Top 5 Unexpected Benefits of Roller Derby

When I started training for roller derby, I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to get out of it – it was for fitness, it was to be social, it was for fun. I’d be stronger, more coordinated. I’d be able to do cool stuff on skates. Derby though – in that delightful derby way – is full of surprises. Here’s my top five unexpected benefits of roller derby…

1. I don’t need to touch door handles
Because I can just hip check every door and drawer closed. Keeps my mitts germ free and all.

2. Lulls in conversation do not exist
You know why? Because I’m talking about derby. Why can’t I do that thing I’m trying? What wheels should I get? Who’s going to training? Who’s not going to training? Did you see that awesome thing that worked? Where did you buy your sparkly shorts? Or, with non-derby people, “Oh, you haven’t watched derby? No, there isn’t a ball. Let me explain…” Awkward silences? A thing of the past.

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Photo by Erin Green. Note my lack of sparkly shorts.

3. Body confidence
Never did I ever think I would be ok rocking up to the pub in fishnets and booty shorts. Because of, you know,  flaws and because if I am basically not wearing pants, I’m notoriously, you know, self conscious. But I am totally ok with it. I think I rock them pretty damn well, actually. The thing I love about derby is that there is no perfect size or shape. There is no ideal derby body. Any body is a good body for derby. I’ve never felt more at home in mine.

4. Answers to questions
I hate to be put on the spot with questions like ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ and ‘is there anything you need?’, but derby gives me ready-made answers in times of need. I’d like new elbow pads. I need new wheels. New knee socks. Those cute sparkly shorts with my name on them. A gift voucher for a skate shop. That would be really handy, thanks for asking! (See also: ‘what are you doing on the weekend?’. Derby, duh.)

5. Ability to negotiate terrible amenities at music festivals
I’m never more grateful for derby stance than when I need to pee in a port-a-loo. True story.

‘Til next time,

Sig

CREATURE FEATURE SUNDAY: Dragon Wasps (2012)

Creature Feature Sunday was on again this weekend. I settled down with a beer and a big bowl of popcorn for this interpretation of the classic man vs jungle vs giant genetically-modified wasp story. We’ve all been there.

It’s actually the sort of thing I was looking for when I watched Monsters (2010). On the surface, Monsters seemed to have a similarly promising ‘jungle/monsters/run for your lives’ kind of vibe, but it ended up being quite an understated, smart movie. (Monsters, if you were wondering, does have legit monsters, but they take a side seat to the main characters’ metaphorical internal monsters. At the time this struck me as disappointing, but on reflection, it was kind of cleverly done even if it didn’t deliver the exploding head quota I was looking for).

Dragon Wasps, happily, is neither understated nor smart. Hot entomologist and friend team up with the US Army to find her missing father in the jungle. Hijinks obviously ensue, including gunfire-riddled encounters with voodoo drug dealer Jaguar and his guerrilla buddies and – of course – a swarm of fire spitting, armoured, terrible CGI dragon wasps.

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Corin Nemec (of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and Stargate SG1 fame) heads the up Army unit and, bless his cotton socks, he’s really on board and doing his best with his latest run of creature features (Sand Sharks, Jurassic Attack, Robocroc and more), thus solidifying his potential as my future husband substantially.

But back to the dragon wasps. I’m no entomologist, so thank goodness the scientists were there to inform me, after an extensive examination, that dragon wasps are “basically giant wasps” (direct quote; not even joking). Their obvious smarts don’t save them from mistaking bricks of cocaine for bricks of C4 plastic explosive though. Gosh darn, you guys. How was she supposed to know? It’s fine though, because cocaine is dragon wasp repellent so… The moral of the story seems to be a) screwing with nature is bad b) cocaine saves the day. No, wait. That can’t be right, surely? And yet.

Giant wasps, you say? What tipped you off?

Basically giant wasps, you say? What tipped you off?

With a good amount of blood spatter, fire, and more than one exploding head, Dragon Wasps rates 2.5 out of 5 worker bees.

‘Til next time,

Sig

5 Things That (Almost) 2 Years of Roller Derby Has Taught Me

Back in 2013, when I had just failed my first attempt at roller derby fresh meat, I wrote this post about what the 10 week training program had taught me. In a move strangely contrary to how I normally respond to failure, I stuck with it – mostly because of the things I wrote about in that post. We’re coming to the tail end of my second season playing roller derby and a LOT has happened, including some achievements that I am really proud of. Amongst them: co-captaining my team, playing interstate, playing in the Great Southern Slam, being on my league’s Board, PR Crew and Event Committee. It’s been hard work and oftentimes it has also been confronting and humbling. It’s driven me to tears, made me laugh hysterically, and sometimes made me more exhausted than it seems reasonable for a regular human to be.

