

On Monday night, I attended the Men of Doveton program held at Doveton College. It’s hard to fathom that we’re over the halfway mark now. Part of me thought I would have dropped out weeks ago for two reasons: a) I’m not the sporty type in the slightest and b) Making social connections especially within a group of men is very challenging for me. I did have a couple of weeks where I questioned whether this group was for me. But the fact that I’m still here means that I have a lot of strength, determination and resilience to keep going.

Tonight marked the second week of learning how to play soccer down in the gym. It was very similar in structure from the previous week and I was still having the same problems. The ball was constantly losing control and rolling away from me when dribbling it. Head butting is still something I haven’t mastered yet. And playing the actual game, my fears from childhood bubbled to the surface again mostly around fear of getting hurt.

It’s very much a sensitivity issue and it doesn’t help when there’s a mixture of experienced and novice players. But I still gave it a go and was getting a good workout in. It doesn’t take long before you’re running up and down the court after the ball. And that’s pretty much the point of it, to become more active. I’m slowly starting to feel more included within the group too. Obviously this takes time. It’s something you have to progressively chip away at and slowly bring more of myself to the table.

In the second half of the session, we had Ted Whitten Jnr. and Laurie Serafini presenting on the topic of Prostate cancer and Men’s health issues. Ted is the founder of the E.J. Whitten Foundation and Laurie is a former AFL footballer and testicular/anal cancer survivor. Considering I’m not a huge footy fan, I wasn’t really that star struck by the presence of these celebrities but I knew a few of the guys in the group who were. https://www.ejwhittenfoundation.com.au/

This however didn’t diminish the importance of their talks at all. I think that it’s vital for all men to go see their GP regularly and have an annual health check. I used to be in the same boat myself when it came to going to the doctors. I would not only dread having a blood test done (I hate needles!) but also respond indifferently to the results (I’m overweight and have high cholesterol. Oh well, who cares?). https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/essential-screening-tests-for-men

But now being 32 years old, I’m taking my health much more seriously since starting my journey two years ago to improve my body weight, fitness, wellbeing, physical health and mental health. And whilst I don’t necessarily need to get tested for prostate cancer until I’m over 50 years old, this is still important information to have as I can educate other male family members and friends plus know I’ll be prepared myself as I get older. http://www.prostate.org.au/awareness/general-information/what-you-need-to-know-about-prostate-cancer/

On Tuesday, I attended the first day of my Hospitality Job Ready Program held at The Cardinia Club in Pakenham. Honestly getting to Pakenham before 9.30am is a huge pain in the rectum especially when you’ve got built-up school traffic and roadworks everywhere you turn. Thankfully the run on the freeway was pretty smooth and therefore it didn’t make me late. The program was held inside the venue’s boardroom and facilitated by Julie Barrett from Somers Elite Training.

The first course today was the Safe Food Handling course. I actually did this course back in 2016 but felt like doing a refresher. Julie’s approach is very detailed, thorough and no bullshit. She throws in heaps of examples from her experience in the hospitality industry with lots of photos showing what not to do when it comes to running a business. She went through all the major topics including hygiene laws and regulations, cleaning and sanitation, hazardous chemicals, personal and environmental hygiene, food poisoning, contamination, hand washing, pest control.

The thing I really enjoy about Julie’s style of teaching is that she doesn’t take things too seriously. She has a black, sarcastic sense of humour when it comes to managers and staff who do the wrong thing and ties to back to lack of education and training. It’s all about getting the basics right and understanding why food hygiene is so important in a commercial environment.

The practical assessment involving the glitterbug cream to show how much bacteria can spread even after washing your hands is pretty alarming. I feel like every time I do an RSF course, I always learn something new. I’m a rote and visual learner so it can take some time for all the information to sink in and actually remember it all but Julie’s notes really help. She literally tells you which parts to highlight in the workbook so at least the important principals will stick. https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/course/sitxfsa001-use-hygienic-practices-for-food-safety/

The second course was on Coffee Training. It was only a small group of us now which made it a bit easier to process all the material. Again this was another refresher for me after doing an Introduction to Coffee Making course a few months back at Chisholm TAFE. I was actually amazed that I was able to stay awake this far into the day. My biggest problem with learning is having enough mental stamina and concentration to handle a 7-8 hour training course but I was determined to stick it out today.

