Saturday, July 21, 2018

It Seems to be Working Part 3 - Media Adventures

Media Interest. Really?

I was involved in a serious road rage incident on May 11, 2018. Described in It Seems to be Working - Part 2.

Senior Constable F had asked me for my thoughts about possible media attention. I told her that I wasn't opposed to the idea, if some good were to come of it. She asked if the Police Media Liaison until could talk to me, as apparently there had been some interest from the Channel 7 Sunday Night documentary program. I spoke to a gentleman from that police unit, and told him that I would be willing to discuss possible media articles or appearances with them. At the time I thought this was highly unlikely to go anywhere.

The Floodgates Open

My attacker's court hearing was scheduled for June 27th. Early afternoon on that day, I started getting Facebook messages from friends from the gyms where I train and teach, Lange’s MMA, and the Red Boat Wing Chun Academy, saying several media outlets had contacted them, requesting to be put in touch with me. I started to panic slightly, and tried to phone the police involved in my case, to make sure I wasn't going to do anything stupid by talking to reporters.

Unfortunately, none of the police dealing with my case were contactable. I presume they were either rostered off, or busy, out catching criminals. Which is perfectly fine by me.

About 3 PM Sophie Walsh, a Channel Nine reporter who occasionally also presents the weather on the evening news, rang my doorbell. She was shortly followed by her Channel 7 colleague, Tom Sacre. The people you see regularly on television look good on screen, but are preternaturally, jaw-droppingly beautiful human beings in the flesh. Like supermodels, or angels. These two had clothes, hair, everything just right. Tall, slim, perfect. I wondered if genetic engineering or Faustian bargains were involved.



I invited them in and sat them down and Pat and I had a nice chat with them. I wasn't prepared to put much on the record until I had talked to the police, and told them so. They probably stayed for twenty minutes. They told me that my attacker's name was Chances Moana, that he had not turned up to court, and that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. I could have tried harder to find out his name before this, but knew it would come up eventually. I was trying to move past the event, and not fixating on such details was a strategy I was employing to manage that.

Pat and I watched a story about my attack on both Channel Seven and Channel Nine TV news that evening. The dashcam video of the attack was shown along with a picture of me, in a Jiu Jitsu gi, dating back to about 2012.

Embarrassingly, I was referred to, "ironically", as a "Kung Fu master" and a "Jiu Jitsu black belt". Technically true, but ... iyiyi. One of the channels said I took myself to hospital after the attack, which hopefully makes me sound slightly more badass than I felt at the time.

It's somewhat disturbing to know you can be tracked down so quickly and easily, though not difficult to work out how they probably managed it.

Sunday Night

 That evening I had a call from a Sunday Night producer, Rebecca, who was rather annoyed that I had spoken to both Sophie and Tom already, after she ostensibly had gone to the trouble of clearing things with the Police Media Liaison first.

She asked if she could come and talk to me the next morning. I agreed. Senior Constable F and Constable R both called me the next morning and explained that my attacker had missed court because he had been hospitalised after a motor vehicle accident. "Karma, perhaps," was suggested by Senior Constable F.

Rebecca arrived at around 9:30 the next morning. She talked to Pat and me for maybe a couple of hours, about perhaps interviewing us both.

She asked about other interests we had, besides Jiu Jitsu, and I mentioned I like to take long walks and exercise in a nearby Park, which backs on to a large tract of bushland. From this a tentative schedule of interviews for both of us, and the video recording of a short bushwalk together, was to be set up for the next day.

It took until around 10 pm that night to finalise the details, for the first interview at least. I came to realise quickly that most of this was being worked out on the fly. I took the train to Hornsby the next morning, and walked to the Hornsby RSL, where a large room had been converted to a temporary TV studio.

After a while everyone had turned up. I met the technicians, who were there first, and then Rebecca's co-producer Mick, and presenter Matt Doran.

Soon Matt and I were sitting down, and we talked about the incident for well over an hour, to camera. He told me during the interview that my attacker, Chances Moana, had in fact been in a serious motorcycle accident.

He had been in intensive care, in a coma for five days, with a punctured lung, both legs and his pelvis broken, and with other internal injuries. His recovery might take two years.

Telling it like it is ... truth bombs

Obviously, they did it this way to capture my reaction, which is perhaps trickery, but, I recognised, done in the pursuit of the best possible story.

I took no pleasure from his fate. If that was karma hitting back, it was quadruple overkill. I said as much in the interview.

Matt suggested that I record a video statement to be shown to Chances. I told him, or at least, the camera, that violence had solved nothing, and only caused additional problems for him. I told him I hoped he made a full recovery, that while this was in his past and present, it didn't have to be in his future. I suggested he sort himself out, try to do something positive with his life, and to try to do some good for other people. Fairly straightforward and predictable, perhaps, but sometimes the obvious is also the best ... and I was making it up as I went.

