The Wealth in Creativity

I was somewhat shocked to receive such belittling and insulting comments in my personal Facebook inbox lately, from someone whom I’d previously respected in the sector of local, independent music. After his offering of slander and what I pretty much have taken as “stop making music because you are not good enough,” this person has lost all respect and dignity from my end, and I wanted to point out how much some people just do not understand what it means to be creative.

To defend my so called “negative” comment; I merely asked “why?” In response to the news that a friend and fellow songwriter was going to be appearing on a Television talent show, which I thought nothing of; a mere valid question, as I am always interested in knowing what drives somebody to make that jump.

Most people who know me well, will know that I am a staunch supporter of local & original music, and certainly not a supporter of such television talent contests.

The indecency of this person to use this opportunity to talk down my musical ability absolutely astounded me, particularly during a well-documented period of personal crisis (which, if he “ignored” me so much, he probably didn’t even contemplate), which completely tipped me over the edge.

Never in my 9 years in the music industry have I been confronted by such hateful and sinister criticism – which is why I love Melbourne and music & artistic communities I find myself in – all they have done over that time is commend my tireless effort, my constant learning, and my vast improvement over time; obviously someone that has ignored me wouldn’t have the slightest clue about.

As for my “negtivity,” sure; I’m first to admit that my immediate reaction to some things can certainly be negative, and that I don’t have the most optimistic outlook on life, partially – but not entirely – due to my ongoing struggle with a mental illness, which again is something that somebody who has ignored me wouldn’t know about.

And so, I thought, “fair enough; this guys is mad about me reacting a certain way to one of his friends, I can deal with that,” but it went on…​

Continuing to deface and insult my status as a performer, referring to a point in time (probably 3+ years ago) where I was upset by a lack of support from the community and my friends, whilst going through a difficult time and using my “ability” as the reasoning that OTHER PEOPLE probably weren’t turning up, as if channeling some sort of psychic ability to think that everyone else’s subjective opinion on my music would be the same as his.

I am truly sorry that this guy has the expectation that every local performer should instantly sound like some sort of pop superstar, or else they don’t deserve the space that they are singing on.

I am also truly sorry that I never got a true an honest response from the artist I initially asked the question to, but instead got a tirade of unwarranted and shameful abuse from a bitter old man who obviously never had the talent or drive to be a creative himself, so has to sit back on his high horse and constantly, day in, day out, comment and judge and nitpick the abilities of others.

Well, bravo, Mr. Arsehole, your abuse worked. I got off the stage. I couldn’t even do the show I had booked later in the week that you sent this, because I was so overwhelmed with depression and anxiety over the words you said that I couldn’t even bring myself to physically be on stage, in front of people, performing my songs – something that has given me some of the most joy in my life. You have ruined that for me.

Albeit temporarily.

I am hugely proud of my achievements over the past 3 years. My ability is continually improving: in performance, in writing, in recording and engineering. I know this because of the praise I get from people like Kevin Murphy, Karl Huttenmeister, Anna Cordell, Jakksen Fish, Georgia Rose, Tracey Hogue, Tim Woods, Al Parkinson, Liam Dixon & Michael Yule – among others. These are all people who know what they’re talking about, who are around original music at its grass roots level, day in and day out; who appreciate what amount effort goes into everything that I do – because it’s what they do to.

So I choose to listen to these people, not an old fogey who used to be on Community Radio so has some sort of heightened sense of musical royalty, that he can brandish things around, no matter how hurtful, destructive or potentially career-shattering they can be.

I’m standing up to this bully of a man, and I am making a new record, and this new record is going to be so many times better than anything he would have expected me to bring out, because that is how far I have come; whether he chooses to like it, or know it, or not.

My message to you all is, don’t let anybody talk down YOUR dreams and YOUR art. YOUR art exists because it came from a place inside of you. YOUR art will connect you with the people that WANT to consume it; who hear the effort in it; who acknowledge what it takes to bring that art to fruition.

People that don’t understand it will try to bring you down, but they can’t; because it is not THEIR art to bring down. They don’t connect with it, they don’t understand your process or where any of it came from. So bad luck to them.

​And bad luck to this arsehole.

Play Like a Girl; Paid Like an Amateur

There’s been a question rattling through my head of recent times, following the announcement of the women’s national AFL competition, and the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League in the past 12 months. That question is merely, why do we not pay as much attention to valid forms of female professional sport?