Julie walked us all through the basics of coffee grinding, how to make an espresso, timing your coffee shot, how to steam the milk, how to clean the coffee machine and the most popular coffee types. She then gave us a practical demonstration using one of the coffee machines out in the venue’s gaming area. This is where my anxiety levels slowly began to rise.

I still have confidence issues that I need to overcome when it comes to actually getting hands-on and making coffees. I find putting the group handles into the heads to be tricky as hell and  I was hesitating a lot when it came to steaming the milk. The good news is that at least I gave it a go and didn’t let those internal fears (burning myself, having the milk explode in my face) stop me from trying.

It is all about learning, following the techniques and training tips and having lots of practice. Thank goodness that Julie is a patient woman and made sure that we were all trying to perform the coffee making process correctly. Perhaps one day I could be making coffees for customers in an RSL somewhere or a similar gaming venue to The Cardinia Club. Just have to build my confidence and experience up and I’ll be alright. https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/course/coffee-training/

On Wednesday, I completed the second day of my Hospitality Job Ready Program held at Cardinia Club in Pakenham. Today was a similar deal to yesterday in that we had two different courses spread across the whole day. Firstly, I did my Responsible Service of Alcohol with a group of 15 people. Unfortunately the boardroom table didn’t allow much room between each of us so note-taking was pretty awkward but it was still manageable.  https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/courses/alcohol/

We covered all the important areas including: the liquor industry, benefits of responsible service, alcoholic content of drinks, Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), intoxication, signs of intoxication, how to prevent intoxication, refusal of service, dealing with underage minors, checking ID, packaged liquor and functions. I found most of the content easy to follow as I’ve done the RSA a few times over the years. The hardest part for myself and probably most people is the refusal of service section.

Not only is it extremely uncomfortable to perform, even in a casual role playing scenario, it’s a lot to remember. Thankfully Julie provided us with many helpful tips to learn it easier. The best way to handle intoxicated patrons and refuse service is: 1. Have A Conversation With The Customer (How’s your night been? What’s the weather like outside? Are you here with friends or by yourself?). 2. Response (I think that you need to have a breather. That will be your last drink for a while). 3. Clarify The Refusal (I’m sorry but I’d be breaking the law if I served you another drink). 4. Offer An Alternative (Would you like a coffee, tea, juice or coke instead?).

For me personally, developing social skills is still a work-in-progress for me. I still have confidence issues when it comes to speaking up and being assertive. But I refuse to give up. The test made up of 20 multiple choice questions was very straight forward. Most of it is common sense and rote learning of statistics like how much the fines are and how much alcohol is in a standard drink. We also learned that a specific law will be changing. That is minors under 18 years old cannot consume liquor in a licensed premises even with a responsible adult present. https://www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/resources/education-and-training/responsible-service-alcohol

The last course in the program was the Bar Operations Training. This particular course was entirely new to me and I found much of the content really interesting to learn. We covered lots of areas including: beverage service outlets, main equipment used, duties of a Bar Attendant, Bar daily set-up procedures, wastage and stock control, alcohol characteristics, wine styles, basic spirits, glassware, measuring drinks, adding ice, garnishing, personal hygiene, cleaning and maintenance, interacting with customers and selling skills. As you can see, there is a lot involved but Julie just focused on the basics today. https://joboutlook.gov.au/occupation.aspx?code=4311

The practical part of the course was a little nerve-racking for me as we were out in public view behind the back Sports Bar. We each learned how to pour a glass of wine, measure and pour of 30ml shot of spirits into a glass and pouring a bar using the taps. Of course new experiences is one of my anxiety triggers so thoughts were rampant through my head (What if I make a mistake? What if I spill beer and wine everywhere? What if I do something stupid?).

