Walking on Air – A Parachuting Documentary with Ian in his Youth.

Back when we were all young.

It was 1981, I had just completed my Pattern Making apprenticeship at the Toowoomba Foundry and the previous Christmas holidays, while at the Australian Parachute Nations meet a beautiful young lady who I thought was worth chasing all the way to Sydney. Little did I know at the time that would introduce me to my daughter some 10 years later. Time to leave home, to cut my family and childhood ties, to go it alone and see what life may hold for me. So, with everything I had inside my trusty EH Holden Station Wagon and my bike on the roof, to Sydney I went…

On my way to Sydney

On my way to Sydney

During the week we worked in Sydney but on weekends we drove the three hours to the Hunter Valley and the Newcastle Parachute Club (NSPC), where we would spent most weekends making friends and falling through the air. A sport like parachuting is one of those activities where people bond in a special way and  I quickly found my place as one of the regular instructors. By then I had already been instructing for two years but this was back in the static line days of round parachutes and a good decade before tandems would change the sport into the massive commercial operation that exists today.

Jas was the man!

One of the main personalities amongst many on the drop zone was Jas Shennan. Charismatic club president and instructor who worked as a film editor, primarily on television documentaries and always one of the last standing beside the fire, with beer in hand on a cold Saturday night.

Around the time I entered the scene Jas had decided it was time for a doco about parachuting for TV, to show what it’s really like and some of the personalities. Over the course of a year or so he corralled the footage, often using ex-military 16 mm gun cameras for the free fall footage, augmented with ground shots to fill in the story. There were no mini GoPros back then!

I was only 21 years old.

As it turned out, on the day when Jas arranged a film crew to capture the ground based activities, I was instructing a group of students and a brief part of my youth was captured for me to fondly look back on, all these 33 years later.

This is how you exit a cessna.

This is how you exit a cessna.

Back then you could have classes of up to 20 people, all keen to do a first jump. I remember actually saying I wouldn’t instruct classes of more than 20 students as it was the maximum I felt I could train appropriately and there were times when groups were split up due to their size. Back then ground training and theory took a full day, with the first jumps happening the next day.

In Walking on Air we see snippets of what goes into the training and what’s expected of student skydivers in the early 1980’s, before the Accelerated Freefall Programme and piggyback student equipment. It’s fun to see students practicing landing rolls, something which is barely taught today with the ease of landing square parachutes. It’s now all changed but this is the way I learnt parachuting when I started in 1978 at Gatton in South East Queensland and the way I instructed for many years. Continue reading

Thank You Steve Jobs

PlayPlay

I may well not be here but for Steve and Apple

Yes, that may sound like a big statement that Apple and in particular the personality of Steve Jobs and the way that it was embedded into the very DNA of Apple could have that much of an affect on me but I think it’s correct.

Just some of the Apple products that brought me here

I first became aware of personal computers in about 1980, then missed an opportunity to us a Fairlight CMI in 1983 only to eventually buy an IBM clone 286 in 1992. All of them, as enticing as they were, couldn’t capture me. It was really simple! I’m not a geek and all the things that geeks love, (you know the beauty of code and getting under the hood of the computers), never appealed to me. I just wanted something that did the things that I wanted it to do. Unfortunately up until the advent of podcasting I hadn’t found that “thing”, that enamored me.

Once I found podcasting the next thing was to engage with it and learn. If it hadn’t been for Apple products guided by Steve and the knock on innovations of their computers that they brought to all of us I don’t think I would have been able to get over the initial steep learning curve and understand the technology enough to be able to become a podcaster.

Thanks Steve 🙂 (mp3) Continue reading

Brisbane Floods 2011

Preparing for the flood – 12 January 2011

It’s been a huge few days since we first started to realise that it looked like Brisbane would be hit by another of the cyclical floods that happen every 30 to 40 years.

