Curtin University's student Guild has a newspaper/magazine called Grok that is produced four times a year throughout the uni's two semesters.  It's been so popular in previous years that we actually produce five issues now!  Anyone can be a part of Grok - you simply have to apply.  I was lucky enough to be chosen as a writer for this great piece of intellect, entertainment and design.  The articles and reviews that I have had published are below, from most recent to the oldest.  You can pick up a copy of the magazine from Curtin University, however all the past mags are published online if you want to have a read - there are some really talented writers and great articles in them guys, please check them out.

Issue 2 2014 - Fads

Serpentine Falls 

It is deadly silent.  Tranquil.  The water trickles innocently down the rock face, slipping down quietly and leaping from the rock’s edge into the pool.  Bright mixtures of turquoise, green and bluey water is contained by thick red rock; a natural beauty.  A group of girls lay on the sloped rock face in the second pool, another perch at the base of the waterfall, letting the water rush over their backs and into their hair.  Some float on blow-up toys, others lounge in the sun on the flat, safer rocks.  A couple and their small toddler play at the edge of the man-built steps that lead into the water; inviting you in.   

I’ve always wanted to go to Serpentine Falls, and it seems that lately, I am not the only one.  More and more people are travelling the 55 kms South East of Perth to visit this tourist attraction.  Once upon a time, the falls were a little unknown hideaway, but these days it has become an extremely popular place to go for all ages, but especially the 18-30 age brackets.  Groups of friends make a day out of visiting the pools, taking lunch to have in the picnic area and being greeted by friendly roos.  The falls are only a short walk from this area, strolling along a dirty gravel path.  The cool water is refreshing and clean, and gliding under its surface, I felt at peace.     

You wouldn’t want to think about the 12 odd people that have died here.  One moment jumping off the rocks, laughing with their friends, the next hitting their heads; blood spilling into the clear water. Panic. Desperation. Drowning.  Have I scared ya yet?

Chances are, I haven’t.  There are about seven signs that warn patrons that swimming is not recommended, that dangers are involved and that there should be no diving or jumping from rocks.  You are at your own risk.  But when does your own risk become the responsibility of the government?  Yes, there are signs, yet there are man-made paths that lead to the falls and concrete steps delving right into the water.  It isn’t exactly difficult to enter. 

Despite the amount of deaths in this dangerous yet beautiful setting, people continue to swim in the waters; myself included.  Similarly, people continue to swim in the ocean given the risk of shark attacks.  Of course, shark attacking is something out of our control, whereas those who die at Serpentine are stupid enough to climb, jump and dive off the rocks; increasing their risk of injury.  I’m not going to go into the diverse shark-culling debate, but I will say this.  In the past 40 years, 13 people have died from shark attacks in Western Australia.  That’s just one more than the 12 who have had their lives taken simply from frolicking in a tiny waterhole.  You have to wonder when the government are going to become involved.   

The price to enter the National Park has continued to rise over the years, along with the risk factor.  What would once have cost you two or so dollars many years ago, is now costing $12 just for the day, but that won’t stop people from entering.  With the amount of deaths, this popular place we are blessed to experience could very well become untouchable.  Will there soon be a day when we are no longer allowed to swim in the crisp fresh water?  Will it become ruined or polluted first from our interference, or will the Government simply take a stand against patrons swimming in such a high risk area?  How many people have to die before the risk assessment becomes too high, simply because the public cannot evaluate levels of safety or control their own behaviour?  I can’t help but wonder.  It’s a sad thought, really.    

Even more so, is humankind’s tendency to ruin, or to attempt to ruin, the tourist attractions that nature gives us. The use of fertiliser polluting the Great Barrier Reef, proposal for gas fields at James Price Point, logging in the Amazon, mining on Barrow Island and palm oil plantations wiping out Borneo Rainforest; to name but a few.  I am yet to travel the world; it would be nice to have some natural tourist attractions left to see.  (Apologies for getting all environmental-political on you).   

I think that Serpentine is an amazing spot to visit; almost everyone is doing it.  I went, I survived.  I chose not to climb on rocks, to instead frolic and play in the water with my friends, enjoy the serenity and the beauty and leave with a smile on my face.  It’s all about what you choose to do, and if you haven’t been, I suggest that you do, because one day you might not have the opportunity.  Be careful, take advantage of the beauty that is Serpentine falls, refrain from make life threatening decisions, and perhaps we can preserve it for a little while longer.  