But I still managed to give it a go and I did okay for my first ever attempts at making drinks behind a bar. I think it really helps that Julie is incredibly supportive, dedicated and encouraging. She didn’t judge us or put any of us off from doing it and I think that’s an important value for a trainer to have. Of course skills like these take time, practice and patience to develop as well as the correct coaching involved aka teaching staff the right way of doing things. https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/course/bar-training/

To finish off, Julie gave each of us a job application and a few tips about making a good impression when applying for a job, what to put in your resume and also information about doing the Responsible Service of Gaming online training course which can be a good additional piece of training to have when going for Hospitality type jobs. Whilst Julie is very strict and precise with her style of teaching, I feel like she has good intentions. And with 40 years of Hospitality industry experience, I think she knows her shit just a little bit! http://rsgonline.vic.gov.au/

On Friday afternoon, I had my Metro Trains job interview and online assessment held at Cliftons Melbourne in Southbank. It’s been over two weeks since I attended the information session for the position of part time Leading Station Assistant (LSA) and to be honest, I really didn’t think I would make it this far into the recruitment process. My interview was to be held on Level 18 inside the building at 2 Southbank Boulevard. Considering I only have a vague recollection of the Southbank area, I needed to pull out Google Maps to prevent myself getting lost.

This building was even more intimidating than the previous one with lines of booths, luxury sofas, designer armchairs and furnishings, a restaurant and several banks of elevators. Once I found where I needed to go, the reception staff at Cliftons guided me over to the waiting area. After briefly chatting to one of the other candidates sitting opposite me, I was trying really hard to calm my nerves and use mindfulness techniques to ground myself. It did help a little bit. I was focusing on the abstract floral patterns of the nearby chair and just observing shapes and colours.

Twenty minutes of uncomfortable waiting later, I was called up by a lady named Tara and escorted into one of the meeting rooms. The email I received last week was a bit misleading in saying that today’s session would involve a group discussion. This was not the case. In fact, my first task was to come up with a public announcement speech for a role playing exercise with one of two Metro Trains staff members. I only had 10 minutes to read the brief, jot down some notes and perform it. I also had to deal with a disgruntled customer scenario.

The nerves were really kicking in hard now as I’m not good at performing on the spot and thinking on my feet. The Metro Trains staff member, who was playing the role of the disgruntled customer, made it deliberately difficult for me, requiring me to think outside of the box. I was pulling all kinds of answers out of my ass from saying “Sorry for the inconvenience. We’re doing everything we can to rectify the issue.” to offering free transport and even a lift in my own car.

The next part was even harder…the interview itself. It’s not like I have job interviews everyday or even every week so I knew that this would be a challenge. The six or so questions that I was asked were pretty generic…Why do you want to work for Metro Trains? What does exceptional customer service mean to you? Tell me about a time when you faced a change of procedure or system, you dealt with a difficult customer, you demonstrated exceptional customer service, you acted in a safe manner in the workplace. (The STAR Method. S = Specific Situation. T = Task. A = Action. R = Result). https://www.vawizard.org/wiz-pdf/STAR_Method_Interviews.pdf

To be fair, I really should have been more prepared for these types of questions as thinking of specific workplace scenarios takes time for me. I also misunderstood some of the questions they were asking and for me it was embarrassing and made me feel kind of dumb. My hands were getting sweaty. My face was getting red and flustered. I was tripping over my words. Any confidence I did have pretty much left the meeting room after that. The pressure was building up inside my head and inside I wanted to have a mental breakdown. This is the exact reason why I hate doing job interviews so much.

However, I was determined to finish this no matter how hard it got. I even threw in a few details I’d heard about the Metro Tunnel and High Capacity trains that are being constructed. I also mentioned that I had some degree of knowledge around timetables, service disruptions and the role of the LSA. I was giving this interview my all, even though I could easily tell from the interviewers looks and body language that I’ve got a fat chance of being a successful candidate.

I breathed a sigh of relief as the interview came to a close with “Any questions?”. I was mentally drained and couldn’t think of any at the time. I just wanted to get out of that meeting room. The last part of today’s session was thankfully the easiest. I had to complete an online computer test which involved literacy, numeracy and oral communication skills. There were a couple of tricky questions but overall I found the task relatively simple and I got it finished very quickly.

