The end of <3

“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”
~ Carl Sagan

:) looked herself up and down in the mirror and sighed – this was her normal look and by far her most comfortable one, but she worried it made her look boring. For the last hour, she’d tried a bunch of different styles and narrowed her options down to two: :-) or :]. Neither felt right, but as the clock ticked over to 6pm, she knew her time had run out. Any second now, :D would arrive and the two would go on what she hoped would be a very exciting first date.

Their last few weeks together – chit chatting on Tinder – had been amazing. And now, finally, they were going to meet face to face. :) didn’t want to jinx it, but she had a great feeling about this one. Could this really be it? At last… true <3?

The doorbell rang and :) panicked. She quickly tried on :] again, cursed and swapped back to her normal look. “Screw it!” she said to herself, while applying a line of red lipstick. “If that big mouth doesn’t like me for who I really am, then this can’t possibly be true <3!” She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and went to open the front door.

“Hello!” :D blurted out awkwardly.
“Hello to you too,” :) replied. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting like that – I just had to finish getting ready.”
“Well, you look absolutely, absolutely, absolutely stunning!”
:) couldn’t help it but blush. She’d already learned from their messaging that :D could be very expressive, but she liked this about him. Her ex, :-&, had been the overly quiet type and it had driven her crazy.
“Why thank you,” she replied. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you! Say, shall we grab that bite to eat?”
“Absolutely! That sounds amazing! Great to meet you too!” :D replied.

:D led them to his car – a brand new 4WD – and the two climbed inside. As :) buckled her seat belt, :D switched on a small LCD screen that displayed a rear view camera, before pressing a button that started the engine. As :D started driving, he looked over at his date.
“Impressive, ain’t it?
“My ride!”
“What… oh sure, yes, it’s certainly something. I drive a Prius myself. But yes, this looks… expensive.”
“Oh yeah, it wasn’t cheap!,” :D replied. “But I got a great deal on finance! Way beyond my budget, but like I always say – you can’t put a price on quality of life!”

:) nodded. Time for a topic change, she thought to herself.
“So, what’s the plan for dinner?” she asked.
“Oh, the big secret!” :D replied. For the last couple of days, he’d been constantly messaging about the top secret exciting destination he’d chosen for their date. “Have you ever been to Helvetica?”
“No, I can’t say I have,” :) replied. “Is that a new restaurant?”
“Yes, it is! It’s a place that opened up on the south side of town. They serve the best calamari in the whole city! You’re gonna absolutely love it!”
“That sounds perfect!”

The two made small talk as they drove to Helvetica, but awkward silences kept filling the car. :) asked :D about his job – both worked as emoticons on the internet – and he told her how his hours had been cut drastically in recent years, as people used him less and less.
“It’s a damn shame!” he said. “I used to get so much work! I was rolling in it! But it’s nice to have so much free time nowadays. It’s allowed me to follow my true passion in life.”
“Oh what’s that?” :) asked.
“Hunting. I live for it.”
“There’s nothing quite so beautiful as venturing into the wilderness and embarking on that chase! Last Winter, I even shot a wild ¶. I’d never seen one before! I got it made into a trophy and now it sits above my fireplace. I’d love to show it to you sometime…”

:) sat there in shock. The sport of hunting made her sick and ¶s were bordering on extinction. She’d once volunteered with an organisation that devoted itself to their preservation. She felt the urge to protest and argue but decided against it, instead turning on the radio – a news bulletin had just begun.

Our top story today: An insider at Facebook, who declined to be named, told 2EB Radio that big changes were being planned for the site’s messenger app. He refused to disclose what, but warned that they were the biggest yet and could take place any day—

:) turned the radio off.
“It’s such nonsense!” she said, angrily.
“What is?” :D asked.
“This social media issue. It’s just outright fear mongering. If I hear the ={) make one more speech about the threat of Facebook or Twitter, I think I’ll explode!”
“Sorry, what’s this social media issue?”
“Huh? You mean you don’t know about it? It’s been in the news for years.”
“I don’t bother with the news,” :D said. “I find it boring. Oh look! We’re here!”

