Sunday 28 April 2013

Why I go to the Gym

There's an article doing the rounds at the moment by pianist James Rhodes called "Find what you love and let it kill you". You can find the article here. In it Rhodes discusses how his love for playing the piano has enveloped his life and how it is the greatest thing in his life, which is great, but then he makes the following statement:

"What if, rather than paying £70 a month for a gym membership that delights in making you feel fat, guilty and a world away from the man your wife married you bought a few blank canvases and some paints and spent time each day painting your version of "I love you" until you realised that any woman worth keeping would jump you then and there just for that, despite your lack of a six-pack?"

I fell this is an unfair statement to make. Clearly Rhodes is not a fan of the gym and it sounds like he's never been inside a gym. I am only making this assumption because it is what I used to think of about the gym before I started going.

I began going to the gym as part of a 30 Day Challenge. Until that time I had NEVER set foot in a gym and the most active thing I had done of late was performing on stage with an improvised comedy group. However, I was "lucky" to be "blessed" with the ability to eat anything and not put on weight. So at 6'3" and weighing only 71kg, I never looked at fitness as my thing.

Initially, I felt a little inferior to the people going at my gym. This skinny tall guy who could barely bench press 20kg. But the more I persevered at it, the better I got. The gym actually became a place of positivity and well being for me. And it was one of the few places, at the moment where I am able to switch off everything else that is going on in my life and just focus on the present.

During my first few visits, I was self conscious but I noticed that no one even looks at you at the gym - or my gym anyway. Everyone is so focused on themselves to care about or judge you. Perfect example was when I was doing some bench presses and I had exerted myself so much that I couldn't push the bar back up on the hooks. I was stuck there with 30 kg resting on my chest. No one helped. Because no one was watching me. I eventually managed to lift if up and hide my sheer embarrassment.

Before I went to the gym, I had severe issues about my body - and to an extent, I still do and probably always will. But the progress I have made at the gym (I have already gained 2kg and now have a bicep!!!) has provided me with more confidence than I have had in my entire life. I am not going to the gym for anyone but myself.

I find the gym an inspirational place as I see men (and women) with great physiques that I aspire to have. My current goal is to gain 10kg of muscle. I go to the gym 6 days a week and have a weekly Personal Training session. My PT is supportive and listens to my needs and pushes me that extra bit. So I take offence to Rhodes' remark about how the gym makes you feel fat and guilty and implying that people only go for superficial reasons.

I have been going to the gym for ten weeks now and I am feeling great. If I become aesthetically more appealing to others in the process, then it's a win/win situation. Whilst I agree with Rhodes' sentiments I feel that his above statement is an insult to people who enjoy going to the gym, as if their passion is not as valid because it is not artistic like playing the piano or painting yet it requires just as much discipline and passion.

So find what you love and let it kill you - whatever it may be.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Melbourne Comedy Festival Top 10 shows

So, after having seen a whopping 6% of what's on offer I give you my top ten shows of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival!
If I also reviewed the show on an official basis, the link to the review is attached.


My mind was blown and then got super dirty after watching this show. It was relentless in its laughs and full of so much inappropriate humour which I absolutely adore. I could not fault this show and so glad I finally got to see it. Really hoping for a little Slutmonster cuddly toy to come out soon - look at the costume!


I have a strong preference for theatre rather than stand up so naturally I really enjoyed this musical comedy about five housemates trying to decide where to go on holiday. Great score and a very snappy and sharp script which really packed in the laughs. And you know that any show that starts off with a bang is going to be good.



Another theatre number revolving around chance encounters and Dolly Parton. Extremely well written with some very thought out characters. There is not a single word that is wasted in this script. Great ways of using the small stage and a good combination of varying methods of telling the story are incorporated.



Four strangers come to the same grocer to buy a quarter cabbage. They each give a 15 minute monologue to an insight into their lives. Edmonds portrays them with such honesty, realness and hilarity there were tears rolling down my face at various points. Would love to see some more of John Watts and Rebecca again.



This cabaret show look at the fears and worries we have about turning 30. Having just turned 30, I could absolutely agree with all the issues these two talented singer/songwriters/performers covered. Some poignant moments scattered throughout and Abrahams and MaCleod would be one of the strongest comedy duo I have seen in a long time.


It's the end of the world and three housemates are trying to figure out what happens next. Great mixture of the mundane within the backdrop of armageddon. It's clear they have been working on this for a while and it pays off with some very clever humour and dialogue. 



Sideshow freak circus acts meet comedy here. Although there are a few moments that the "slapstick" does waver and it's not so much traditional laughter as more gasps and deep breaths with some of the acts these two performers do, it was still a highly enjoyable show that had you feeling sympathy pain in places you didn't know you could.



Although officially not part of the festival, Green performed a few intimate stand up sets in Richmond and I was very impressed by him. Probably one of the newest stand up comedians I have seen in a while that I have enjoyed. Really charming and laid back with interesting insights and anecdotal stories. Definitely someone to look out for in next year's comedy festival.



