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The past few years on Australian television have heralded several pseudo-documentaries about the country’s drug and gang culture, marketable programmes such as Underbelly, and more recently, Bikie Wars.

It is evident that the producers of these shows have overlooked another equally entertaining series of events that promises great appeal to a younger audience, one I’ve christened “Locker-Room Larrikins”.

I know of these events because I’m subjected to them daily, which isn’t as bad as one would think.

Two teenage groups with equally juvenile titles (“Back Row Hooligans” and “Zimper” – don’t ask me why), go at it every day after lunch in the locker-rooms. Mostly it’s just a bit of push and shove, creating an environment not too dissimilar to the hold of a washing-machine in full swing. Apart from being rowdy, it’s nothing more than a minor nuisance.

The “Zimper” tag – any love for some first-class fieldwork?

But this is where I ask the question: how far is too far?

You could argue that these relatively tame scuffles are simply precursors to full-blown gang mentality. But I hardly see how this could arise, which, one might say, could be put down to my lack of expertise in the area. Apart from one or two exceptions though, I can’t single out anyone whom I would identify as truly nasty.

Teachers take a very firm stance on the matter, which I guess is both expected and necessary. Whilst I admit to being quite judgmental toward people at face-value, I would like to think I’m accepting and lenient when defining one’s true character. If I were a teacher, I’d most certainly be known as Mr. Push-Over.

Just today, one of my peers was handed an in-house suspension for his role in tagging lockers (his efforts shown above), which I personally couldn’t care less about. In my discerning eye, he is essentially a good kid.

I know I’m in a biased position to best evaluate the situation, and that you most likely have differing views. But it’s a definite fact that the kids involved are incredibly decent, and shouldn’t be discarded as juvenile delinquents.

The next time you’re tempted to make a harsh judgement based on appearance, I urge you to take the time to reevaluate. If you believe the majority of today’s youth are errant and lawless, then brace yourself for an influx of illiterate criminals to your workplace in the next decade.

By keeping an open mind, you not only help eliminate stereotypes, but you also create a better, more welcoming existence for all those involved.

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Relish n’ Reap

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Put simply, humans aren’t meant to swim.

Take a look at yourself. Most likely, you do not have webbed phalanges or fin-like protrusions. This is a good thing; it means you don’t get stared at and ridiculed anytime you go into public. It also means, though, that you’re more likely to drown than your average fish.

Keep this in mind when I say that competitive swim training is usually done for several hours a day amongst the elite. It involves some of the most physically and mentally draining sets known to man, often aimed well beyond your current capabilities, all to be done in an oxygen-deprived environment. Come to think of it, the primary objective after such sets is indeed to avoid drowning.

Which is not, one would think, the best thing to look forward to when training at 5:00 am on the winter solstice (which, in Australia, was five days ago).

In case you haven’t worked it out, I know all this from personal experience. You may wonder why I would even consider putting myself through this “torture”, all for the sake of improve a skill I’m already adequately adept at. My answer? It’s fun*.

Indeed, I like the challenge, I like the routine. I enjoy the whole experience. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.

That may seem blatantly obvious, yet many, possibly yourself, don’t acknowledge it. There is no point doing something you don’t enjoy.

Only when you pursue your interests for pleasure alone – when the ultimate reward comes from inside of you – will you have the drive and the patience to master a skill.

Yes, I admit many are tied down by prior and necessary commitments (myself included), but that doesn’t warrant a total apathy toward one’s endeavours. Any effort in a task you despise will amount to nothing, all the work futile.

Go and learn to play the guitar like you’ve always wanted, go do something fun. If you truly love it, something great will some of it. You create your own opportunities in the manner about which you live.

So I’ll continue to swim for as long as I enjoy it, be it till I’m nineteen or 99. But I know, no matter what, the experience will be irreplaceable, the lessons learned invaluable, for these great things already come of it.

*And in case I’ve provoked another question, no, I’m not some twisted aqua-sadist.

A Marill Dilemma

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This is Marill: the devil incarnate or just a cuddly critter?

Like most nineties kids, I was certainly an early-morning cartoon junkie. It is in this fashion that I first encountered Pokémon.

For those that don’t know, “Pokémon” is a portmanteau of “Pocket Monsters”. It involved trainers befriending these monsters and pitting them against other people’s Pokémon in battle using a variety of physical and elemental attacks, which was generally pretty awesome.

Every weekday before sunrise, I would stumble into the living room, turn on the television, catch the back-end of the pre-dawn, dead-air-time yoga show*, and settle down to watch another instalment of Ash Ketchum (Pokémon‘s protagonist) in his quest to become “the very best”**.

Episodes usually revolved around Ash and his friends honing their skills at battling, whilst continually thwarting the antagonistic ploys of the dastardly “Team Rocket.”

Sure, it was fun and enjoyable at the time, just another kids’ cartoon. But is it possible for such a show to have lasting effects on its viewers?

If you punch “Pokémon” into Google, odds are you’ll be readily supplied with a fair sum of articles written by various Christian extremists, enlightening us as to the demonic qualities of the cute cartoon creatures. I, however, have a view that is quite the contrary.

If anything, Pokémon has given me the strongest, most profond sense of morality my formative self could comprehend.

