An estate agent has been coming over to my apartment and staying for about three quarters of an hour, during which time other people come through and inspect the place, trying to decide whether or not they want to buy it. Recently he told me that he wants me to go for a walk or something while he's there – he doesn't want me to be in the apartment when the inspections are taking place.
Well I wasn't very comfortable with that – this estate agent guy might not be very trustworthy. What if he wants to go through my stuff, or read my diary, or steal my food? You never know what a person's going to do. But most importantly, I like to know what he discusses with his clients when I'm not around. After all, the sale of this apartment could have a profound effect on my life. Maybe he's saying something like, "The guy who lives here, Stephen Clark, is a complete loser and he's very ugly." And then the potential buyers would want me to move out.
under the bed
Well, my curiosity got the better of me so I decided to put a hidden microphone and tape-recorder under the bed, and tape their conversations in secret. It's not very ethical, but I figured, "Well, as long as I don't get caught, it'll be okay." When the agent arrived, I turned the tape-recorder on and said to him "I'm going down the shops."
"Okay," he said, and already there were clients coming in to inspect the flat.
Forty-five minutes later, I returned to my home, just in time to see the agent leaving. I took the tape out from under the bed and started listening to it. Some of it was not very clear. There was no incriminating evidence as such – I heard one couple saying they'd like to buy the flat as an investment. "Yes, that's good," I thought. "I hope they buy it." Later, there was this guy who came along, he wasn't interested in buying the flat but he told some juicy stories about this prostitute who works in a car out the back of the building every night and the police can't do anything about it.
out the back
He also said, "There's a man who specializes in renovating studio apartments like this, and selling them at much higher prices. I can give you his phone-number."
And I was thinking, "Noooo! What are you doing? I don't want some person renovating my apartment – there's no way I'd be able to stay here if they do that, because the rent would go up, like a hot-air balloon!" Rich people make me sick – always renovating stuff so that poor people can't stay there anymore.
I don't know if I'll be able to stay in my apartment after they sell it. My friends say that anyone who's rich enough to buy an apartment is not the sort of person who'd want to live in such a tiny space as mine. But there were at least two potential buyers who came around the next day and said they'd like to buy the flat to live in. I know because I taped their conversations, again. And you know the estate agents are only interested in how much money they can get, so they'll sell to whoever bids the highest, at the auction on December 14th.
Two Mondays ago I went to the cinema to see a film called Spellbound. It's a documentary about a national spelling competition for school-children in the United States. Some of the finalists had interesting stories to tell, about how they prepared for the spelling-bee and what their friends and family thought about it. Those students were really smart. Then came the exciting bit, where the competition took place and the children got up one by one to spell very difficult words into the microphone for the judges. Some of them got the words wrong, some of them got it right, and eventually one smart person won the whole thing.
People who watch this film would be thinking, "I've never even heard of these words before, let alone how to spell them." You wouldn't expect a film about spelling to be very exciting and interesting, but it was. When I saw the looks on their faces when they got a really difficult word and they spelt it out letter by letter, I was "spellbound" myself, because if they made one mistake they would be out of the running – but if they got it right, the sense of relief was shared by the whole audience. You know, I once won a spelling-bee in my school, in year 7, but I didn't succeed in getting to the state championship and the words were not half as difficult as the ones in this film.
On Sunday I went to a band practice. While I was there, a friend of the band came along with a digital camera to take some publicity photos. So we went outside and posed for some shots beside a green leafy plant. Then the photographer brought up the pictures on his camera's little screen and we gathered around to look at them. The bass-player, Shaun, said "I like the way my face is always covered up by those numbers on the screen." And the other band-members agreed, that the numbers looked good on his face and he said he was thinking of getting those numbers tattooed on permanently, but I think he was only joking.
My other band, the Floyd Show, had a practice on Tuesday. It was a hot afternoon. In between songs, the band-members sat around and discussed the weather. "I don't like this heat," said Ben the bass-player.
"Nor do I," said someone.