:) was relieved. The car ride was over. :D found a parking spot, but struggled for a while to park the car, despite the many technologies at his disposal. Finally, he pulled it off and then the two climbed out. :D walked them for a block before coming to a stop.

“Ta da!” he said and pointed to the restaurant in front of them. “Helvetica! What do ya think?”

:) sighed. Helvetica was a fast food joint. The place was derelict and she saw the “Under New Management” sign on the front door – not quite a newly opened restaurant. All across its windows were images of greasy deathtraps with discounts attached to them. :) looked inside and she saw how busy the place was.

“This looks… uhm… fun,” she said.

:D led them inside and then to one of the restaurant’s only empty tables, which was still covered in trash from the last customer. :D suggested they wait for it to be cleaned and :) stood, looking around the restaurant at the many different faces. She found herself surprised by some of the rarer emoticons that ate here:  >:[, :-c, :っ, :< :‑[, :‑X, |;‑), :‑J, :-)).

A moment later, :( appeared and cleaned the table. “Helvetica welcomes you to a night of deliciousness and discounts,” he mumbled reluctantly and walked off. As the two took their seats, :) found herself looking up at one of the four TV screens that adorned the restaurant’s walls. It was the only one that displayed a news bulletin and not the same match of sports.

“So, what did you think of my 4WD?” :D asked, trying to get her attention.
“Oh,” :) replied. “Yes. It was fine. Uhm, so… the calamari is really good you say?”

:D nodded enthusiastically and began to fumble around in his pockets for something — loose change.

“Hang on a sec. I’ll go order us some. My shout!”

:D leapt up and and then proceeded to wait in a long queue. As she waited, :) watched the news on the TV screen. The sound was turned down but subtitles had been turned on at the bottom of the screen. The current story was headlined “How far would you go for love?” and told of how a local couple remortgaged their home in order to pay an expensive vet bill for their sick =^_^=. :) sighed and looked away from the TV and at this moment, :D returned.

“Here you go,” he said, dumping a box of calamari rings in front of her. “Best friggin’ calamari ever!”
“Thank you. You sure you don’t want any money for this?”
:D thought about it for a moment.
“Nah. My shout! Seriously!”

The two of them started eating and neither said a word – :D was completely absorbed by his food and :) found the grease too overpowering and so only ate one or two rings. In her mind, she was already busy planning her escape. It would be easy to hail a cab on the street, she thought, but from here to home would be very expensive – the drive had been such a long one, or at least it had felt like an eternity. But then – who had said it? – you can’t put a price on quality of life!

“So,” :D spoke while chewing, to the point that he was barely understandable.
“Tsweell mee abousht thris srocial thwing?”
“The social media issue?”

:) sighed. Escape would come soon, she told herself.

“Well, where do I begin?” she started. “Let’s see… the issue has been around for years now and it ultimately stems from the internet, our lifeblood. Ever since sites like Facebook and Twitter took off, the government has been scaring us daily by saying that social media is unpredictable and that at any time, they might introduce changes that could render us obsolete.”

:D swallowed his mouthful, nodded – he was listening – and he grabbed another handful of rings.

“And sure, yes, these sites – they’ve got the ability. Facebook alone is now in charge of so much of the world’s digital communication. If they make big changes to chat, the other sites and apps will be very quick to follow suit. But it’s total lunacy, if you ask me. Think about it: emoticons date back to nearly the beginning of the internet itself. We’re virtually a part of language now. I’d say we’re sacred.”

“Are you going to finish those?” :D said, eyeing her leftover calamari.

“No. They’re all yours,” :) replied and decided that now was as good a time as any to escape. “Say, I’m just going to duck out front and make quick a phone call.”

:D’s face suddenly became overwhelmed by terror.

“Oh, uhm – I’m sorry,” she said. “I will be back. Don’t worry.”

:D shook his head and slowly raised his hand. He pointed at the TV screen on the wall.