The Night Party - Get To You Album Review

I had no idea what to say about The Night Party’s newly released CD Get To You and instead of writing about it, like I should have been, I sat on my iTunes, listening to the twelve songs on repeat.  There’s rockin electric guitar, longer accented notes and short quick riffs, the grunge of the drums and vocals that in one instance are soft and slow and in the other are sung with passion and gut.  I don’t know a lot about music, but I do know what I like.  And I like this.   

Making their debut, Rick Sands and Buck Lexton’s track has a mixture of slower harmonies and bouncier, upbeat tracks.  This funky duo has brought forth an array of sounds which can be compared to the likes of The Stones (in their Little Red Rooster days), The Beatles (with their 80’s stuff) and Creedence Clearwater Revival (mainly the guitar riffs rather than the vocals).    

Most of the vocals on the tracks stick true to the musical roots, with an old style vocal effect that gives the sense of listening through an old record player on a lonely Saturday night.  Along with groovy distortion, their sound has the grunge but complimentary slow style of bluesy roots. 

Derived from Melbourne and destined to be after meeting in a trek in Tasmania, The Night Party are ready to combine their musical talents and share a sound filled with mood and atmosphere.  Their songs are soulful and their mystique has the potential to bring about a sparkling new fan base.  I’ve listened to the songs inside and out, and I won’t be hitting the pause button any time soon.  

Issue 1 2014 - World Domination

 Villain Protagonist Trop

He’s sprinting down the street, desperation licking at his heels.  Gun in one hand, he flicks his head from side to side to see if they’re chasing him.  You can hear footsteps, pounding against cold pavement.  His breathing is heavy, panicked, and urgent.  There is blood on his right hand and smeared across his white t-shirt that isn’t his own.  It belongs to the man he just killed.  They’re gaining on him as he runs, getting closer and closer.  He hears gunshots and ducks once, and then twice.  There is yelling.  He runs faster.  You see his face, panicked and familiar.  He comes to a bridge, black murky water beneath.  He takes one look back, then steps up and takes the leap.  He plunges into the water and kicks and splutters to the surface, before swimming as fast as he can to safety.  Relief.    

The man in this story is a killer.  You might even go as far as to call him a villain.  Yet, despite this very fact; you want nothing but for him to get away.  Where is the logic in that?  Well, as a matter of fact, the logic lies in the character himself.  They are the Villain Protagonist; a phenomenon becoming a more prevalent twist to conventional storytelling.  It places the villain, the antagonist, as the leading or one of the major characters; making us more inclined to like them. 

Ever watched a television show, or read a book, or seen a movie, or read a comic strip where the main character is the bad guy, and despite this information and their wrongdoing, absolutely loved them?  Then don’t worry, you’re not a complete sociopath.  We all would have seen one at some point or another, perhaps without even knowing it.        

Take Walter White, for example, a once soft and shy man who evolves into a fearless and cunning “villain”, alienating his own family and caring solely of his own survival, yet we root for him the entire time.  He lies, he breaks the law, he kills people to protect himself, but there we are, sitting on the edge of our seats, praying he does not get caught.  Another likable villain would be The Joker in Batman.  Yes, he’s the bad guy, but everybody loves him because of his cheeky grin, his cunning jokes and cackling laugh.  Or even the Coyote in Road Runner.  Wouldn’t it be great if in one episode he just caught that god-damn bird?    

Perhaps a more complex example would be Game of Thrones, where all the perspectives of war are depicted.  Sometimes you actually like and have sympathy for the bad guys, and you also see the flaws in the good guys.  In this case, there isn’t just one main character but many; however it still bodes as a perfect example of liking those that are ‘evil’.    

The most obvious one I can think of would be Dexter, who works for the Miami Police Department while leading a secret life as a serial killer.  We follow the story from his point of view, even though he is the antagonist.  He claims to have no feelings, divorcing himself from humanity and kills to feel alive.  Creepy, huh?    