"I prefer the winter," continued Ben. "I like when it rains. Rain is great. I just love rain. Rain is what it's all about. No one wants to go out and attack other people in the rain."
"I agree," said Ryan the guitarist. "It's nice to hear rain, when I'm inside the house, protected from it."
"Well I prefer the summer weather," commented Leah the backing-singer. "Summer is when all the people go out and socialize – they have parties, and barbecues, and hang out in the parks and at the beach. What do you think, Stephen? Do you you prefer summer, or winter?"
I replied, "Summer."
"Well you're wrong," said Ryan. "You're both wrong. Winter is better."
And Ben backed him up by saying, "I don't like it when people go out and get together in summer. I like to stay at home alone and avoid socializing."
"Well not me," countered Leah. "I'm a very social person – I've got to be around other people, mingling and interacting, otherwise I'd be lonely."
It was interesting to hear them talking that way, because it shows how unusual I am. You might expect me to like winter better, seeing as how I'm a solitary person who avoids social interaction wherever possible, but I like summer better. And it's for all the reasons Leah said, the people going out and getting together in the park and the beach, except in my case I don't interact with them, I just observe them. And I hate the rain 'cause I always have to go out in it at some point. Rain is a threat to my comfort. You know what happened later on that night? There was a massive thunderstorm, and lots of people's homes got flooded all over the suburbs. But I didn't realise how big it was, until I saw it on the news later.
This was an important week for course applications. I had an audition and interview for the Music Performance/Composition course at Northern TAFE. I had prepared two piano pieces – the first one was "Just The Way You Are" by Billy Joel, and the second one was "I'm Beginning To See The Light". For that one I recorded a backing sequence on my keyboard, with just the bass and drums, and brought the recording to the audition with me so that I could play along with melody and stuff on the piano.
Neither piece of music is very difficult, but I made them difficult by playing them a certain way. In the first one I played chords and melody both with the right hand, and in the second one I went into a difficult improvisation section in the middle part. And I played them both without any chord-chart reference. I made a few mistakes because I was nervous. The backing-track thing went okay – it was a bit too quiet, but that didn't matter. If the application had depended on audition alone, then I surely would be a shoe-in for the course. But there was also an interview, and I was terribly un-prepared for that.
I should have memorized answers to questions like "Why do you want to do the course?" There was also an aural test where we had to "name the interval" and I wasn't sure about the correct terminology for some of them. There was a sight-reading test, which I screwed up completely. Then there was a theory test on paper – there was no time-limit, but it was extremely hard – I had to think back to my music-theory education from many years before, and draw a little diagram of a piano-keyboard so I could refer to that. I think I did okay on the test, but some of it I could only guess at – like, they said I had to notate the scale of "F Dorian." What the heck is a Dorian scale? It's not even in the dictionary.
Flash animation – click and drag on the second player.
Later on that day, I had an interview for another course, Music Industry Technical Production at the same TAFE college – it was just a coincidence that they happened to be both on the same day. This course is even harder to get into – they only accept twenty-four students out of more than two hundred applicants. Only the very best students are allowed in. But it's not like medicine or law where you have to get certain numerical marks to gain admission – it's all about who has the most "enthusiasm" for the music industry.
I prepared carefully for this interview, memorizing useful phrases as I rode on the tram. So when it came time to have the interview, I gave mostly the right answers. They asked me lots of questions about the stuff I'd boasted about on my written application, so that they could make sure I wasn't lying. But two things went wrong. Firstly, I forgot to bring any examples of stuff I'd recorded – they asked me if I had something like that on CD, to show them, but I had to say "No."
Secondly, they asked me some questions to determine how well I deal with interpersonal conflict. I don't have very good people-skills. If I'd known what they were going to ask, I could have handled it with a bit of creative covering-up. But instead I had to be honest and say, "I can't answer that. I don't get into conflict with people. You see, in one of the bands that I'm in, there's one guy who's the leader and everyone has to play what he writes. In the other band, the Pink Floyd band, there are sometimes disagreements about the musical arrangement, but I don't become involved in the conflict because I never disagree with anyone."