Curiously, that question extends to the premise that we need to pay women considerably less for following the path of a professional athlete than we do with their male counterparts.

Of course, if we’re talking dollars and cents, the answer is that women’s sport doesn’t attract the same amount of sponsorship dollars as men’s sport; but then again, there still lingers the question: why?

From the outside looking in, it appears that as a society that we completely devalue the realm of female professional sport. In a world where were are constantly playing catch-up on the dark ages where men brought home the bacon and women cooked it and cleaned up afterwards, it feels that the intricacies of the modern world just aren’t being paid enough attention.

Professional sport for females is nothing new; Australia has posed long-term success in athletics, field hockey, swimming, golf and pro surfing just to name a few, but it is within the sports that are earmarked as ‘male-dominated’ or perceived as ‘men only’ where problems continue to present themselves.

First is the problem in the above perception. With this at play, it is no surprise that women aren’t valued in these sports. They’re (apparently) only for men, so women that play it mustn’t be serious. Right? Wrong.

Absolutely anybody that pursues a career in professional sports: male; female; straight; gay; African; Asian; European – they are all serious about it – mark my words. It takes constant hard work and determination to gain success in an industry that is largely dog-eat-dog. Most athletes start with next to nothing, and have to build their profiles through endorsements and public appearances before they even begin to make a living out of their performances on the field – and yes, this is typical of MALE sportspeople; so let’s take that difficulty and multiply it for women.

The main idea of writing this article is to pose the question; “Why do we not hold female sport in the same regard as male sport?”

It is not uncommon for a talented female athlete to be trained-up in multiple sports, and playing multiple sports, just so that they can make some sort of a living off their chosen career. The most recent example of such being professional cricketer and soccer player, Ellyse Perry, who has successfully represented her country in both sports at the highest level.

I can’t see any valid reason why we should be treating the two any differently. Sportspeople are sportspeople. They undergo the same training, the same setbacks, the same grueling schedules to attain the best possible results for themselves, and – if relevant – their teams or their countries.

Luckily enough, in 2015, the Victorian Athletic League, Stawell Athletic Club and, major sponsor Woolworths, eventually agreed, and presented equal prize money for both the men’s 120m Gift and Women’s 120m Gift; the richest foot-races in Australia.

I feel a change is afoot, and may have been led by the aforementioned announcements of national professional leagues, however, until we are seeing women sportspeople getting equal recognition, admiration, coverage and – most importantly – equal PAY; then it is very hard to take these steps towards professional female sport in this country seriously.

Double Standards for Umpires

Originally published by Daniel Wilcox, http://www.theroar.com.au on Jan 2, 2016.

Being an umpire or referee in any sport is a tough, and often thankless job. You are constantly assessed and criticised by the vast majority of people that are watching, even if the viewer has little or no idea of what is happening with the game.

These people look at one thing: free kicks. Namely, free kicks that they disagree with, usually for the reason that it went against their team.

On the other end, you often have a coach or assessor at the ground, whose job it is to evaluate your performance. These people look at everything you do; positioning, game control, body language, communication.

There is a whole side to officiating a game that most people only notice when something goes really wrong.

Like a footy club, umpires work as a team. From a junior game with two field umpires, right up to a full panel of 11 umpires (three field, four boundary, two goal, two emergency), everyone works together on the day to minimise the incorrect calls. It is not uncommon to hear another umpire yell “nice bounce” or “good throw” after good execution in a game. Alongside positioning, teamwork is one of the major factors affecting how many incorrect decisions are made in a game.

During the week, just like a footy club, umpires train together. Twice a week, the umpires from the local area will go through drills to improve their fitness and skills.
Also like a club, sometimes everyone will train together, whether you are state league level, or about to do your first Under-12s game as a teenager. Other times, people train separately, so that the session is at a pace that will suit everyone.

The general football population expects umpires to be perfect. On the one hand, I see this as a compliment; that perfection is within reach. If the level of officiating was consistently lower than the expected level, then expectations would be altered to reflect this. However, the expectation is still that there will be so few mistakes in a game, that those mistakes can be individually discussed (and often criticised).
There is a saying around the umpiring world: “The day you have a perfect game is the day you retire.” In other words, there is always room to improve.