So the answer is yet to be found: Why do we like them so much?  It’s a fair question.  I don’t know about you, but when I watch the news I don’t exactly turn around and say “hey, I hope that murderer doesn’t get caught.” So why do we open up a soft spot for these types of characters in television shows, movies and books?  It’s not because of their charming looks – Walter White, Dexter and The Joker aren’t exactly Channing Tatum lookalikes; but rather something much more. 

These characters often possess qualities that we are able to relate to.  Now I know what you’re thinking – I’m not a villain, I’m not ‘evil’, and I certainly would never be the ‘bad guy’, unless I consume a little too much alcohol one night…But believe it or not, we can be very similar to these villains.  Since the story is often told from their point of view, we begin to believe what they believe.  In a way, we justify their actions with excuses.  It is because we get to know them.  We know the reasons behind their actions.    
We see that while everything Walt does is wrong, his underlying motive is his love for his family.  We see that while killing people is brutal, Dexter abides by his own moral code; only allowing himself to kill people who he can prove are murderers themselves.  Dexter likes children and treats them with care and respect, and shows his connection and loyalty to family throughout the series.  We like Dexter because while he does bad things, he has good reasons. 

We see in Game of Thrones violence and crudeness, but underlying honour and protection of family.  It’s hard to pick just one character, but if I had to comment, it would be on Jaime Lannister.  A major character that is in love with his twin sister, murders countless people and even maimed a child, but beneath all of that holds passion for the things that he cares about.  He will literally do anything to protect his honour and those things that mean the most to him.     

These characters are bold, they are strong and they always have the upper hand.  They do bad things, but there is always a good reason.  They murder, they deceive, they have no conscience; but they can love and they can care.  They are the bad guys; and we like them.  And in the end, there is nothing wrong with that.    

Southbound Gig Review 

The 10 year anniversary of WA’s only camping festival, Southbound kicked off the New Year with an array of talent likely to become more famous after the 12 000 odd people who attended the festival in the state’s south-west.

It was a big weekend for music lovers who spent the two days filling their eardrums with a variety of music, feasting from various food stalls, purchasing hats and headdresses and clothing from mini markets, tattooing their bodies with henna, sipping on overpriced drinks and cooling off in Murdoch and HBF tents in beanbags and hammocks.  Transforming ordinary house owners into happy and pampered campers, the festival creates a community with an abundance of diversity, bringing different kinds of people into the one venue. 

With headliners MGMT, Violent Femmes, London Grammar, Chet Faker, Flight Facilities, Hermitude and even solo artists James Vincent McMorrow, Johnny Marr and Hanni El Katib, to name but a few, there is no doubt that the music was an abundance of fresh and differing sounds, splashing the crowd with elements of indie, rock, pop, electronica, alternative and even some comedy fuelling a rush of laughter induced endorphins.   Born and bred Australian artists brought new flourishing talent to Southbound.  Sydney rock and roll band The Preatures took to the stage with their hit ‘This Is How You Feel’, Isabella Manfredi’s nonchalance and subtlety making the band easy to connect to.  Hers and Gideon Bensen’s combined voices were not shy on stage and had those on the fence grooving along as though they were friends who’d known each other for years.

James Vincent McMorrow slowed things down with intricate guitar and careful, long wavering notes.  Violent Femmes took the crowd through a journey of the acoustic punk from the 80’s.  Kicking off their set with the famous single ‘Blister in the Sun’, they had patrons running in all directions to literally ‘go wild’ in front of the stage. Even Beyonce’s sister Solange made an appearance, busting out some of her sister’s tracks with sassy confidence.

MGMT brought forward the favourites ‘Time to Pretend’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ with a psychedelic backdrop lighting up the stage and the crowd before them.   Surprisingly, though, it was the acts I didn’t intend to see that captured me the most.  Bombino was extremely comfortable on stage, despite looking wildly out of place.  Grooving along to his own beat, the Tuareg guitarist and his band mixed up electric guitar riffs with bouncy drums, allowing people to dance at a first listen. 

Some people pressed up against the barriers, reaching out towards their idols, others happy to stand and sway, and onlookers lounged luxuriously on the grassy ground, all enjoying everything the event had to offer.  Is it worth going again next year?  I certainly wouldn’t miss it.   

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