I’ve read a lot of those ‘roller derby saved my soul’ posts. This is not one of those posts. Don’t be so over dramatic. Roller derby did not save my soul, even though it came into my life during a somewhat apocalyptic time. My soul didn’t need saving. Derby, actually, can be a tough mistress. It’s built me up, it’s knocked me down. Rinse, repeat. But regardless, roller derby has taught me some stuff and some of that is stuff about myself. Some of those lessons have been hard, some less so. It seems a good time then, with the 2015 grand final looming, to revisit my list. So here are 5 things (almost) two years of roller derby has taught me…

Everything IS cool when you’re part of a team

No, seriously. I’ve never played team sports before and I can’t tell you how much I value being part of my team. My team is awesome – we support each other, we challenge each other, we make each other laugh. We’re there with a kind word, some strong advice, a lame joke and a pat on the back at the end of the day. All of this makes us a strong unit on the track. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we know how to work together, how to communicate to get the derby done. As someone who struggles with confidence on the track I really appreciate my team mates across the league whether they are in my home team or one of our travel teams. They are all different in their skill level, style and approach but they have one thing in common when we play: they each make me feel like a stronger skater.

Photo courtesy of Erin Green.

Photo courtesy of Erin Green.

 You DO have to work on your mental game

I’m such a jerk – to me. I get inside my head and I focus on the things I do wrong rather than the things I do right. Or what I think I can’t do rather than what I can do. Mental toughness is under-trained or, more often, completely ignored and we tend to forget that activities that are taxing on the body can also be taxing on the mind. I have a habit, which is well known in my league, of shaking my head aggressively when someone hands me a jammer panty and – usually mid jam – declaring “but I’m not a jammer” which is exactly what not to do. So I’ve been working hard on some strategies in this regard – it’s been a big goal for the last half of the year. It’s really easy to forget how far we’ve come. Naomi ‘Sweetart” Weitz nails it in her book The Ultimate Mental Toughness Guide: Roller Derby. I can’t recommend this book enough, particularly for its derby relevant examples. You can buy it on Amazon here.

Also, these peeps have some great tips around improving your mental game and probably say it more eloquently than me:

http://www.derbycentral.net/2015/06/qs-tips-mental-training-and-how-we-self-sabotage/

http://callthejam.com/2013/12/13-things-mentally-strong-derbyists-dont-do/

http://khaostheoryblog.com/2015/04/24/why-we-play-2/

Leagues take A LOT of effort to make them work

Take a minute to think about how much time and effort might go into coordinating a whole year of training sessions and bouts: booking venues around availability, assigning trainers, assessing potential clashes, working out a logical season structure. Now think about all the other parts of a running a business that you might not instantly associate with your league when you rock up with your skate gear and get on with your fun skatey times. Managing the legalities of things like insurance and memberships, finances and accounts, promotion and marketing. And that’s just the beginning. I had little to no idea how much work goes into making my league all that it is and all it can be. Do your bit, give someone a hand with organising something, take a hands on role – ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’ isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s what derby is about and it’s why we get to come along to training and have a blast.

You CAN be tough, even when you don’t want to be

This is the one thing I am including on the list that runs the risk of straying dangerously close to ‘soul saving’ territory, but bear with me. Derby has proven to me time and time again that I am strong and capable even when it would be far easier to hide under a blanket and hibernate my way through the tough stuff. And maybe it was true all the time, but derby is a constant reminder that I can handle shit and that, actually, I can be brave too. It’s a powerful lesson to learn that you can tap into those inner reserves and manage difficult challenges on skates or off.

Photo courtesy of Erin Green

Photo courtesy of Erin Green.

Roller derby is a special community

Roller derby blows me away with its inclusive spirit. It’s fascinating to see such diverse types of people come together and build such a strong community around this sport. I think one of my league mates captured exactly what I want to say when she recently told me: “there’s a shift happening – the sport is becoming less about the public spectacle, and more about skills and health and fitness and strength and community. Our community is built on the positive relationships we’ve built between our intraleague teams as well as with other leagues (because those are our fans – plus our mums), plus a sense of support and growth between leagues both here and interstate.”