Sarah Collins is great as Susan, a young woman obsessed with being in choirs and the means she goes through to get accepted. Collins has some great storytelling techniques and her ability to command a crowd of over 250 people is a skill that not many performers have. Some great musical moments too, with Britney Spears being quite memorable. Oh, and there is a real life 13 person choir in the show too.


Set in 1851 in a small English town of Cottesloe, this is improvised comedy at its best. And also the only improvised theatre-show at the Festival.  Sisters, Tilly and Flora are a delight to watch on stage with their daily adventures whilst also trying to keep up appearances. My regret is not being able to see more of this show as each one was completely different.

Well there you have it. Hope you managed to catch some of these shows as sometimes the more popular shows are not always going to be the best. If you agree, disagree or just have an urge to comment on my choices then let me know!

Till next Comedy Festival!

Saturday 6 April 2013

Is the Walking Dead sexist?

Recently, I have felt that The Walking Dead – the TV series – has been treating its female character as second rate characters. Not caring for them and not developing them as much as they are the men. I’ve also made a note of the number of female characters who seem to kill themselves. It’s quite difficult to not compare the same character to the comic but I will attempt to look at the TV series separately to the comics for the most part.

In the beginning of the seasons, I remember the four women, Andrea, Carol, Amy and Jacqui (who later killed herself) washing their clothes when Shane attacks Carols’ husband Ed for abusing her. The four women stood back screaming at Shane to stop, even Andrea. In later episodes, once he was dead, Carol felt guilty for wishing dead the man who beat on her and abused her daughter. Even now that her husband – and daughter – are dead, Carol is still shown as a weak person constantly being protected by the men of the camp, including T-Dog who sacrificed himself to save her and Darryl. Furthermore, Beth has been nothing but a babysitter for the most of season 3. We actually saw her kill two walkers in the finale behind the gates but least she got to do something. Oh, and let’s not forget her own attempt at suicide in Season 2. Luckily now she stays under the watchful eye of her father, Hershel.

Lori’s death although tragic, was again, another example of how the women of Walking Dead are just there because they are. Throughout season 1 and 2 all Lori did was flit between Rick and Shane – and almost get raped by the latter - and once the writers got bored with this storyline, they decided to give her something else to do and make her pregnant. So instead of having her moan about which man she wants she is now going to be all maternal and moan about the life of the baby (and who the father actually is). Then the writers decide she will kill herself – another female suicide – to save the life of her baby. The ultimate sacrifice a woman can make obviously. It was a heart wrenching moment but no one cared about Lori’s death - she was not a fan favourite - they cared about the reaction of her death by her Carl and Rick.

Even Michonne, who is strong is damaged woman. No one can relate to her because she is so cold. Unlike the men - Rick, Darryl and Glen - who viewers can connect with because they show emotion and care about things. The first glimmer of emotion we got from Michonne was in the season 3 finale when Andrea decides to kill herself. It will be interesting to see how the character develops in Season 4.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe of the women characters; the development of Andrea. In season 1 she was a strong woman – even dealing well with the death of her sister Amy. But then it’s almost like the writer’s decided that they couldn’t have a strong female character in such a show so they had her contemplate killing herself at the end of Season 1. Season 2 was pretty much Andrea being looked after by Dale until he dies and then she laments his death. There is even a scene where Lori has a go at Andrea for standing on the RV looking out for zombies and holding her gun rather than doing her household duties like cleaning and cooking. However there is hope in her character when she begins having shooting lessons by Shane and becomes a pretty good shot. However, all that disappeared come season 3. In Season 3, the writers killed her before she even died. Having spent 8 months surviving in the forests with Michonne, the writers come to the logical conclusion that she would choose to remain in Woodbury, besotted by the Governor. As if a woman can only feel two emotions in Walking Dead, fear and love.
The fact that she stays with him after Michonne leaves, after she finds all the heads in the fish tanks and after she finds out what the Governor is up to is so hard to swallow for anyone to do. Even Carol tells her she needs to kill him while he’s sleeping but instead she sleeps with him! It was these poor decisions that made Andrea a shell of what she used to be. And to top it all off, to have her bitten by a single zombie and then “heroically” taken her own life (how many suicides is that?) after being so capable of killing them was insulting to viewers.
The thing that really annoyed me about this is that in the comics she is an integral part of the group, a strong woman who is their best shooter. She has remained loyal but independent too and never wavered over to the Governor’s side. She is strong, she is smart and she is cunning, which are traits the writers of The Walking Dead (which is mainly male) refuse to give to their female character on the show.

I’m really hoping the writers begin to really show a few different sides to the women in Season 4. We have such complex characters in Rick, Carl, Glenn and Darryl yet they seem to stick to the stereotypical Stepford Wife-like characters for its women. We’ve seen women can kick ass in zombie movies and shows. If Carl can be given a gun when he is just a child, then why the hell not the women – and not just to clean it.