Brisbane is at the end of the Brisbane River, a long, slow moving, meandering brown waterway that drains much of the country from the Great Dividing Range to the west and into the north. As noted by John Oxley as the first explorer in 1823 when he sailed upstream to where Brisbane now sits, the river has no watershed to keep the flow constant but relies on rainfall from it’s catchment. This inevitability leads to periods of low flow where the river becomes a tidal stream washing upstream on the high tide and downstream on the low tide, much like we’ve had for the last 20 years of drought. He noted from the rotting vegetation high on Spring Hill and Kangaroo Point that this natural choke between these high points must cause massive floods during high rainfall.

Flood Waters

Water Creeping Up My Street

John Oxley is basically correct and it seem that the cycle of this flood is based on the La Nina oceanic temperature phenomena where the water temperature warms causing greater precipitation, including cyclones which can impact on Brisbane as happened in the 1974 flood. This cycle has lead to minor and more occasional major floods in 1865, 1893, 1931, 1974 and now 2011.

I remember well, as a 14 year old in Toowoomba, watching the black and white television images of the massive destruction and flooding that was the Brisbane flood of 1974, wondering what it would be like to experience that event, and yes even wondering of how exciting it might be to be involved – Now I know.

On Monday the 10 January 2011 a slow moving trough had settled over the catchment of the Brisbane River dumping rain on the already soaked area that had seen an unusually high rainfall. The long ten year drought had well and truly broken and now the dams were fall and spilling, a vast change from when there was but 25% in them just a few years ago. How good was it to now not to be on water restrictions and able to use water freely but this was getting ridiculous now, with rain soaked ground causing each new drop to run off filling the flood mitigation percentages of the dams and swelling the streams.

Then the unthinkable happened, something that no one has ever heard or seen before. My home town of Toowoomba high on the range at 340m above sea level, sat in a place where the dense moist air rose, chilled and dumped it’s contents on the escarpment and on Toowoomba itself. It was as if God had emptied a bucket on the town, filling the creeks, flash flooding the shops, sweeping away everything in it’s path including cars, shipping containers and people. Sadly two people died when they were trapped in their vehicles by this surging wall of water. This is what they had to deal with in the Toowoomba Flood

Then it got worse…

The water that was dumped on Toowoomba flows west to the Darling Downs causing flooding in many smaller towns, some for the second time in a fortnight but what happened to the east was of biblical proportions of horror. Continue reading

50 Years.

50 Years I’ve been here now.

First Birthday

First Birthday

50 years, 18,250 days, the same number of mornings and evenings the same number of nights asleep bar a dozen or so all-nighters. 5o years of experiences good and tough.

Yes, I would say tough but I wouldn’t say bad, although there have been some challanging times. Like when I was out of sync in my last year at school because I couldn’t do my precious wood work. That was the time to leave, just before and fortunatly as I got my apprenticeship. Or the frustration of dealing with the end of my marriage and the subsequent crash and burn that came from that. These times were tough but I wouldn’t say bad, not real bad, like some people have, some people don’t have tough lives, they have real bad lives. My life has been just challenging, requiring me to, well, suck it up and get on with it. And sometimes I’ve had the help of some wonderful people to help me through. To all of you… thanks.

So far it’s been a good life anyway I look at it. I have very good health both mental and physical and I’ve managed to do some interesting, even wonderful things. The highlights would have to be doing my apprenticeship, skydiving, building a house, my marriage to Gail,  my daughter Sabina, the many wonderful relationships that I have had, the skills that I’ve gained, working on the Matrix 2&3 films, my podcast and associated travels and learnings and in recent years, the joy of tango.

If you asked me to reflect on the tough times, I’m genuinelly, mentally challenged to remember. I can remember the events but there is no emotion connected to them. I don’t feel as distressed from them that I felt at the time. It must just be my psychology but I seem to remember the good, with a joy that is hard to express and the bad times seem to fade away like a dream in the morning. Continue reading

Farewell Mal.