I walked away from today’s interview feeling like I hadn’t done enough to be successful. I feel like there was a lot of pressure and expectation placed on me from the two guys who were interviewing me. The high corporate environment in which the interview took place was also really off-putting for me. And there were also a few curve-ball questions that I didn’t know how to answer. I physically and mentally felt stressed out from it, partly because I can get caught up in my emotions a lot like worrying what the interviewers were thinking about me.

But I have no regrets about going today. It was a big learning experience for me and I’m glad that I was strong enough not only to attend the interview but to stick it out. It was very uncomfortable for me but I still did it. If I don’t get the job, it’ll probably be a blessing in disguise. No job is worth killing yourself over and I feel like the demand of this role might be too great for me to handle. But we shall wait and see. http://www.metrotrains.com.au/careers/

“Hold fast, I’ll guide you through the night. And fear not for I am by your side. Listen through the rain. And you can hear the angels say. Help is on the way. The moment you begin to pray. When the thunders roar. You don’t need to be afraid. I’ll lead you through the storm. So please remember when I say. I’m with you always.” Owl City – Always (2018)

“Look up when the world gets you down And you’re gonna get by. Hang in when the world counts you out. And you’re gonna be fine. Sometimes that’s life. Some days nothing never goes right. But when your hand is mine. You got me floating on cloud nine.”                        Owl City – Cloud Nine (2018)

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OWL CITY – CINEMATIC (ALBUM REVIEW)

Cinematic is the sixth studio album from Minnesota-born electronic pop artist and singer-songwriter Adam Young aka Owl City. I do have to say that right off the bat, I love the concept behind this album. Young has crafted a 15 track album around the important events in his life and presented it in the format of a 1980’s styled Steven Spielberg-esque movie poster.

He gradually released several “reels” which each contained three tracks from the album until it’s official release in June 2018. In a similar fashion, he released several music video featuring an actor looking like a younger version of himself with an early love interest which all flow continuously from first single “All My Friends” to third single “New York City”.

In terms of Young’s vision behind this album, this is miles better than his previous release, 2015’s Mobile Orchestra which was an incoherent mess with very little direction and a terrible mainstream pop sound. At the very least, Cinematic by contrast is very coherent in both scope and musical direction.

The lyrical material touches on significant events in Young’s childhood, adolescence and early adulthood from getting his first recording contract (Fiji Water), an ode to his father (Not All Heroes Wear Capes), moving houses/states and his childbirth (The 5th of July), the importance of friendship (All My Friends), finding his first home (House Wren), dealing with fear and loneliness (Always), fond memories from high school (New York City), his love of dreaming and fantasy (Lucid Dream).

Musically there is also a rich diversity of styles happening here from country twangs and sing-a-long anthems (All My Friends), delicately soft piano ballads (Always, Be Brave), gorgeous guitar strums (Not All Heroes Wear Capes), uplifting string arrangements (Montana), upbeat synth-pop and electronica (Lucid Dream, Cloud Nine).

Is Adam Young really reinventing the wheel with this album? Obviously not. Is it self-indulgent, sometimes sickly sweet and a little too long? Sure. Are the lyrics very on the nose at times? Uh yeah! But even with these criticisms, this is a huge return to form overall after the trainwreck that was Mobile Orchestra.

If you weren’t an Owl City fan before, this album isn’t likely to convert you much at all. But I feel like it bring all those old-school Owl City fans back out again. If you liked his earlier material such as Maybe I’m Dreaming or Ocean Eyes, you’ll most likely enjoy this album. It’s very positive and it shows a very personal and honest side to Adam Young that we haven’t seen before now. 8/10

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 120, September 2018

The challenge of writing about my feelings towards Father’s Day is to not make it sound like a depressing sob story but it most likely will come across that way. I’ve had a very distant relationship with my biological father for many years now. Even after briefly reconnecting with him about five years ago, it really hasn’t done much to strengthen or salvage the relationship. Making an effort with him just feels like a waste of time and energy.

He’s made several attempts at asking me for money and only really texts me whenever he wants something. It’s an emotional time, not just for me but also for my parents who both no longer have their Dads in their lives. It’s felt like a massive void in my life for many years that I’ve had to find masculine energy and strength from other sources. This includes my step-dad, former personal trainer and a current yoga teacher. But sadly these will never completely fill the void or my needs.