But umpires are only human. In one game, a field umpire will make many thousand decisions (or non-decisions), all in real time, with less than a second to process each one. Then you have the distractions: the crowd, the weather, players, runners, trainers, all in the same space as you. All it takes for one of these people to obstruct your view of a contest is to run past at the wrong time. In the blink of an eye, you may have ‘missed’ something, even though you are in perfect position.

Spectators often think they have a free pass when talking about umpires. They believe that it is their ‘right’ to use abusive language, and insult the umpire as a person because of what they do.

In a game I officiated earlier this year, a player going for the ball was crunched in a big (but legal) hip-and-shoulder from a much larger opponent. The opponent who laid the hit was very sportsmanlike, checked that the injured player was okay, and signalled to the bench when the answer was no. The player was helped from the field by his team’s trainers, and the game continued.

A few minutes later, at the three-quarter-time break, the injured player’s mother stormed out onto the field (into the area that is set aside for only umpires), swearing at us, calling us incompetent, and demanding that the player who laid the bump be reported and sent off the field.

A polite explanation of our course of action was met with increased abuse from the woman, who had to be taken away by some of her son’s teammates to settle down.
Another example, and one that I am less proud of, was from earlier in my career as an umpire. A young field umpire was just starting out, and learning very quickly. A group of us were in the stands to provide some support to the umpire (a common occurrence), when again, a player’s mother was complaining about every ‘mistake’ that the umpire made, even though most of the complaints were completely baseless.
A few of the less tolerant in the group (including the young umpire’s brother) quickly figured out who the lady’s son was, moved directly behind her, and started to make comments every time he missed a kick or dropped a mark. The mother didn’t take long to get annoyed at the complaints about her son, and asked why they were singling out her son like that. When they pointed out that she had been doing the same to one of their friends, her response was, “But he’s an umpire.”

After a few minutes to calm down, both groups apologised to each other.

But what happens if you don’t have a group of semi-confrontational people willing to stand up against that ingrained abuse? A lot of spectators don’t even realise what they are saying about the umpire, and some believe that because they are talking about an umpire, they can say what they want.

A shift away from the abuse of officials at higher levels is slowly filtering down through competitions, but there needs to be more people pushing this message right through to the grass-roots level, as that is breeding ground not just for players, but the next generation of officials as well.

Robert Murphy has been a vocal proponent of showing umpires more respect, and a favourite quote of his sticks with me for every game of sport that I watch, officiate, spectate, or am involved in any capacity:
“For anyone going to the footy this week, at any level, raise a glass to the umps. Footy needs them.”

In closing, I have a simple request: imagine the umpire or referee out there giving up their time to run the game is your son, daughter, brother, sister, best friend or teammate. If you wouldn’t say what you are thinking to them, why should someone else have to cop it, just because ‘they are an umpire’?

Original article

The Myth of the ‘Entry-Level’ Position

If you’ve been out of work recently like me, and going about the usually demoralising task of reading the latest job ads, you’ve probably noticed a somewhat odd trend in the way jobs are being advertised of late.

It seems to me, that advertisers are now using ‘click-bait’ to get you into the ad itself, but then completely repelling your application by asking for unattainable years worth of experience for the position.

It might not be a new strategy, in actual fact, it is something that has been plaguing Gen Y applicants for quite some time, but it certainly seems to be a tactic which is in much more frequent use than ever before.

Countless times have I personally been lured by the attraction of an ‘entry-level position’ in the mental health, support & community services fields, only to either find that somewhere else within the application, I’m to have 3-5 years of similar experience to be considered for this ‘entry level’ role, or following the application, I am notified that I don’t have the necessary experience to obtain an entry level position.

So, what’s going on here? Is it an entry-level role or not? These advertisements are surely bordering on false advertisement, and somebody needs to start calling companies out on this!

It seems to me that the way of the world at this point in time, is that employers are expecting people to work unpaid internships, volunteer indefinitely to gain the said ‘experience’, or only motivated to hire internally.

How is this an acceptable way to get people into the workforce, and what indeed does it say about the value of modern education?

It doesn’t just sit exclusively in my graduated field – I’ve also been thrown the “not enough experience” line for customer service and retail positions, of which I hold around 4-5 years experience in.

So, my question to prospective employers is, is this ‘experience’ thing just a complete and utter cop-out? Why, indeed are you advertising a job that says one thing, but is in fact another? And how are people expected to find work in this day and age, if nobody is willing to offer the opportunity of ‘experience’ that is required by so many of you?