I found Matt easy to talk to, and, while nervous, I felt I spoke well and genuinely, and would come across that way. I enjoyed the experience. I felt that I had been slightly tongue tied and went off on tangents, but having watched a few articulate celebrities being interviewed since, I saw that they did much the same thing, and still came over quite well. Fingers crossed.

I talked a fair bit about martial arts and Jiu Jitsu, how I felt my training had kept me in control of myself, and kept my injuries to a minimum, during the attack.

Afterwards, Rebecca asked me about the possibility of them filming some Jiu Jitsu. I thought, "Hell yeah!"

I messaged Nikki Lange, Anthony's wife, to inform her of this development, and both the Langes were keen to get involved. I gave Anthony's number to Rebecca, and she started setting something up with him for the following Monday.

Rebecca drove me home, grabbing us some Macca's on the way, enough for Pat as well. We were having bathroom renovations done, and a friend of ours, Susan, had kindly volunteered to mind the house, while we were out swanning around the local bushland. The bathroom tradies had finished for the day by the time we were ready to go out, so Susan's offer turned out to be unnecessary, though much appreciated.

I had suggested a location to Rebecca which was in bushland, but still close to the road, making life easier for the techies.

Pat and I took innumerable walks, hand in hand, along a path, being filmed, talking about how much worse things could have been with the attack and how lucky we were to have each other and be healthy, yadda yadda yadda. All of that is true, but it becomes weird and absurd after nine or ten repetitions.

Still, nothing to complain about. I was finding the whole extravaganza fascinating.

We all went back to our townhouse. Matt Doran had arrived and was now schmoozing Pat for her interview, while the techies converted our kitchen / family room into something resembling an interview studio. Matt talked to Pat on camera for more than half an hour. They left about 6:30 pm, leaving Pat and I looking at each other, wondering what the hell had just happened.

Jiu Jitsu Day

Rebecca and the Langes had set up the film shoot at Lange's MMA in North Manly for 11 am Monday morning. There were six of us - Anthony and Nikki Lange, Will Spillane, Andre Powell, Nick Pudney and myself.

Anthony had obviously put some thought into the presentation, as we drilled defences against a puncher while we were downed on the floor - or perhaps, in a car seat, dealing with an attacker punching us from outside the car. We did some other self defence sequences and some more spectacular throws and takedowns. A few sequences of Anthony dispensing the wisdom, belt tying, and me walking up to the camera looking tough in a gi, and we were done.

Anthony was throwing some fairly hard punches at me for the defence sequences, and Nikki actually called me later because they were a bit concerned I might have been triggered by the verisimilitude of that particular sequence. No, I was fine. I enjoyed the whole thing immensely. Jiu Jitsu with friends in front of a camera - what's not to like?

Rebecca asked if she could borrow my car for the afternoon, because they wanted to go out to the attack site and film a re-enactment, with actors. Seriously? So I drove her car back home.

She told me that they would film Matt Doran and myself driving through the incident site the next day, Tuesday. The plan was that Rebecca would drive back to my house that evening, and swap our cars back, but she rang about 6 pm to ask if she could keep my car for the evening. I agreed.

Road Games

Next morning, I drove her car out to Adams Street, the cross street to Forest way with the set of lights where the incident occurred. When I got there, I was pulling in to park and the guy in the car behind pulled up beside me and motioned for me to wind the window down. Deja vu? Too soon.

He told me that one of Rebecca's brake lights wasn't working. I thanked him, and told him it wasn't my car, but that I'd inform the owner. Which I did.

I wore a Red Boat Kung Fu hoodie, hopefully to provide product placement advertising for Rick and Amy Spain. Lange's MMA was already doing well out of this odyssey, and I wanted to share the good fortune around.

After affixing four Go Pro cameras inside and outside the car, and a few false starts and replacements getting them to work, getting wired for sound, etc. etc., Matt and I got in the car, and I proceeded to drive him around an extended block around the back of Forest Way Shopping Centre about eight times, repeating pretty much the same conversation each time.

The crew wanted me to stop at the lights at Forest Way and Adams Street, but timing this, even approximately, was close to impossible in the fairly heavy traffic. One of the last times through we stopped at the side of Forest Way (legally!) for an extended chat. Matt remarked on how busy the road was with traffic, and he was right. Not a place to get out of your car and start a fist fight or wrestling match with another driver.

The final time around the block we pulled into Adams Street, and finally got out of that damned car.

They had set up a surprise for me, bringing out Steve Bloor, the truck driver who had helped me after the attack, and who was responsible for the dashcam footage, from where he was concealed in a nearby driveway.