So what’s the best way of taking your mind off the fact that it’s Father’s Day today? Switching off all forms of social media. Going to the local community market at Cranbourne Public Hall and having a coffee with Mum at Michel’s Patisserie (Cranbourne East, Victoria). Then going out to Village Cinemas Fountain Gate Gold Class to see the latest Mission: Impossible movie. I think that’s more than enough distractions really. I know a lot of people love and embrace Father’s Day but sadly I’m not one of them for obvious reasons.

On Monday night, I went to the Men of Doveton Program held at Doveton College Theatre and Gym. It’s about halfway through the program now and to be honest, I feel like I’ve only just broken through the iceberg. Whenever it comes to social support groups, I always seem to be the underdog, the one lagging behind the others, the one struggling to catch up. It’s probably due to my autistic traits and under-developed social skills plus the fact that I’ve always been shy, introverted and reserved. But I am determined to complete this program and not simply give up due to my low motivation, self confidence and self worth.

Motivation is still something of a barrier for me, especially on Mondays where I typically don’t do much with my day at all. I usually do some housework, reading, check emails, listen to music and lay in bed. And so the Men of Doveton program has in fact given me a reason to get myself out of the house for a couple of hours and that in itself is an achievement for me. It shows that I need all the help and support I can get from this group of guys. https://www.caseystadium.ymca.org.au/whats-on/upcoming-events/event/men-of-doveton-free-health-program-2/2018/07/30

Tonight we started our first week of playing soccer. My initial reaction to this…well at least it’s better than cricket. But that certainly doesn’t make it easier. Learning to dribble, headbutt and maintain control of the ball wasn’t a walk in the park but I gave it a crack. Similarly, my aim was pretty terrible when it came to kicking the ball into the goals but at least I tried.

Hesitation and uncertainty continue to cloud my judgement when it comes to playing team sports games like soccer but it felt good to least least try to get involved. I made a couple of good attempts at passing the ball to a fellow teammate and also did my best to defend. Again this is not something I’m naturally good at but it’s good to see the other guys being supportive and respectful to the ones giving it a go.

After the physical health session, we gathered ourselves into the kitchen area for our cooking class. We divided ourselves up into seven groups and each worked on a different recipe together. These included: berry smoothies, beans and mushroom on toast, spinach, sweet potato and lentil Dhal, Mediterranean bean salad, roasted chickpeas, protein balls and wholemeal banana pancakes.

It honestly got me out of my comfort zone big time being in that kitchen. I don’t do a great deal of cooking at home myself, just occasionally do simple dishes like scrambled eggs, omelettes, salads, smoothies, stir fris etc. And it felt good to be able to contribute and get involved in the cooking process. With there being about 25-30 people in the kitchen, it got hectic very quickly.

Of course my autism and anxiety was going off like an alarm, getting myself easily distracted and being unsure of myself. To throw myself into situations where there is little structure and plenty of chaos, that requires a lot of strength. The solution is to perform tasks I know I’m actually good at like chopping up vegetables, heating up some rice and helping to clean up.

The other is to ask others what needs doing but it’s tough when there’s a lot going on stimulation wise. Still even with how busy the environment got, I still enjoyed myself and felt good about using some hands on kitchen skills again. It’s actually pretty therapeutic as it keeps your mind focused and active on that single activity. Plus I was cutting up and crushing chilies, ginger and garlic which are ingredients I don’t eat or use very often.

In terms of social connections, I feel like I’m slowly blending in with the others. Being one of the quietest men in the group, it’s very easy for me to get overlooked and not stand out. Whenever I meet new people, a wall goes up for my own self-protection due to my trust issues from the past and so it takes time for me to begin opening up to other people and gradually bring that wall down. But I could tell that people were there to support me and to make sure that I didn’t feel alone.

Just attending these weekly Men of Doveton sessions is half the battle for me as social awkwardness and fears of being rejected can rear their ugly heads. But everyone is pretty accepting and inclusive in this group hence why I keep coming each week.