Most people don’t think of funerals as being pleasant but on Saturday I had the good fortune to go to a great memorial service for a cousin. Malcolm Kath, just four years my senior passed away from cancer about 10 days earlier and we were under strict instructions not to not wear any suits but loud shirts, roll at least one bowl down the green at the Canungra Bowls Club and have a drink, his shout.

Mal was one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. He was kind and wanted little from others but his simple life reminded me that sometimes it’s the quite ones that have an impact far wider than the people who make all the noise. A bachelor until 50, he finally married his childhood sweetheart Marcia in 2006. At the service I saw school photos of the eight year old Mal and Marcia in the same class at school.

I remember catching up with Mal a couple of years ago and in his style he was holding his right hand out in a claw, complaining that there was something wrong with it. I asked what was the problem, to which he replied “I don’t have a beer in it”.  A simple dry wit was his style but sadly his desire for beer was a life long issue and the addiction to it eventually lead him, in the last few years to loose his short term memory to the alcohol abuse condition of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This had the side benefit in his last days, which although full of pain and with difficult palliative care, he was unable to remember any of it, so he was constantly discovering how dire his circumstances were inso only living in each new moment.

I suppose this is the point of this post and what I learnt from Mal on Saturday. Things are not always as they may seem.

He was content with his life fully aware that he made the decisions that lead to all events. He lived in his moment to moment life and he accepted the consequences of those decisions and he earned great respect from his community for that and the decent person that he was. Continue reading

Ego = Fail

Just now I was reflecting on how Eckhart Tolle mentions about how his ego doesn’t interfere with his daily events as they would cause identification with the events around him. This identification would interfere with him doing things in the moment and cause stress and anxiety. This reminded me of the numerous times when I’ve been in fear before an event and how when I’m in the flow it always works without fear. How this stress is always ego related and how without the expectations of a new beginning I do well and if I allow my ego to get involved I always seem to screw it up.Ego=Fail

Does this mean that if I am fearful or anxious I’m identifying with the event with my ego? I think so.

I’ve always said that I have “Beginners Luck”. The number of times that I’ve done something for the first time and done it initially with ease is staggering. I remember when I started skydiving at 17 years of age. I went to the drop zone the first weekend and did my training and the following weekend I went to do my first jumps. That weekend I did four static line jumps, each and every one was copy book perfect. Everyone praised me, paying complements as to my natural abilities. Then the following week end I returned to continue and failed monumentally, moving onto free fall and tumbling out of control eventually returning to static line descendants and doing 13 instead of the usual five until I eventually moved onto free-fall again. It was even recommended that I should give it away. Ultimately I amassed 2000 skydives and became an instructor at 19. By then I was humbled by by initiation into the sport.

For a short time when I was about 30 I had a sales job using a style of sales similar to encyclopaedia selling where I had to present to people in their homes from a script and eventually close the deal. After the initial training I went out on my first day to present, not expecting any results as I was such a raw recruit and managed to sell four out of five presentations blowing everyones expectations, including mine, out of the water. The following six weeks were harrowing as I slowly started to stress and didn’t sell one programme until eventually I decided to give it away and on my last presentation I sold two unexpectedly to the client and her friend who just happened to be sitting in. I’m sure I sold on the last day because I no longer had an attachment to the outcome, the stress of achieving was removed and my ego was now out of the picture.

This has happened in all the fields that I have ventured into where the first time I do something, I do well as I have no expectations, my ego is subdued as I’m only starting and I don’t expect any results. Because I’m completely with the experience and not at all in my ego I allow anything to happen and it resolves in ways far better than I would have expected. It’s even happened with the first time I played lotto and won $35 because there is no chance to win on my first attempt and I’ve never won anything since.