She looked up and saw what he saw. The ={) was about to give an Oval Office address. The entire restaurant went silent, as everyone realised what was going on and people shushed one another to pay attention.

:( turned up the sound.

“Tonight, my fellow emoticons,” the ={) said, beginning his address, “I speak to you with a heavy heart. After years of uncertainty, our darkest fears have been realised. Mere moments ago, the social media giant Facebook executed two devastating changes to its messenger platform that went beyond anything that we imagined.”

:) stared at the screen in shock and looked around at the restaurant. The entire place was silent, apart from the occasional whimper.

The ={( continued: “Our government tried tirelessly to prevent this from taking place, but unfortunately, I must concede – we failed. Tonight, Facebook introduced into its messenger platform two features which are designed to replace us: Stickers and GIFS.”

:) watched as emoticons all around her started crying, screaming and panicking. Many tried to run, but they had nowhere to go.

“It is with immense sadness,” the ='{( said finally, “that I must declare that this is the end. These changes doom our kind to virtual nothingness.”

Suddenly, emoticons across the restaurant began to vanish.


:) looked over and watched as :D quickly grabbed his car keys and stood up from the table.

“Is there anything we can do? Somewhere to hide?” he pleaded.

“I don’t think so,” :) replied.


The car keys chimed as they landed on the floor.





Soon, every emoticon in the restaurant had vanished and :) was left all alone. She glanced up at the TV screen and saw that the president had disappeared now as well – in his place was a GIF of a goat licking the screen.


Seconds later, :’) vanished too.

The End

Yellow vs Red (Short Film)

Two opponents battle each other in a game of Connect 4.

Little do they know what is actually at stake.

Real Wild Child (Wild One) – Iggy Pop
Heart Of Gold – Neil Young
Multi-Love – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Why I don’t paint



I tighten the strings to my smock, pick up my paintbrush and look at the blank canvas in front of me. I feel my hand shake a little. I’m nervous. A blank canvas can be anything. My mind tells me to lose the brush, dip my fingers into the palate and paint swirls… but I don’t. I’m not allowed to — the deal I’ve made with myself forbids it.

Today, I’m a painter. My goal is to finish a painting on canvas – in one sitting – and I want it to look impressive. I’ve never painted as an adult and probably won’t ever again. I already know that it’s not my calling in life.

So, why do a painting, then? Firstly, it’s hot outside and painting is a good outdoor activity. Secondly, I’m curious. I’ve lived with a few painters at different points in my lifetime, but I’ve never really understood the effort that goes into the art form. Doing a painting myself seems like a good way to put myself in another’s shoes for a day and perhaps understand the world a little better. And thirdly, what if I’m the next Picasso and just don’t know it yet?

I begin by following one of the oldest tips in the book: When in doubt, play to your strengths. My artistic CV isn’t very impressive. As a teenager, I drew a few complicated pictures in Microsoft Paint. As an adult, I’ve produced two Where’s Wally fan art posters, an 8-page comic book and I once designed a poster – but that was using InDesign. Otherwise, it’s all just school curriculum and childhood drawings.

I make a list.

Next, I go searching for inspiration. I start by googling my favourite artist: Pablo Picasso. In Grade 2, I did my first ever school assignment on him and I’ve liked him ever since. Last year, while in Paris, I even went to a museum devoted entirely to him – which was, sadly, closed for renovations.

But googling Picasso’s art and cubism generally, I realise that I need my painting to stand out as original. Copying another’s artistic style just wouldn’t be impressive. So instead, I google a few random images and pin them up next to my easel – these will serve as my inspiration.

InspirationBefore I take brush to canvas, I do a 1-minute sketch onto paper. I combine a few of the images I know how to draw with some of the ones I found on the net. Mostly, I draw animals. They are universally liked. I decide that my painting should lean towards the surreal, as this puts less emphasis on errors and screw-ups. In a few areas, I try to make the images interrelate. This doesn’t go too well. I leave some parts blank, so there is room for creativity.