Thumbs up, roller derby. You get me.

What else are you going to do when you stumble upon Derby Street?

Human pyramid. Because what else are you going to do when you stumble upon Derby Street?

Incidentally, if you are in the area, you should definitely come along to the Light City Derby Grand Final on 31 October (Halloween!) which will see the Regimental Rollers battle the Galactic Guardians for the coveted (and sparkly!) LCD season trophy. Saturday 31 October at St Clair Recreation Centre, Woodville SA. Doors at 6pm, $5 entry.

‘Til next time,

Sig

BOOK REVIEW: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

I’m kind of a pop culture nerd and I don’t mind saying so. Popular culture is a fascinating vehicle for examining the philosophical and moral concepts of society en masse. Mass production, mass communication, mass consumption, fan culture – I dig it because people show what’s important to them in a broader sense through how they consume and respond to pop culture. Also I dig it because I like to quote Star Wars a lot.

I saw Felicia Day speak at Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Adelaide in 2012. At the time, I was only familiar with her work from Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and Buffy and I had a vague notion of her creating a web series that was super popular but that I hadn’t seen. How little I knew. I remember the session being funny and inspiring and I became an instant Felicia fan as she talked through the highs, lows and overall success of The Guild and the [at the time] very recent launch of Geek and Sundry with youtube. Holy cow, this chick was an online mogul and could do all these things and still be hilarious and personable with her fans? What champ. Being somewhat in awe of her ongoing new media career since then, I was super excited when I found out her memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) was being released this month.

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Following her unconventional home-schooled childhood, her college days studying an unusual mix of maths and violin, and her move to LA to commence her acting career, underpinned throughout by her early adoption of and addiction to all things internet, the book is ceaselessly funny and frank, and feels like sitting down for a good long chat.

Oh, and just quietly, Felicia Day herself casually liked my Instagram photo of her book so, like… YAY!

Instagrab

Yeah. I fangirled. HARD.

Never Weird is less a ‘this is how I became an internet pioneer’ success story and more a love letter to difference, showing that breaking the mould and chasing your own model of creative happiness is what personal success is really about. So let your freak flag fly and all that, because Felicia is proof there is a terrific freedom in just being you.

‘Til next time,

Sig

Nostalgic Medicine featuring the Care Bears

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I have a pretty rubbish immune system. I’ve blogged about being sick before. Bascially, winter has felt like one long plague season and I have largely forgotten what it’s like to wake up in the morning and feel well. 

cameron

When I was a kid there was one rule whenever I felt unwell. That rule stipulated that the only thing that could possibly make me feel better was watching The Care Bears Movie. If you don’t know it, it’s a fairly terrible animated movie from 1985 in which the Care Bears befriend some lonely orphans and help a magician’s assistant break away from the spell of an evil spirit. Mickey Rooney does one of the voices. The Care Bears use their Rainbow Rescue Beam and discover the Care Bear Cousins. Carole King sings the theme song. Care-a-Lot is a place we all can go, you guys. If you don’t know where it is, look inside your heart.

bears2

Seriously – it’s vomitous.

I’m not sure exactly what restorative powers I imagined the movie possessed, especially given the sheer force of its rot-your-teeth-while-you-watch sweetness. The very mention of the movie these days I am sure causes my mother an involuntary eye twitch from many a night spent with a sick child and the movie on an apparently endless loop (Hi Ma! I’m feeling much better, no need to bring soup x). But I stood by my own questionable medical remedy for years and it’s entirely possible that The Care Bears Movie is burned into my memory in a way no other movie will be.

Yes. I still have a Care Bear. (For my health).

Yes. I still have a Care Bear. (For my health).

This winter, as I negotiate my wellspring of immunity failings, I can think of nothing I rely on with such determination as a sick adult except medically sound though wholly uninteresting things like paracetamol, vitamin C, and aloe vera tissues. And though I worry it may make cynical, adult me want to stab my own eyes out with my Vicks inhaler, I am very tempted to track down a copy of The Care Bears Movie in readiness for next time, just in case.

‘Til next time,

Sig

CREATURE FEATURE SUNDAY: 50 Thoughts While Watching Sharknado 2

Back in May, Sharknado 2: The Second One was added to the Netflix Australia catalogue with apparently limited fanfare, because I had no idea. Happily though, while I was in search of something from the so-bad-it’s-good genre, there it was. Hurrah! Creature Feature Sunday, a time-honoured though usually hangover-induced tradition in my household, is back in action.