With Matt moderating, we exchanged the predictable thanks, pleasantries, handshakes and hugs. It was genuinely wonderful to see him again, though the nature of the occasion made our interaction a bit stilted. Not to take anything away, I was genuinely very grateful for his assistance and generosity on the day, and to the crew for setting it up. And for Steve's concern - he had been calling Senior Constable F repeatedly to try and find out how I was, but privacy regulations prevented her from telling him.

I also met the young actor who was playing my attacker in the reenactment. Unfortunately my own stunt double was not there. I would have been interested to see who they had chosen to play me - I would have liked Guy Pearce in Jack Irish, but probably would have ended up with John Jarratt in Wolf Creek.

We had a quick lunch in the Forest Way Shopping Centre Food Court. I was shouted a pretty good Thai Chicken Fried Rice. I was able to have a quick informal chat to Steve. He is passionate about road safety and spreading its message, and how people place themselves in danger around trucks, by not appreciating how limited the truck drivers' vision of the road immediately ahead of them is. Don't pull in right in front of a big truck! The driver cannot see you! If he is distracted or forgets you are there you will be turned into a human pancake!

Steve had spent the morning at Dee Why RSL being interviewed by Matt, since 7:30 AM. His rather large truck was concealed somewhere around the back streets of Frenchs Forest or Belrose. I swapped cars with Rebecca again, because they were spending the afternoon using my car for the reenactment, along with Steve in his truck, and a ute like my attacker's, which they had borrowed or hired.

I drove home and veged out until Rebecca arrived home with my car around 6 pm. Pat and I talked to her for a bit and then let her drive home, back to her office, or wherever her hectic lifestyle required her to be next.

The "Logical Next Step"

I thought that would be it. Haha. Next morning, Wednesday, Matt Doran called me. He told me they had been to talk to Chances Moana in hospital, and shown my recorded video statement to him. Matt said he was very remorseful, had a nice religious family who were concerned for him, but were horrified at what he had done, etc. etc. All of which was probably true.

You didn't have to be Einstein to work out why he was calling and telling me all this.

He asked me to think about going to Royal North Shore Hospital and meeting up with Chances. I knew they all thought it would be good television etc., and I thought it would be the logical next step to take on this journey. In hindsight, they oversold how it was going to be, but I also got carried away with the supposed magnificence and heroic nature of the gesture, and oversold it to myself.

Extreme Ownership. The outcome is always your responsibility.

I don't blame Matt or Rebecca for doing that. I'm sure the job is like herding cats, and I have no problem with being manipulated to a reasonable degree, for what appears to be a good cause - which, hopefully, is what the finished product turned out to be.

Robert Anton Wilson calls this "constructive gullibility".

I'd pretty much decided to do  the hospital thing there and then, but told Matt I'd call him back mid afternoon after I'd had time to think about it, talked to Pat, etc.

In reality, I wanted some time to myself to do my usual Wednesday lunchtime no gi Jiu Jitsu class at Lange's, have a quiet lunch and shower after training, chill out with Pat, etc., before I allowed the circus to descend on me again.

I called Matt back and told him I was in. He was happy. I knew Rebecca would be in touch with details.

I met Rebecca in a cafe at the hospital at around 4 pm on the next day, a Thursday. I took my takeaway coffee up to meet the techies and Matt, at an outside area near the hospital chapel.

We took a few sequences of me crossing an internal street in the hospital, supposedly on my way to somewhere, and a few takes of Matt and I discussing what I was about to do, and how I felt about it. I felt more nervous about this day than anything I had done for the program so far - though I was hardly apoplectic. I told Matt I was nervous because I wanted to turn this meeting into a positive outcome for everyone concerned. Which was the truth.

Chances' uncle and cousin brought him out in a wheelchair. He did not appear to be in good shape. He seemed very shy, and a bit overwhelmed by the situation. He was soft spoken, to the extent that the sound technician had a great deal of trouble capturing what he said - they didn't want to put a wire on him because of his injuries, and were relying on the boom microphone. With Matt's encouragement, he was able to look me in the eye and apologise for attacking me. I was able to forgive him and say some encouraging words about making a good future for himself and helping others, and shook his hand.

As with Steve, the nature of the situation made everything a bit stilted, and probably embarrassing, or even intimidating, for him. Hopefully, it makes for good storytelling and television. I shook hands with his uncle and cousin, who seemed genuinely grateful for my presence and actions.

After the nerves and excitement wore off and I was riding the train home, alone, I realised this wasn't anything like the climactic moment, act of courage, or catharsis that I had talked myself into believing it would be.

Chances will be in hospital for a long time, and his full recovery could take two years. I think it is possible that he may be unable to work in his chosen profession, that of tree lopping, again.