All set to go, I paint my first stroke. I feel better. The canvas is no longer blank and it’s lost its potential to be anything. After a while, I discover that painting requires patience – each stroke is a tiny stroke of labour. The brush constantly needs to be reloaded with paint. I learn to hold the brush in one hand and the palate in the other. This saves time. I take a moment to appreciate the extinction of the quill.

It’s not long before I make my first big mistake. Due to the size of my paintbrush and the strokes it makes, the images used in my initial sketch don’t fit onto the canvas. So, I squeeze in what I can and ditch the sketch.


As I paint, I let my creativity guide me. If a shape is empty, I fill it with colour. If a line is crooked, I paint a bigger one over it or another one alongside it. I paint with a lot of yellow, as that seems to catch the eye. I follow my heart and hope that everything will come together.

It doesn’t.

Two hours have passed. My painting looks terrible. The colours clash. My lines are jagged and ugly. There’s too much brown. I feel angry looking at it. Worst of all, it’s now dark and cold outside.


At this point, frustration kicks in.

I lose the hat and pick up the basket of paints. If a tube is less than half full, I empty the whole thing onto the palate. Previously, I washed my paintbrush with every colour change. I stop doing that. I paint as quickly as I can.

Image_8Swirls are fun to do, so I paint a lot them. If I make a serious wrong stroke, I simply redo all of the strokes around it. The palate is heavy, then light, then heavy again and then light again.

Finally, I am finished. Or, I’ve had enough anyway.

The finished product is a painting of what might be a boy looking out onto a volcano erupting while being engulfed by a violent ocean. Or, an ocean crashing into the side of a cliff, as a yellowy cat moon observes.


Is it impressive?

Well, I’m mildly relieved. The piece doesn’t look as horrible as it did at the halfway point and I no longer feel anger when I look at it. The duck is gone and there is a tiny semblance of flow between some of the imagery. I learned a valuable life lesson too: painting is hard. This is something I will never forget.

But obviously, no, my painting is not impressive. In terms of my goal, I failed. If someone else painted it and gave it to me as a present, I would pretend to like it, actually hate it and hide it for a few months, before throwing it away. The piece just doesn’t display any discernible talent and its meaning is utterly and hopelessly ambiguous.

Perhaps however, my painting would have one admirer. As the great man himself once said,

“The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”
~ Pablo Picasso

My Where’s Wally Fan Art poster

Below is my finished Where’s Wally fan art poster. In life, not every question has an answer, and so I can’t really answer why it is I made this particular time investment. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it! For a larger version, click here.




Things you can try find:

– Wally
– Wilma
– Woof
– The Wizard
– Odlaw
Beyonce in Brunswick

More difficult items to find:

– 5 x centipedes
– 5 x steaming mugs of coffee
– 3 x binoculars
– A pot with a flower in it

Note: Wally is poorly drawn, sorry!

The art of losing things

As we reach the summit of Cradle Mountain and the snow and heavy winds hit, the weightlessness in my pocket makes itself known. The views are spectacular, but I don’t care anymore. The whole way up this mountain, I’d been acutely aware that I had the lone car key – our only passageway back to civilisation – stored snugly in my pocket. Just like that, it was gone.



Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.


All my life, I’ve been a loser. Those many hallmarks of everyday life – keys, wallets, money, mobile phones, headphones, chargers and so on – enter and leave my life quickly. People who know me well often hesitate when I ask to borrow something. People who don’t know me well find out fast that hesitation is wise. My locksmith loves me.

But like anything in life that you do a lot, after a while, you get better at it.

For starters, passports are the worst item to lose. I’ve lost two in the last five years. Standard lost passport fees mean that today a new one will set me back upwards of $700. The financial loss of a passport aside, the application process is long and painful. It requires multiple trips to the post and passport offices, and worse still, passport photos double as mug shots – acting as a permanent record of your hopelessness.

Experience has taught me that the best way not lose your passport is to not lose your driver’s license. It takes weeks for VicRoads to get a new one out to you and the requirement to visit the centre itself doesn’t exactly speed the process up. During this time, your passport, which must be used as ID, is constantly put in harm’s way.

