Cords, Cubes and the Death of Knives

I think I’m finally getting somewhere with this whole sucking thing. I’ve been practicing the banjo and I can actually play the entire dueling banjo song all the way through AND most of it actually sounds like the song from the movie, but in super slo-mo.

I have no idea what I’m doing, so I’m pretty much just making it all up as I go along. This is what I’m dealing with:

I= index R=ring M=middle

I had no idea how to play a cord, so I had to draw the way it looks so that I could understand it. It’s so bloody confusing because I couldn’t find instructions anywhere on which finger goes on which string on which fret, so I just had to work it out myself. I don’t know if this is “right”, but I’m kind of assuming that there must be no “right” otherwise it would be more obvious.

The tab (the sheet music) is just as confusing and I had to make all these notations on it so I knew which finger to use when I played the note. Again, I don’t know if I’m doing it “right”, but who cares. It’s not like I’m trying to get accepted into the Peabody Institute.

Click here to see what banjo tab for Dueling Banjos looks like. I don’t know what the bars along the bottom of each note mean, but I’m assuming they’ve got something to do with the speed the note has to be played at, which is something I learned in primary school like 35 years ago.

Even though it’s sort of coming together I still can’t imagine ever being able to play it like this.

The throwing knives I’ve been working on since the start of the year have had to be retired for a while. Two of the knives suffered a fatality the last time I used them, and it wasn’t like I threw them hard or anything. I’m also thinking that the instructional book I’ve got might be a bit shitty for learning from scratch, which is a pretty common thing so far. Instructions and teachers are never really that great for people who have no idea how to do something.

Two out of the three from the set are broken.

I’ve been working on solving a Rubik’s cube too. The instructions for that aren’t actually too bad, but I keep getting stuffed up when it comes to solving the top face. I’ve had it out once, so all I had to do was solve the pieces on the outside of the upperside, but I got confused about which was clockwise and which was anticlockwise. Unlike the banjo, the woodworking and the tap dancing I’m pretty confident I’ll get there in the end.

Solved bottom face (white) and bottom and middle layers. Click here for  the YouTube video I’ve been learning from.

One thing that hasn’t been that hard so far is the graffiti. I’m going to graffiti up the side of my house, so I’ve been playing around with what I’m going to draw. This is the start of it:

The two rectangles in the middle are the windows. I’m going for a climate change theme (but it might get changed) that will be overlayed with a story. It’s probably not going to be “real” graffiti because I won’t be using spraypaint. I don’t know how to use it properly and it’s also really expensive. I thought it a good idea to practice on paper before I commit anything to the wall.

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence – Abigail Adams



One of the things I decided to try this year is woodcarving. This is one of the things on my list that I’d never done before and I was looking forward to it, but also a bit worried that it would be really hard and I’d be really bad at. See, this thing is, there are a few things I’ve tried to do in the past that I failed at because I had a shitty teacher, which caused to me to sink into despair, not just for the skill I was pursuing, but for my entire life: I’m a useless idiot, why do I bother with any of this? Playing the banjo is one of them and when I try something new that involves a teacher I get a bit scared that it’s going to pan out the same way as my banjo lessons.

This post isn’t about banjos, but I’m attempting to impart how it feels to be held back by past experiences and why you shouldn’t let negative crap from the past stop you. See, my banjo lessons were run by a very good banjo player. He really was, he was awesome, he was in a band and he traveled all around the country-side doing his thing. But what I didn’t realise at the time is just because someone is an expert at a particular thing, doesn’t mean they are a good teacher, which is what happened with my banjo teacher; he was a useless teacher, but an awesome banjo player, and I was a bit scared that the same thing would happen with the wood carving teacher. Thankfully, it didn’t. I really didn’t want a repeat of the banjo lessons – old mate not explaining what to do, followed by a speed demonstration, which I couldn’t copy, then repeating the same procedure over and over until all he was doing was playing the banjo as though up on stage for an expensive hour that I drove a six hour round trip for (I worked out after the second lesson that he was a total dick and never went back). Click here for what he expected me to do in the first lesson.

Anyway, the wood carving was hard, but not seemingly impossible like the knife throwing. That strikes me as strange because with the carving there is more than one thing to get right, but with the knives it’s just the knives. I thought that maybe it’s because the carving is slower and you can see what’s happening as you do it, whereas with the knives, you throw it and that’s it, there’s no coming back from that single action; it’s a single action to get the result, but the carving is multiple movements and actions to get the result.

I worked on a relief carving of a leaf. I had trouble knowing which side of the chisel to press up against the edge when cutting the line along the margin of the leaf. It feels weird not to know how to hold something to make it do what you want. I can’t remember the last time I had to learn something like this; probably in childhood. Once again, it was very difficult to embrace the feeling of ineptitude and I had to constantly remind myself that it’s a natural way to feel in the circumstances.