For me, it sends me into a state of mass confusion, often ending in complete and utter surrender to the workforce and the application processes.

I know I’m not alone in these experiences, and I know that deep down it is rousing a feeling that I have perhaps wasted valuable time, resources and money in to an educational program, my Diploma, that now means absolutely nothing.

What I’d like to start seeing are some answers, because all I have experienced in the past 9 months are an endless cacophony of questions without answers.

I refuse to believe that I am unhirable, and that my qualifications mean nothing; but how else am I expected to think, given the messages this world is sending me?

Review: Elise Cabret – ‘The Wrong Side of Blue’ EP

Originally published on meltingpotonline.com

The first thing that strikes you about 24 year-old Elise Cabrét, is the songwriting and musical delivery that transcends her years. A mixture of darkness with a picturesque and heart-felt touch to her outstanding vocal stylings are evident right from the first uttered word, in the first song of her upcoming EP, The Wrong Side of Blue.

The record begins with an emotional rendition named The Calling, which outlines a ‘journey’ type of story-telling within Cabrét’s songs. A well-rounded and carefully held intonation to each almost spoken – yet sung word, plays particular attention immediately to the enveloping nature of the listening experience that Cabrét is so clearly drawing upon. The strongly slow, conversational presence of her sung Australian accent is a key sticking point throughout the record.

We’re positioned almost in a past world through the sunken imagery this EP possesses. To a place of falling brown leaves, the emergence of fog and a quiet, empty street with lone figures lurking; the green tinge of old-fashioned lamp posts around a well-worn walking path, devoid of anyone but Cabrét, who is inviting you to ensure that she does not need to complete this journey alone.

Track 2, Winter, further emanates Cabrét’s stunning vocal and it’s uniquely full and gut-wrenching delivery that easily had the hairs on my neck standing to attention. It’s more than this, though, as the simple structure and deliberately raw nature of the melodic backings really exaggerate the talented voice that exists within Cabrét.

She shows further variety as she turns to a completely solo experience in the EP’s title track, creating a deeper moment with simply just her voice and an expertly-held guitar picking pattern. She begins to show a side of herself so intimately brilliant and personally fragile, a commendation to any songwriter to so evidently convey. The ability to procure an unimaginably touching and such a close private experience into song is that which cannot be ignored; her delivery again possesses the listener to feel with Cabrét as, with each note and each word, the story grows with monumental steps.

We touch on a truer folk musical style in Track 4, That Old Violin, which explores the release of a man from the Old Pentridge Prison. We are introduced to the delicate inclusion of a reverb-heavy guitar providing the perfect underscore through Cabrét’s folky rhythm and somewhat haunting voice, which grows in range throughout much of this track, as we are introduced for the first time to her effortless highs.

Furthering the private touch of her song subject, she explores her personal experience with a popular online dating app through Meeting With a Stranger, which propagates a common theme of broken trust, FOMO and a ongoing state of emotional confusion, which wraps itself around the tantalising narrative and solidifies itself in the song’s ending.
We’re then brought to Better Somehow, a song which returns us to the graceful music & conversational singing double-act from the beginning of the album – a light and energy which flutters around inside the listener’s chest – due to Cabrét’s innate ability to position the charge of emotion behind each song directly into you with relative ease.

To some, this EP may pose a challenge due to its confrontational song subjects coupled with the ‘releasing’ tone of Cabrét’s conveyance which transposes the thoughts and feelings so effortlessly across the listening sphere. The slow, heartfelt and haunting characteristics, however, draw a clear purpose for the above. The Wrong Side of Blue is not intended a feel-good rendition, but moreso the evidential cascade of feeling, connection and trust which is born about by only the most especially talented of songwriters.

Let this debut offering from Elise Cabrét completely mystify you and drag you away from the real; illuminating a dark place that not only exists within the realm of this songwriter, but essentially in us all – a place that perhaps you had no notion of before hearing this record. Something very special, that deserves to be listened to, with attention, and with every sense of the body.

The Wrong Side of Blue is available for pre-order via Elise’s bandcamp page.

You can catch her launching the EP live at:
Friday 11 December – LYREBIRD LOUNGE – 61 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea (Free Entry)
Wednesday 16 December – SOME VELVET MORNING – 123 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill (Free Entry)

Mental Health: A National Priority

​This week marks National Mental Health Awareness Week in Australia, and it comes at a particularly opportune time, given the recent and very national news of AFL star Lance Franklin’s ongoing illness and need to step away from the game.
 