The best way to avoid losing a license is: don’t leave home with it, if you don’t need it. This rule of thumb applies to any important cards that require time and money to replace. Before leaving home, I’ll empty my wallet of any valuables I know I won’t need that day. Eggs are best kept in separate baskets.

Less important items like loyalty cards, business cards and coins should stay in your wallet. These make your wallet bulkier and harder to lose. When you lose things often enough, you learn not to bother too much with sentimentality. The more worth you give an item, the greater the pain is when you lose it.

Keys are relatively cheap to replace. However, they’re also a big pain to lose, for all those times you get locked outside. Be prepared. Always keep a book outside near where the spare key is supposed to be. I recommend choosing a title that is easy to return to over an extended period of time. The Beach by Alex Garland is my current pick. It’s a long but enjoyable read, with lots of chapters. The theme of anti-materialism is a nice added bonus.

If you can – before your keys go missing – make them loud. My current house key is attached to a big orange chain, a beeper device and several colourful key rings. This is the third set I’ve had like this, and each has lasted a lot longer than the standard key and key ring combo.



My house key.


Smartphones cost a lot to replace, but they’re becoming harder to lose. In this day and age, we’re always on them and this serves as a constant check on their whereabouts. But this means that the risk of losing a phone increases dramatically when it is low on battery or dead. If your phone does end up under the seat of a couch cushion or on the floor of a cab somewhere in Melbourne, a ringtone communicates to the nearest person that it is both there to be found and also that it is loved. Bring your charger with you everywhere you go. This will go missing sometimes too, but a replacement charger is a small price to pay compared to the cost of a new phone.

Some items don’t warrant as much concern as people like to give them. My favourite item to lose is my bankcard. They are free to replace and so there’s really no need to feel any emotional pain when you lose one. Simply ring up the bank immediately, cancel it, and ask for a new one to be sent out to you. During a credit card application at my local branch around two years ago, a screen displayed the number of times I’d ordered replacement cards over my lifetime. The teller was shocked (the list went off the screen) but the bank no doubt understood my perspective. A replacement card is an investment on their part, which keeps you banking with them.

When the planets don’t align and a possession does go missing, an important rule is: don’t panic. Before anything else, you should distinguish between when a possession is actually lost and when a possession simply isn’t found yet.

Take, for example, my license that went missing earlier this year. I looked in my wallet and it wasn’t there. Not lost yet. I searched my drawers and my desk, and it wasn’t there. Not lost yet. I searched across the whole house, under every couch cushion and in every pile of clothing. Now it was lost. And only then did I feel crap about it.



In this instance, my license turned up in the mailbox a few days later.


An item that is actually lost is an item that is in none of the places you can logically account for. An item that isn’t found yet is an item that wasn’t in the first place you looked.

And so, on Cradle Mountain, I strived to keep my cool. The weightlessness in my pocket kick-started a thought process, accompanied by only mild panic. The car key – logically – could be in one of only two locations. The first location was next to a snowman that we took some pictures with and the second was on a rocky ledge where I had changed out of some clothing. Both about halfway up the mountain. The snowman proved unsuccessful, but the ledge had it. The car key, now found, while missing, was never actually lost.

And a missing car key on a mountain still beats a missing car key on a beach. If that happens, by all means panic. My advice: dig in circles, working outwards in a spiral.

Life with 2 names

Twenty six years and around eleven months ago, a zygote split in my mother’s womb, meaning that today there are two of me.

The result: In life, I easily confuse people – but I’ve got somebody I’m incredibly close to and have a lot in common with.

The twin bond is close to infallible. From shortly after conception, early experiences are mostly shared. I was born three minutes after my twin brother. Our first steps, teeth and words were all within a few days or weeks of each other. For our first few years, barely anyone could understand what we were saying – but we could understand each other. And in some baby photos, I wouldn’t know it’s me, if not for certain distinguishing outfits.



I’m the one on the right.