Here are my 50 thoughts from Sharknado 2. Spoiler alert, guys. Spoiler alert. In a big way.

  1. Oooh, we’re on a plane. Sharks on a plane?! I hope so!
  2. Is that Kelly Osborne?
  3. Ian Ziering… so weathered.
  4. Get it? Weathered?
  5. He’s not enjoying this flight at all.
  6. Am I?
  7. Yeah, of course I am.
  8. “It is happening again.” They are flying through sharks, you guys! FLYING through sharks!
  9. Good job Tara Reid’s character wrote a bestselling book on surviving a Sharknado.
  10. Ian Ziering is going to fly the plane!
  11. Hey, the oxygen masks haven’t dropped (which is clearly the main issue when passengers are being decapitated by sharks).
  12. He’s coming in hot!
  13. Tara Reid loses a hand while hanging out of an airplane shooting at a shark?! This is AMAZING!
  14. It’s suddenly day time?
  15. Credits! Theme song! Actual theme song!
  16. Holy shit, Mark McGrath is aging worse than Ian Ziering. Let the hair go, man. Let it go.
  17. Lock down the city! Call the mayor!
  18. Oooh, mention of prosthetics – this bodes very well. Please be a gun or similar.
  19. “It’s like he knew who I was!” If this is a shark revenge movie I will be so happy!
  20. Why does the weather report have animated sharks and yet no one is taking Ian Ziering seriously? Listen to Steve from 90210, New Yorkers! Jeez.
  21. Call the port authority! Call the fire department!
  22. There is A LOT of exposition happening by cell phone right now.
  23. Sassy cab drivers are an under-utilised plot device though, aren’t they.
  24. “Last thing I wanted was to hit a home run for my Pops”. FORESHADOWING! Your time is soon, retired baseball dude. I can feel it.
  25. THERE HE GOES!
  26. Sharks actively chasing the ferry doesn’t seem congruent with the idea that sharks just get caught up in a storm though.
  27. But I’ll run with it.
  28. ….
  29. WORTH IT.
  30. Gator? What?
  31. Oh never mind. Shark got him.
  32. No chainsaws in Manhattan? Gee, we really take Bunnings for granted.
  33. It’s like Indiana Jones outrunning the boulder, but with Liberty’s head. Couldn’t they just…. move to the side? Come on, ladies.
  34. Thanks for keeping the exposition on track, news dudes. Storms are converging!
  35. Theme song montage! Yeah!
  36. I googled the theme song band, who are called Quint. Like in Jaws. Well played.
  37. Suggested TMZ-style headline: Tara Reid finds a new outfit / time to accessorise while absconding from hospital.
  38. ‘Jumped the shark’ reference after jumping across the backs of several sharks James Bond Live and Let Die/alligator style. Yessss.
  39. Not sure how bombs fired into sharknado will help?
  40. “This is the Big Apple. When something bites us, we bite back!” ‘MURICA!
  41. So if the bombs don’t work, freezing it will somehow work. Science is hard.
  42. Ohhh, it’s going to take the power out of the storm.
  43. “Shark falling rates of 2 inches per hour” – weatherwoman, actual quote.
  44. Followed by motivational speech and chainsaw hero shot. Oh yeah!
  45. She’s replaced her hand with a saw! A SAW!!
  46. Why is everyone on the street? What did they think would happen when sharks started falling from the sky?
  47. Scrap that – I don’t even care. IN AIR CHAINSAW SHARK FIGHT.
  48. RIDING a shark to the spire of the Empire State Building? You had me at hello, Ian Ziering.
  49. I have just shouted “It’s her hand! It’s HER HAND!” to my empty living room.
  50. Actual applause.

Sharknado 2 rates 4 out of 10 jumped sharks.

No, sir. We are not a match.

Here’s what’s up: I’ve been single a while. For the most part, it’s pretty great. I do what I like, when I want to do it. My weird schedule doesn’t affect anyone but me, and the only arguments I have at home are between me and whatever jar I can’t open. But despite the pros, sometimes a bit of human interaction is a really nice thing. And meeting new people… it’s not easy.

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It seemed everyone but me has tried online dating (to varying degrees of success) and I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. So at a friend’s suggestion, I signed up for OKCupid (“It’s great! You’ll love it!”). I set up a brief profile, added a passably cute photo, and started having a scout around. It was low commitment and low cost and low effort – basically the opposite of every dating experience I have had in the past.