Through an enjoyable and engaging medium, I was shown how those with pure aspirations and an unrivalled work ethic can achieve the greatest of feats, how friendship and humility do more than conceited and selfish motives ever will, and it became evident that, no matter how dire the situation, belief in yourself and your peers would get you across the line.

I undoubtedly draw inspiration from these ideals. They have stuck with me, growing more intense with the greater maturity and realisation that comes with each passing year. To this day, I am yet to come across a malevolent soul influenced by Pokémon in their developmental years, before they could make a true conscious decision between right and wrong. Indeed, I also cannot bring to mind a person who shares this interest and is inherently bad in nature.

Although just my humble observation, Pokémon has undoubtedly shaped the person I am for the better, which is hopefully something you can vouch for!

*Pun intended.

**The original theme song.

Deliver Us From Evil

As a class, we recently finished studying Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds”, whichincorporates themes such as man’s destructive tendency and fear and isolation. We were required to write a short story emphasising these points, which was a task, as you will see, I approached quite light-heartedly. Enjoy~ (As always, your feedback is most appreciated.)

Deliver Us From Evil

It’s hard to believe the most hideous fiend ever credited to mankind lives amongst us in unsuspecting suburbia.

As I drove up quite the ordinary laneway, it was as if every other living being knew of my unfortunate and unavoidable task, and had deserted, leaving nothing but the accelerating beat of my heart to fill the silence. I rounded the last corner to my left, and was suddenly confronted with a towering chateau bordered with wrought-iron pickets. I swore, ruing the fact I was finally at my destination.

I sat in the car for a long time, just staring. Right on cue, the rain made its grand entrance, not to be outdone by intermittent claps of thunder. All that was needed were a few cawing crows, but crows are much smarter than me: They know not to go anywhere near the Devil’s residence. Such is the Devil’s reputation, it is said to evoke the most primal form of pure terror imaginable.

The Devil has no conscience, no sense of remorse. Any unfortunate creature that dares make its way into the demon’s domain is promptly pulverised underfoot, with a bumbling man-slave the only other sentient being within. For 40 years, this poor soul had been imprisoned by the terrestrial Lucifer, serving his life sentence with no parole.

With a slight break in the downpour, I reluctantly unbuckled myself and shuffled to the boot, hauling out a large cardboard box full of useless paraphernalia anyone in their right mind would have disposed of long ago. It seems, though, the Devil has other ideas, ideas only conceivable in some sick intellect. However, I’m just an unwilling courier, beckoned to deliver and I do as I’m told: I’m not supposed to feel sorry for the junk, no matter what twisted fate it now faces.

The gates creaked and groaned with the rust of eons, warning me of what lied beyond. A long cobblestone driveway wound up to the front door. I felt like running away, but I was already too far into the ordeal. Slowly, I began to walk.

A derelict garden lay either side of the path: the plants had clearly given up long ago, but the defiant grass was at least waist-high. I almost completely missed the white stone statues, what with them having developed an intricate camouflage of lichen and moss.

Before I knew it, I was an arm’s length away from the threshold. It was now or never, and in a fleeting moment of either courage or stupidity, I laid three quick raps upon the ancient wood.

Footsteps echoed from inside, triggering a profuse bout of sweat. They got louder and louder. Then they stopped. Silence.

Without notice, one lock was rapidly unbolted, then a second. The door was whisked open, and I flinched in terror. Slowly, I slitted my fingers, and saw I what I’d dreaded.

I was face-to-face with my Mother-In-Law.

“This Is Water”

After finishing exams and thus rendering all the term’s work effectively redundant, teachers, as I’m sure you’d know, simply can’t be stuffed teaching. It is via this phenomenon that I chanced upon a man named David Foster Wallace.

My English teacher*, who can only be described as a living, breathing chimera (what with the head of a lab technician and the body of a Schwarzenegger fanboy) attempted to enlighten us as to the true meaning of “compassion”. He left the bulk of the actual lesson to YouTube, and it is in this way that I became acquainted with the late novellist.

Wallace, who suffered depression for the bulk of his short life, was a truly gifted writer and essayist, even having one of his novels, Infinite Jest, announced as one of the Top 100 Novels since 1923 by Time magazine. He published it when he was just thirty-three.

The video** depicted Wallace giving a commencement speech to a class of college graduates. In true prodigious fashion, it was in no way typical. He enforced that, whilst one may scoff at the idea of being taught how to “think”, it is not about “thinking” per se, but literally how and what we choose to think about.

I was awakened to how egocentric us humans really are. Using clear-cut examples, Wallace illustrates that, while we don’t like to admit it, our internal monologues are constantly focussed upon ourselves, showing total disregard for the rest of humanity. When I actually stopped and listened to myself (which you should do too the next time someone cuts you off on the road), I realised this to be true.

Thus, to be compassionate, we must learn to change this “default setting”, change our way of thinking. What you would previously see as a negative experience or chore can be totally reversed if you change how your look at your peers.

So I urge you to consider others’ circumstances before going off at them. Put them first, change your perspective, for, no matter what you think, this is the only real way to be truly compassionate.

*You’ll no doubt be hearing more of him, for he’s actually a personal-trainer-turned-English-fanatic, which I must admit is pretty cool.

**which can be view here.