Being a twin is my version of normal. The correct term for a lone foetus that reaches full term is a singleton. Imagining my life as one is weird and I can’t really do it. From my earliest memories to my present self, I’ve always had my twin brother by my side and without him, I would be an entirely different person. For somebody without a twin, it’s the equivalent to imagining what your life would be like if you had a twin.

As you can probably guess, I share my birth date with my twin brother. This meant that growing up, we had joined children’s parties. This wasn’t a bad thing, especially since we always got our own cakes, but it did create a problem when it came to present time. While guests were always kind enough to fork out double for the occasion, presents were almost always identical. And so, parties became a race to open your present first, or else have the surprise ruined. The devoted friend who went to the trouble to buy unique presents for each of us earned a great deal of respect.

The benefit of the shared birthday revealed it’s worth at the 90s McDonald’s party. Back then, McDonald’s had a policy of offering the birthday child a choice of birthday present: a pass-the-parcel or a tour of the back of the restaurant. For single children, the choice must have been very hard. Twins were lucky enough to experience both.

Midway through primary school, the concept of individuality took shape. Up until that point, we were dressed the same, albeit in different colours. From this point on, until early adulthood, separate styles became mandatory. Before school, if either of us found the other to be wearing the same thing, conflict would follow. Never did we turn up to school dressed the same.

In High School, we developed entirely different wardrobes. An unspoken rule existed between us that said we couldn’t own the same item of clothing. This avoided the risk of accidental likeness on any given day and also bred an image of difference that went beyond the present. The clothing rule also led to the formation of a miniature marketplace between us, where money could be made. If one twin bought a stylish item that the other wanted, he could sell it well and truly above cost price, since the other twin wasn’t allowed to buy it in store.

It can be hard as a twin to assess your own individuality, but in our teenage years, I’d say we naturally developed very different identities. He played clarinet. I had a pet alien on the internet. He liked Eminem. I listened to Ray Charles. He gravitated towards relationships. I wasted hours drawing artwork in Microsoft paint. During this time, I would argue that our similarities weren’t much greater than those shared by ordinary siblings. Not counting looks, obviously.

But differences mean squat when you spend time in public together and a stranger suddenly screams out in excitement, “Twins!” But as a twin, you do reach a point of acceptance in life where you realise that it is weird for people the first time they meet you. I’ve been creeped out enough times in my own life by other sets of identical twins to appreciate this fact. It helps too that I once drunkenly mistook myself for my twin brother in a mirror, so can truly empathise with those who mix us up.


Too young to choose our own outfits.


Likeness carries with it the odd perk too. Not that long ago, I lost my ID, but had already made plans to go to a bar that night notorious for checking it. Usually, in this situation, I would just borrow my twin brother’s ID, but he planned on going to the same place. Deciding it was worth a shot, we presented the same ID for the both of us. The bouncer hesitated at first, stared at us for a while and waved us in.

Our likeness can also create the odd social issue. People who know me, but who don’t know about my twin, have occasionally run into him on the street and faced flat rejection. The flip side of this is those times I’ve run into somebody I’ve wanted to avoid and have simply pretended to be him. The stock standard set of twin questions strangers seem pre-programmed to ask still strikes at a certain nerve too.

Can you feel pain when he gets hurt? 
Have you ever swapped places?

Who is the evil one? 

For all the confusion and frustration being a twin has caused at different times in life, it’s still a very good deal. Having somebody who I can share just about anything with since he knows me so well, who will actually read my short stories when I send them to him and who can always provide me with a 3D example of how a jumper looks on me, is a very useful thing in life.

The life of the singleton isn’t appealing to me in the slightest, but then, neither is the life of the triplet.

Fed Story profiles

In 2013, I completed an internship in the Marketing Department at Federation Square.

While there, I collected stories of everyday Melburnians for the Fed Story project.


Camille’s story [Fashion Blogger Camille Gower] (Fed Story, May 2013)

The lucky country [Eddie Nyarko] (Fed Story, May 2013)

Melbourne – a playground for an artist [Artist Mishka Nansi] (Fed Story, May 2013)

Rob’s story [Principal Robert Newton] (Fed Story, May 2013)