I believe it is a family business, and I'd hope they could find him some less physical way to contribute to their business, and earn an income, until such time as he can fully involve himself again. But, his injuries are still going to keep him out of life's rich pageant for at least two of his best years. Pathetic, and I mean that in a strictly technical and not a derogatory sense.

There is little upside to this, and I can't take much positive for myself from it.

I wondered if he finds talking to strangers difficult. Perhaps the circumstances of the accident on Forest Way were too daunting for him to negotiate verbally, and thus he panicked and resorted to violence.

Effective communication is vital to civilisation. Negotiating with words is far more likely to end well, than any physical alternative. "Verbal Jiu Jitsu", as recommended by many, is a thing.

Peak experiences and transcendent events can't be planned. Sad but true.

While it was not uplifting, climactic, or cathartic, as I was expecting and hoping, I still think this was the right thing for me to do. I hope it brought some comfort or relief to Chances, and everyone else involved.

"Virtue is its own reward," as the saying goes. Whatever virtue I embodied certainly did not seem to be packaged with an ultimate catharsis, a huge dopamine hit, or a transcendent moment of oneness with the Godhead.

Still, it is all there was, and it was enough.

I went to Jiu Jitsu training the next day, Friday, and had lunch afterwards with some Jiu Jitsu friends. I related the whole strange and terrible saga from go to woe, as one of my lunch companions had heard none of it. Now, THAT was cathartic.

It had been a fascinating few days, and an experience I enjoyed. I knew I'd been schmoozed and manipulated, but understood the reasons for that, and know it was done, in part at least, in the pursuit of good - a road safety and anti-violence message - and not evil. I can see that Rebecca, Matt, and the other media professionals work hard, and for long hours, and believe in what they are doing. I respected Rebecca and her work ethic in particular, and found her good company.

After meeting Chances at RNS - Loz (camera), Rebecca (producer), me, Matt (presenter), Will (sound)

The Final Cut

Final show as released for TV

What must have come close to ten hours of filming was condensed into perhaps fifteen minutes or less of final product. The Jiu Jitsu sequence at Lange's MMA was cut to about forty-five seconds. Pat's and my walk through the bush didn't make the final cut, but only appeared for a moment in one of the trailers. All the driving I did with Matt was condensed down to maybe fifteen seconds.

My meeting with Steve Bloor, the truck driver, was relegated to an extra clip on Facebook, though they did include a good deal of that, and I got Rick Spain's Red Boat Kung Fu product placement into that clip. Result!

My story was interwoven with that of another road rage incident. Several people have remarked that I presented a far more positive image than the other interviewees (Steve Bloor excepted) - though, as I replied to them, the bar was pretty low.

I had intentionally sat during my interview with my hands clasped in a Gable Grip, a standard wrestling grip that I hoped viewers who trained Jiu Jitsu would notice and remark on, a sort of Masonic secret handshake recognisable only to the initiated. An in joke. But my clasped hands never made it into the final product.

The Gable Grip

My story was followed by one about women who were having poor medical outcomes from breast implants. Before each ad break, there was a brief clip indicating what was coming up next. I was playing the program video on my computer, while running a video capture, and doing other things in the meantime.

At one stage I looked up at the screen briefly to see an glimpse of my face to camera, immediately followed on screen by the image of a pair of breasts. Not sure of the subtext of that.

Take Aways

I was conscious while I was doing this that the crew were forming an impression of me, a persona, if you like. I see that what I brought to the camera is similar.

Hopefully, I appear as a potential victim, who chose not to be a victim, and someone who could rise above the situation, act rationally, articulate his reaction to the experience competently and intelligently, and even reconcile with, and forgive, his attacker.

I am much more complex and flawed than this. I had been very conscious through this of the need to protect, and live up to, this persona, to avoid having it come crashing down, and the whole moral thrust of the program’s theme damaged or ruined. So, careful driving, no breaking the road rules, no accidents. Act politely towards everyone, with grace.

A persona perhaps, but with with some fleshing out, perhaps a better or ideal self. That persona would seem to be a goal, at which to aim up. This then, hopefully, can continue to be useful to me, beyond the short term requirements of the story.

The Ideal Self

It has been quite the experience. Remarkably, there have been many unexpected positives coming out of a very brief, though serious, assault. Overall, I'd have to say that, in the final tally, the positives well outweigh the negatives, and my life has been made richer for it.

The Latest

On August 8, Chances Moana was sentenced to 18 months jail, minimum 15. He will stay out until October, while being assessed for possible home detention. His injuries apparently prevent community service from being an option.

This was a harsher sentence than I expected.

I truly hope he can move forward after his recovery and sentence, and live a good life.

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