The problem is that once I have the initial success, I then buy into others and my own expectations based on the past experience and extrapolate it out into the future, then naturally expect the evolvement of the good fortune into something grand. Then when it doesn’t materialise I become demoralised, think of it as a failure and it all falls apart. If I do keep at it in the long term and persevere through the negative period as I did with skydiving and my trade skill I notice that I eventually return to the level of success that I originally had but now I’ve been humbled by the experience of doing so poorly during the intervening period. I then don’t think of what I do as being anything special but think of it as something that anyone can do, as is really the case. If I can do something anyone can and often times anyone has, so why should I think that I’m anything special. This is what I find so interesting.

I seem to be blessed with some innate natural talents which enable me to do well initially but if I allow my ego to rise up even at the most basic level I come unstuck then my ego feels blighted by the failure and stress develops and a downward cycle begins. What if I don’t allow my ego into the picture? What if I simply say “this person which is me is doing this thing and it will be as it will be”? If the goal of the day is achieved or not is irrelevant. It’s only important to do the task as seems appropriate with no judgement of whether it is good or bad, which is a judgement in itself. Just let it be and not to identify with the event in anyway as being something personal.

That’s the take home, “not to identify with the event in anyway as being something personal” which has to exclude any form of ego.

2010 – The Year Ahead

Picking up from yesterdays post about 2009 and how good a year I had, I thought that it was also appropriate to consider what is ahead for 2010.

Last year I sat down with some serious consideration to goal setting and planning out my year ahead.What I hoped to have for my podcast, income, home and social life. Then as the year wore on I realised that despite my good intentions many other things were being thrown up in my path creating situations that prevented or changed the direction of things that I had set out to achieve. Some improvements some challengers but things that changed where I thought I was travelling, thereby creating a feeling in me that I didn’t have control on my life and frustration that I wasn’t able to make the goals realised as I was told would be achieved if I followed the rules of goal setting. Basically what I’m saying is that the classic western goal setting model doesn’t seem to work for this little black duck.

So as I mentioned in the last post, as I started on this exercise in May to just opt out of what is expected and make my decisions based on what is appropriate in each moment and the relative ease at which my life now seems to be evolving I’ve decided on some new goals for this new year.

  • Goal 1 – I intend to be fully engaged with every activity and make any decisions that need to be taken in that moment.
  • Goal 2 – Any time I fall into emotional considerations of the future or reminiscences of the past I’ll concentrate on Goal 1.

If you haven’t realised goal 2 is actually a variation on goal 1. It’s just that I’m still not brilliant at this and I sometimes have to remind myself to go to Goal 1.

Oh! and just in case you think this is not, or is a real goal, I don’t mind what happens anyway.

I’m just here Now.

Life is a Game
A Game to be Played
You can never Lose
You can only Win
So long as You Play. ’91

End of 2009 – Brilliant

Another year wraps up and I’ve been reflecting on it lately.

Back when I came up with the idea and started Your Story I commented on how the years were all the same and the disappointment that there wasn’t any real change from year to year, of my desire to shake that up. Now it’s now been nearly 3 years.

I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing when I started on this path those few years ago but I knew that I needed to start and see where it would go. The first 15 years of my adult life were wonderful years with a great marriage, adventure and achievements but after that it was particularly tough. Now I can say that of the last 15 years since my marriage went south these last 3 years have been the best, most rewarding and enlightening years.

When my daughter was little I used to say that I was running a one off, 18 year experiment in parenting and I’d get back with the results on whether I achieved anything when she is 18. Now that she is I think that experiment has been very successful but that is another story. Just the same as parenting, this last year I’ve been running another experiment in not planning, not goal setting but

Ian in Buenos AIres

simply going where the moment takes me. It started way back in May when I decided, just for one week to have a Societyfast. What could go wrong for one week of not buying into all the stuff of society?