It is unfortunate, for those such as I who advocate for the equal treatment and citizenship of those diagnosed with a mental illness, that it takes a person with the fame and ilk of Franklin to re-start a public awareness campaign that should probably be an ongoing matter.
 
The fact of the matter is, that even though Australians are a very accepting bunch, and we have come leaps and bounds in the treatment and care of those diagnosed with a mental illness, we are still at a cultural crossroads where the provision of care for these people is still considered to be a ‘weakness’; particularly for men looking in, and for non-sufferers who have never had to encounter a close loved one or indeed themselves becoming stifled by a diagnosis.
 
And it is stifling: whilst there are always stories of recovery and remarkable histories of success from people who have carried a diagnosis, the common theme is that, at least in the interim stage, the diagnosis and the emotion it carries – internal and external to the illness – is a road block.
 
That said, nothing to do with mental illness is ever a linear process, neither is the interrelation between a triggering life event, stress at work, or financial distress, which may often be labelled as the starting point. That isn’t always the case – mental illness does not discriminate, and it usually does not care what is going on in your life at that particular time, and a lot of the time, people carry it around for a long, long time before they even seek assistance from a professional, which can prolong the stifling affect and no doubt cause further problems without treatment.
 
So, we come back to Franklin: a man at the top of his game; the highest-paid athlete to play AFL professionally in the history of the game; a well-respected champion player whose reputation for being a match winner is unsurpassed in this day and age, a man who you would quite frankly think would be feeling like ‘King of the World’. Alas, he has his own battle with mental illness. Kept from the public for who knows how long. We don’t need to know – of course – it’s a personal plight, but who is to say he hasn’t been holding this secret for a long time. Moreover, the point is that this is a guy who you’d least expect to ever suffer from something like depression.
 
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will remember the article I wrote in response to the untimely passing of Robin Williams to suicide; yet another man who you would envisage having no reason to be sad or to suffer – he was a man who the world was absolutely in love with, but with which the feeling was not mutual.
 
It certainly brings to mind that old adage, that ‘money can’t buy happiness;’ which becomes particularly important, as there are still many people around who think that it can. Money is one piece of a very large and complex puzzle that is your life, and where it may improve things on the outside, if you’re at war with yourself on the inside, none of that ever seeps through to the core.
 
Nobody is to blame for contracting a mental illness: not the person themselves; not their family or friends; not their boss or their doctor. There is no blame for being debilitated by these things. They are what they are and that’s why weeks like this week exist, so that we can properly acknowledge how these things affect people’s everyday lives and how we can continue moving forward on dispelling the rumours and myths that surround each and every diagnosis.
 
As I mentioned, as a nation we are keen to take steps in the right direction. There are plenty of people just like me advocating for better care provisions and better citizenship for people with a mental illness. Due to my own experiences, I tend to avoid referring to them as ‘sufferers’ or ‘patients’ or ‘victims:’ these types of words devalue an individual further, and the basic and most underlying principal of mental health care is empowerment, independence and living a life free from labels, stigma and discrimination.
 
The advocates are only one part of the voice of those with a mental illness, the advocates only get to push things but the decisions lie in the hands of others, perhaps people who have never been touched by the dark world that exists around a mental illness, perhaps people who have never encountered it closely.
 
Mental Health is a national priority, as we race towards the year 2020, when the World Health Organisation has pinpointed that depression & other categories of major mental illness will become the most debilitating health condition on the planet, we need action. Speaking about it isn’t quite enough for me to classify as ‘action’. There need to be plans, social enterprise start-ups and regular policy and legislative change to enhance and prosper the lives of those with a mental illness.
 
I do hope that following this National Mental Health Awareness Week that we can keep this discussion at the forefront of the national agenda. It can’t keep being the role of the advocates and the start-ups to facilitate a change in culture. This sort of widespread action needs to start from the top, a call to the politicians, to the leaders of big business and to those in the public eye: be ready to be a trailblazer, tackle the finer points of our epidemic. Offer and show your support for our support.
 
The time for change is now – the time to offer the same level of care and respect is now, for nobody can predict when or who this rapidly growing cluster of illnesses is going to strike: your brother, your mother, your best friend, your work colleagues, or even you.