On Tuesday morning, I attended the Adults Learners Week pop-up event at Hampton Park Library. Entering the library foyer, I could already feel my cheeks getting flushed with redness, mainly due to the big question: What the hell am I doing with my life? Thankfully there were plenty of free resources here from Hampton Park Community HouseHampton Park Uniting ChurchHallam Community Learning Centre Inc.Chisholm Institute and Casey Cardinia Libraries.

Mum and I both renewed our library membership cards, grabbed lots of programs and brochures and filled out a work/learning goals form. For 16 years, I’ve referred to myself as a Career Counsellor’s nightmare and nothing much has changed today. It would be easier to say what I’m not interested in. I wrote down: creative writing, painting, drawing, reviewing, barista training, hospitality, waiting and bar service, health and fitness, mental health, nutrition just to name a few things. https://www.cclc.vic.gov.au/

But I’m glad I went today as I’ve opened myself up to more potential social outlets and ways to connect with the local community through classes, workshops, activities, functions, events and training courses. Plus finding mental health support groups, social groups and building friendships. All of those things are very important to me. I’m actually highly considering attending a local church group to pick myself up and feel more connected with others. And I’m not even a Christian. https://www.adultlearnersweek.org/learning-in-casey/

On Tuesday night, I attended my RPM class at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne East. I wasn’t exactly feeling energised or alert even after having a regular latte before my class started but I didn’t care. I was determined to jump on that bike and workout hard. It’s been a while since I last did a class with fitness instructor Caroline Dowswell Symmons aka Cas (who also teaches Body Balance and Body Pump) so it was good to see her again. https://www.caseyrace.ymca.org.au/gym/group-fitness

We did a mixture of tracks tonight including Ke$ha – We R Who We R (Release 51), Cascada – San Fransisco (Release 54), Sash! featuring Stunt – Raindrops (Release 50) and Fatboy Slim versus Moguai – Ya Mama “Push The Tempo” (Release 56). Cas has a really entertaining way of accentuating the lyrics and trying to encourage us to increase the resistance a little more especially during the climbing uphill tracks. It certainly makes RPM classes a lot more enjoyable and fun. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/fitness-classes/rpm/

On Wednesday, my mental health took a turn for the worse. I realised that I’d been carrying a lot of unresolved baggage from Father’s Day last weekend plus lack of sleep, confidence and self-esteem issues, work-related stress, frustration, moodiness, irritability, social isolation. All of it was coming to a head today. I really needed to be pro-active and do something about it.

So I decided to see my GP Dr. Mah Mah Thet for her recommendation. After suggesting that I think I should change my antidepressant medication (I’ve been taking Zoloft/Sertraline for over 18 months now), she agreed and recommended finding a psychiatrist who specialises in mood disorders and sleep problems. The difficult task now is doing my homework, researching and finding a psych who suits my needs, narrowing the options down to one.

On Thursday afternoon, I had my NDIS planning meeting/conversation held at Level 2, Suite 1, 64 Victor Crescent in Narre Warren. I spent this week deliberately distracting myself from thinking about this meeting as I was feeling pretty nervous and uncertain about it. I couldn’t have been more organised with a yellow display folder packed with notes, information brochures, letters, reports and evidence about my mental health condition and disability. With how daunting and overwhelming the NDIS system is, I just couldn’t wait to get this planning meeting over with.

An NDIS representative named Sean ran the meeting today in one of the office spaces. After wasting 5-10 minutes trying to plug the mouse into his computer, we finally got going. Most of it was answering a range of online questionnaires about my family life, social and work environments, living arrangements, what I need help and support with, how my disability impacts on my life, my emotional health, how I want my plan to be managed, my goals and participant statement.
I found that the wording of some of the questions was very convoluted and unnecessarily complex that I had to go to Mum or Sean for a second opinion. It was like they were trying to trip me up if I answered the question incorrectly but Sean assured me that this wasn’t the case.