Dating, I am sure, has never been an easy thing. Today, thanks to our social media addiction, dating is a bigger minefield than ever as we negotiate this age of total visibility – we know when our messages have been seen, we get notified of people checking out our profiles. We monitor our visitors, collect our ‘likes’. We are present. We are seen, and unavoidably so. We conduct so much of our business in the digital realm I expected online dating to come pretty naturally. For me, it didn’t. For others, it doesn’t seem to either.

Usernames are hard.

I get it. You want a username that says something about you but also stands out from the crowd, and one that isn’t taken. It’s hard. If you are using a handle along the lines of ‘supernicedude’, ‘fuckboy69’ or ‘theguy4u’ then you may – may­ ­– be trying too hard. OKCupid also has a range of standard name endings you can add to turn your ordinary username-already-exists name into a viable username. The sort of thing that turns you from ‘Bill’ into ‘Bill-osaurus’. One of them, perplexingly, is ‘-taco’. Greg-taco. It tells me nothing. Who are you Greg? And do you even like tacos?

Uploading appealing pictures is hard.

A picture paints a thousand words, right? I like to think I’m not that superficial – that’s why I signed up for a dating site where people can write profiles instead of merely flicking left or right through photos and formulating opinions based purely on a person’s aesthetic fuckability. But a good photo is a good start all the same and it’s fascinating what people think are good dating profile photos. Here’s me with my mum! Here’s me posing with a comically large plasticine penis – see how zany I am? Here’s me in a large group – I’ll leave you to guess which one I am. Here’s a photo of my dog instead of me.

I don’t care how cute your Labrador is, I don’t want to date him.

Creating a profile is hard.

I kept my profile fairly brief at first, until I had a rummage around the site to get a feel for what people were saying. Much like the photos, some people were trying too hard. Conversely, some people weren’t trying at all. My rule of thumb was if I couldn’t think of anything I thought was witty enough for a section, I would leave it blank. Others should have perhaps followed this advice:

Idiot

Circle

After a few days of being bombarded by people who were going to try and turn anything I wrote into some kind of vague innuendo (“you like Terminator 2 and you drink a lot – well, aren’t you just saying all the right things in the right way *winky face*”) the urge to start trolling was strong.

april

So for my own amusement, I changed my ‘I’m really good at’ section to this:

Avocado

I hadn’t included my height in my profile and two separate people messaged me about this. One dispensed with a cursory hello and just said ‘height?’ like that was a valid introduction. Hint: it’s not.

Which leads me to…

Messaging people is hard.

Within one week of being on the dating site, I had received 73 messages from prospective suitors. Most were of the ‘hello, how are you?’ variety, which was fine. One guy chose ‘yummy!’ as his greeting of choice, which was not. Another wrote me poem about massaging my feet and brushing my hair.

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One guy said hello and, when I hadn’t responded after 3 days, wrote again to say he supposed I wasn’t interested (he’s quite astute). My favourite was the guy who purported to be a 19 year old virgin who wanted an experienced girl to show him “how it’s done”.

If I had a dollar for every ‘baby’ or ‘honey’ or ‘sexy’ that was tacked awkwardly into the messages, I’d be able to buy a pizza and a pretty nice bottle of wine.

Figuring out who to message is hard.

OKCupid suggests matches based on ‘powerful algorithms’ generated from your answers to a range of personality questions. The idea is, the greater the match, the higher the chance your would-be date will be receptive to your messages.

I put little faith in this for two reasons. Firstly, the ‘why is the earth a circle’ guy above was an 80%+ match.

Secondly, and more importantly, the questions the site asks get pretty weird pretty quick, flip-flopping from personal details, to job interview questions, to logic puzzles and everything in between. The not unexpected ‘how long would you like your next relationship to last’, for example, is followed up with ‘what’s worse – child abuse or animal abuse?’.

Random sample:

Capture

I think about carbs A LOT. You know why? Because carbs are delicious.

I don’t need a ‘powerful algorithm’ to tell me I am 100% certain the strength of my next relationship is not going to hinge on whether or not my partner likes historical re-enactments, the taste of beer, or reading the newspaper. Similarly, for them, is it a deal breaker that I prefer tea over coffee and know the ‘wherefore’ in ‘wherefore art thou Romeo?’ means ‘why’ and not ‘where’?

Maybe it is. Maybe that’s what dating is about these days. If so, I’m dating me.

And I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s going pretty well.

‘Til next time,

Sig