This is how I started out: just playing around with the tools on a block of wood clamped to the bench.

This is what I ended up with. I’ll keep working on it in my next lesson. It’s going to be a leaf.

Experiri est Descere

(to try is to learn)




Today was my first attempt at graffiti drawing and lettering. Graffiti is one of the things I want to learn, not because I want to deface public property, but because I’d never done it before and I thought it would be interesting to pursue; it is.

Man, I had no idea of the history of graffiti! It’s so cool and there’s so much information on it. Graffiti Diplomacy and Graffiti Knowhow were really good websites. The first one with lots of practical lessons and the second with lot of info about the culture of being a graffiti artist. I totally love it when I get to learn something absolutely brand new. It feels like I’ve discovered buried treasure. For example, I learnt about mops, which are a certain type of pen/marker used by graffiti artists. That’s a much more exciting use of the word usually preserved for describing a boring household item that is used to drag a ratty wet end across a dirty floor. By the way – I hate mopping. It makes me sad.

I spent around three hours today researching and giving actual graffiti a go. I would like to learn how to do Wildstyle, which is a kind of font. This is what I came up with today, which I did freehand, following the methods on the websites I mentioned:

I think I did better at this than I did with knife throwing. This probably comes down to graffiti being a form of writing, which I am quite familiar with having been able to write since I was a little kid. Plus, I’ve kept at writing,whereas with the knives, the only thing I’ve ever thrown at a target is a few darts. I gave up on that when I was a kid after being yelled at endlessly by an impatient father who expected me to be an expert the first time I tried something.There’s a hilarious video here of an angry, impatient dad. Mine was about this level, minus the eff word plus religious blasphemy.

I felt like I had level of pre-existing mastery over the graffiti, which was absent during the knife throwing. The knife throwing took more brain power and a level of perseverance that the graffiti was void of, and as a result I was able to enjoy the graffiti more. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the knives, just that I suck more at them than I do at the graffiti and that’s ok, because that’s what beginners do; they suck at stuff.

Imagine how much room you’ve got to grow





How much will I suck in 2020?

2019 wasn’t bad. It wasn’t all easy though. Some shit went sideways and I said goodbye to a few relationships and also some beliefs that I’d been hanging onto for too long. I also extricated myself from a toxic workplace. None of this was easy because it’s hard to see people for what they really are. I don’t want to believe that people are intentional arseholes, but the truth is that sometimes they just are, and contrary to what said arseholes probably think, that’s not actually my fault. It would have been easy to blame myself and say that I should have done this, I should have done that, I should have learned how to breath underwater, defy gravity, turn water into wine, tame dragons, control the weather, and I should have kept my mouth shut about the shady shit that was going on, but I didn’t because it’s not right to do bad shit to people and it’s not right to accept that from anyone, be it your boss, your brother, your neighbour, your best mate or a government department.  If I kept accepting that kind of treatment then I’m just as crappy a person as the ones who are treating me like shit because I’m teaching them that I deserve that kind of treatment. I’m also teaching them that they can treat other people the same way, and that’s not OK with me.

I did some pretty amazing stuff in 2019: I hiked 450 km on my own to Brisbane and got to meet some really cool people, and I raised over $6000 for brain injury while doing it. I read close to 100 books, exercised for 377 hours, ran more than 180 km, learnt some wicked skipping drills, went to some great gigs, grew out of my clothes because I built new muscle, got my first reading glasses, survived a bushfire, and made some freakin’ awesome plans for 2020.

In 2020 I’m going to see how much I can learn. Can a skill in one sphere emerge in another sphere, giving rise to an ability where none previously existed? Basically, will a lifestyle of breadth, rather than depth facilitate emergent abilities? I believe it will. It’s going to be tricky to measure this, but I’ll do my best. I’ll be recording everything I do and putting it on YouTube so everyone can see how much I suck when I first start out, and how that’s actually OK, because everyone sucks to begin with!

Watch me as I suck at these things:

  • playing video games*
  • knife throwing
  • tap dancing
  • learning a new language
  • skateboarding*
  • graffiti
  • juggling*
  • rubix cube*
  • macrame
  • physics
  • wood carving
  • singing*
  • kiteboarding
  • navigation*
  • chess
  • playing the banjo*

* These things I’ve tried at least once before, but was never any good at and/or it’s been over twenty years since I’ve done them.

Here’s what I’ve been doing in the last couple of days:

Snorkelling around the snags in the river. It’s a hard life.

Kayaking up the river and down a creek. This is where I suck. I made this ridiculously stupid and hilarious documentary about the Burrum River on a GoPro, but can’t get the damn thing to transfer to the computer so I can upload it to YouTube. Waaaahhhh!

See, it’s ok to suck, because that’s what pretty much everyone does the first time they try something, and this was the first time I’ve used the GoPro.

Learn by way of failure


No one ever started off being an expert