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And when I said that, the interviewers wrote something down in their notes – I'll bet it was something like, "Never disagrees with anyone." And after I left the room they would have said something like, "Well, that guy is nothing but a yes man – we don't want someone like that in our course. Let's put his application form in the rubbish bin and continue on to the next one."
Maybe I'll get into that other course, the one with the music performance/composition. I think they said I might get into it part-time if I don't get into it full-time. Either way, I'll have to travel to Fairfield campus. Unless I don't get into anything, in which case it'll be the same old aimless drifting life next year.
I was so tired after all that, I went home and had a sleep. By the time I woke up, it was too late to go out to the karaoke like I had planned.
Tonight I was going to go out and see some short films at Federation Square. But when I arrived, it seemed that I couldn't get a ticket because the event was sold out. So I thought, "Hmmmmmm." Then I decided to go to something else – it was a talk given by a man who is possibly Australia's biggest Doctor Who fan. He sat at the front of the cinema and spoke about Doctor Who at length, and introduced clips from the TV show. It was very educational. He pointed out that the show had many ups and downs in its long history. There was even a life-sized replica of a killer robot, called a "Dalek", sitting next to him.
Some of the clips on the screen were so bad, they were good. Like, there was this one where a ten-foot lizard monster is chasing a bunch of people down a corridor, and one woman goes back and starts having some sort of fist-fight with the monster – it was so funny to watch, the whole audience laughed. Needless to say, the audience was mostly fans of Doctor Who and at the end they had a question/answer session to discuss things like "Will there be another series, and who would be a good actor to play the Doctor if there is?" And then I went home.
Mmmmm, this has been a busy week. I almost forgot to mention this – on Friday I went to see some student films. They were by students who were doing the TAFE course that I did last year. So, the films featured stuff like 3D animations, Flash animations, and fancy digital video effects. They had a lot of visual appeal. There was one which was all about the stencil-art scene in Melbourne – it wasn't a documentary, more of a "visual trip" with music and we got to see all sorts of impressive stencils. But I think the best film was the one which combined live-action with 3D animation, and the animation had difficult stuff like human characters climbing onto tables and pulling facial expressions – whoever did that must be some sort of genius prodigy student.
click to enlarge
The most interesting thing about this screening was seeing how well it was organised, because my class had to put on a similar presentation last year so I know how much time and effort it takes. There were a lot of familiar faces there, teachers and students whom I knew from before. And there was free wine before and after the films, so I had three glasses. But you know, it must have been weak wine because it didn't have much effect at all.
I don't usually watch children's programmes, but I'd like to say a few words about two old cartoons, Batfink and Roger Ramjet. Both are about superheroes who have funny adventures fighting evil criminals. Both are five-minutes per episode, and the animation on both is a bit rough, as if the artists didn't put much effort in. Also, they both have silly, implausible storylines that don't make much sense. Batfink has bulletproof wings that he can fold around himself as protection, Roger Ramjet has a supply of little pills that he can take to make him extra strong. But Roger Ramjet is far superior, somehow, as a comedy. The jokes are about how Roger is so stupid and with such a big ego, and it satirizes the concept of superheroes. There are always a few visual jokes on screen that aren't referenced in the audio. But there's nothing like that in Batfink, which relies on really, really bad puns for its comedy. And it doesn't have a good sense of timing and "style". So that's why I think Batfink is no good compared to Roger Ramjet.
Last Friday I went to the Rob Roy hotel to see Music Vs. Physics's album launch. I've been a fan of theirs for a heckuva long time and this is the first opportunity I've had to buy anything recorded by them. The opening act were a hip-hop duo with a backing-track, called MKB. They were sort of okay. But after that, I left because it was getting late. I weighed up my options and decided it wasn't worth spending an extra six dollars on bus-fare at night when the main object of my outing had been to get the album, which I'd already done. And I was tired. I carried the new album home with me on the tram, but I didn't get to play it because it's on vinyl and I don't have a record-player.