As it turns out after that week I decided not to reconnect with the system and that’s the way it’s been all year since then. Now I’ve always done things somewhat my own way but this was really ramping it up. I have for the majority of the year slept, worked, danced and travelled as it’s seemed right in the moment. I’ve done my best not to project into the future and reminisce on the past. I have at times been far from perfect from achieving this and I have sometimes bought into fear and sentimentality but generally I’ve been able to reconnect after a time and just enjoy the moment. And what wonderful moments I’ve had.

In the last year I’ve only worked about 10 weeks which has caused me to live very lean but my life is wonderful and rich with friends old and new. I have a wonderful social life thanks to my dancing and all that Tango has given me. I’ve travelled yet again, this time to Buenos Aires. I’ve worked for a time with an artist and on Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where I made some wonderful things. The podcast is evolving and I’ve managed to meet and get a whole new level of guests to come onto the show. My skills have continued to improve both with audio and video while some people, though only a few, seem to like what I’m producing and keep coming back.

But most importantly I’ve discovered that if I take the time, to take no time, to just be in the moment and make decisions on what needs to be done now and follow that quiet feeling inside me that says that I should do … right now it all seems to work out. Leave my petty ego out of it and be content with whatever happens whether it’s others or my doing doesn’t matter. Instead of worrying I’m starting to have an attitude that something will happen, it’s just that I don’t know what it is. This is creating a new state of wonder, where I don’t know what is going to happen but like watching a film I’m curious and wonder what will evolve. Amazingly it’s working out different and much better than I could imagine.

Yes, what will come of the New Year. I wonder because I have no idea.

Lets find out…

Work – Is it an addiction?

I’ve finished work a while back on the Narnia movie again. I was initially on for a month, which is where I wrote the previous post, then off for a month, then back on for 2.5 weeks and now yet again I’ve not worked for a few weeks. Since I finished up I’ve been thinking about

Book Stands for the Movie

Book Stands for the Movie

this crazy life of mine and how it flies in the face of the Western method of work, whether it’s valid or irresponsible of me, if I’m burning my bridges for my future or if maybe I may actually have something here.

When I finished I knew I had to do the whole readjust again back into the mental head-space of just hanging out doing my thing again. It’s very easy to plug into work, as once I’m on a Job there is a first morning where I get up and head off to another first day and from then on it’s routine. The longer I work in that one place the more ingrained the routine becomes and the more comfortable it all is. That is until the routine becomes boredom. Then another type of stress starts where I question my existence and waste of life in that environment and yet again I have to leave to find myself.

That is very much the way it is for most of the permanent work that I’ve done and the great advantage of working contract is that normally I can stick it out long enough until the project is complete which hopefully isn’t too long and then I get the change that I need. So film work often suits me well in this regard.

Finishing and readjusting to no work is not as easy as compared to starting as I don’t have the distractions that work gives me from what I call the “Void” or “Nothing”. However there are two ways to approach this.

  1. Get another Job is what everyone asks and expects. In a lot of ways that is the easiest option. But for me after all these years of doing the variations on this lifestyle I know that it will go the way that I’ve outlined above. Normally six months and I’m a spent force, bored and ready to move on. It even tends to manifest in physical disturbances in my body brought on by the low but permanent levels of stress.
  2. Embrace the Void. Now it’s not exactly Nothing. It’s not as though I wake up sit down and do nothing until I go back to sleep that night as I have my personal projects and day to day order to keep functioning so there is a whole range of activities and a constant supply of new and interesting opportunities turning up daily to keep me active. However compared to the 40 hour week, 48 week year work model it appears to be a void that requires filling.

The challenges with embracing the Void is that there is no order projected onto the future, no planning and no surety. It’s very much living in the moment and taking the opportunities as they arrive on a moment by moment time frame. That flies in the face of the Western model of how to get things done. I’m supposed to have lists, goals, plans for what I want to achieve and a step by step approach to achieving them. I’ve read the books on goal setting and that’s the way they say to achieve what your after. Sure that’s the model and if you have a specific goal that is what you do to achieve it, I get that.

But what if you haven’t the goal at the moment?

Continue reading