I did notice that Sean would often go off on a tangent and not be mindful enough about the time (we only had 1.5 hours allocated for this appointment). I also found that he’d sometimes try to answer questions for me and I wasn’t exactly comfortable about that.  But otherwise he was very easy to get along with. https://www.casey.vic.gov.au/community-services/ndis

Thankfully the rest of it was pretty easy as I already did my homework and pre-filled a lot of information ahead of time. Sean offered the suggestion of doing an aged care or disability services course but I’m not really sure about that right now and I’d rather see an actual careers counsellor about that. I’m sure he meant well by it. Now I just have to wait for the plan to get put together. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/firstplan

On Friday night, I went to a boxing small group training session at CinFull Fitness. Considering how low, depressed, overwhelmed, highly strung and stressed out I’ve been feeling this week, I figured that trying out some boxing would be a good way to release those negative emotions and make me feel more energized. It was just the four of us tonight, being joined by Grace, Chloe and Ashlee.

Considering I don’t do boxing classes regularly enough or had much experience, I was pretty rusty at it but the girls were very patient and encouraging with me. We took it in turns in wearing the gloves and the focus mitts, doing a few drills and basic combos. The hardest part for me was learning the co-ordination, mitt/glove positioning and timing of the jabs, hooks, crosses and uppercuts but I was slowly getting the hang of it. https://www.expertboxing.com/boxing-basics/how-to-box/the-beginners-guide-to-boxing

There was a lot of cardio exercise mixed in including walking lunges, plank holds, squats, star jumps, step jumps, jumping jacks, squat jumps and push-ups. The physical fatigue and profuse amounts of sweat was obviously present tonight but I felt like I was managing okay. If I don’t need to have the ambos called from Casey Hospital, you know that I’m not overdoing it and that’s important. I’m aware enough of my limits and if I need to stop and take a breather. I’m sure that Cinamon Guerin doesn’t want to see me keeling over.

“I was like a lead balloon when I couldn’t even get up to turn the lights on, the dark was swallowing me. Lord knows you can’t trust your head, when you’re standing on the edge. I’m breaking down. Lord knows you can’t trust your head, when you’re hanging by a thread. I was breaking down.” SIA – Footprints (2016)

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​MR. MERCEDES: SEASON 1, EPISODE 1 – PILOT (TV SERIES REVIEW) *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Mr. Mercedes is a crime fiction thriller based upon Stephen King’s novel published in 2014. This pilot episode takes place in Bridgton, Ohio opening at a city job fair. A large group of job seekers are queued up at 3am with brief conversations between a rude arrogant arsehole, a guy in his mid 20’s to early 30’s and a struggling young mother with her baby.

Suddenly, a mercedes sedan pulls up in front of the crowd, turns his high beams on and starts abusing the horn. From inside the vehicle, we see the driver putting a child’s clown mask on before ramming the mercedes directly into the crowd with no hesitation. This is where we discover Mr. Mercedes aka The Mercedes Killer.

Two years later, retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) is in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Living at home by himself with only a tortoise, a record player and his neighbour Ida Silver (Holland Taylor) for company. You can see the devastating affects that retirement has brought to his life…depression, loneliness, lack of purpose, gaining extra weight, drinking too much, not cleaning up after himself or giving himself much self-care at all.

Bill still maintains a friendship with his ex-detective partner Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) but after a short catchup at the local diner, you can tell it’s half-hearted and not exactly lifting Bill’s self-esteem. We also get a brief look into the characters of Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), Lou Linklatter (Breeda Wool) and Anthony Frobisher (Robert Stanton) who all work at Supreme Electronix (originally called Discount Electronix in the novel).

Turning a Stephen King novel into a television series is never an easy task but director Jack Bender and screenwriter David E. Kelley do a pretty decent job with the material. Being a pilot episode, you can’t have your expectations too high as there are many characters to introduce and lots of storylines to establish. Hence turning it into episodes was a good choice.

But overall this is a very enjoyable first episode. Brendan Gleeson is a dead-ringer for Bill and was the perfect casting choice with his mood-swings, potty mouth and abrasive sense-of-humour as well as a determination to find and stop the Mr. Mercedes once and for all. Harry Treadaway is also well cast as Brady being loud, obnoxious, intelligent and mentally disturbed. He also has some pretty fucked up Mommy issues. Looking forward to the rest of this first season. 8/10

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