26 February 2010

A New National Anthem

That Australia should become a republic, change its flag to a piece of corrugated iron and change its national anthem is given. The only question that remains is 'change its national anthem to what?' I would suggest And the Band Played Waltzing Matlida by The Pogues. It's the image of Australia most Australians like to believe; a eulogy of Australia itself, it containes "hell", "ass" and "tit" to keep the kids giggling, it finishes, teasingly, with a single refrain of Waltzing Matilda, appeasing the masses who would have the national anthem champion a theif, and at over eight minutes in length I for one would relish hearing it played at the Olympics and before football finals of every code.

The Lateral Luge

There can be no mistake; the luge is a very dangerous sport. The tragic death of young Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili in training for his event at the Winter Olympics certainly verifies this notion.

And even if this unfortunate man had not lost his life, the danger of the sport is still clearly evident. It essentially involves hurling oneself down a frozen particle accelerator, on a skateboard, wearing what amounts to little more than high-tech long underwear. It had to be a soul with lateral leanings to invent such a sport.

I've been mulling over how to make this sport safer. There seem to be several possibilities. The first that springs to mind is to drastically reduce the incline of descent, to something virtually horizontal. Granted, the sport will not be quite as captivating to those who come to watch men and women in body stockings break the sound barrier, but I think a slower descent could really highlight the artistry involved in, well, lying flat and going (ever-so-slightly) downhill.

Perhaps an additional aesthetic component could be included in judging the event. Lying down need not be simply a rigid act of aerodynamics and, God-Willing, self preservation. Those competing could perhaps do other things on the way down, such as juggle, possibly, or try and shoot things. I mean, if you can shoot from skis, why not the luge? It surely gives pause for thought.

The other possibility, I believe is not only the safest, but the most exciting. Logically, the only way to ensure that competitors are not risking their lives pursuit of Olympic Gold is to ensure that prior to competing, they are already deceased.

It does not seem to be an impossibility. The aim of the luge seems largely to feign rigor mortis in an attempt to survive a preposterous plummet. Surely, departed souls have an advantage in this area. The risk to life is precisely zero. To this end, the descent could be made seriously steep. I mean practically vertical. You could send athletes over chasms. The descent could begin from a platform built stratospherically high. Forget the breaking of the sound barrier; the light-speed barrier could be given a nudge.

Furthermore, many nations have tremendous candidates who could compete right now. What with nationalist sentiment (and an alarming revisionist history) growing in Russia, if Joseph Stalin were to claim a gold medal, celebrations would erupt of a like not seen since the halcyon days of Sputnik. And if winning meant he had to defeat Ferdinand Marcos, Ho Chi Min and Walt Disney, the glory would only be greater.

I know it's a radical idea, and people may accuse me of poor taste, but think of the final possibility. Nodar, whose sporting career is thought now to be behind him, may still yet be able to taste the great success he surely dreamed of for so long. Nations will start preserving their national heroes, rather than simply disposing of them, in the hope that one last glory may yet await them. Imagine the celebrations India would see if at the 2118 games, Sachin Tendulkar were to claim the gold. I tell you, it'd be something to see.

They say death is just a part of life. When it's a part of the Olympics in the context of triumph as well as tragedy, then I'll believe them.

24 February 2010

The Lateral Olympics

The biathlon at the Winter Olympics has got to be one of the stranger sporting combinations. I recall hearing Robin Williams describe it as Amish drive-by. It's a point well made. But even given the esoteric pairing of cross country skiing and shooting, for the lateralist, such a pairing ought to be the tip of the iceberg.

Why not pair all sports at random? If events for the biathlon, triathlon, pentathlon, heptathlon and decathlon were selected by pure chance, the possibilities are simply glorious. Imagine trying to prepare for a triathlon, when the three sports were a 1500 metre swim, discuss and equestrian? Imagine the weightlifters, having lugged upwards of half a ton on their shoulders having to try not make too much of a splash as they plummet from the 10 metre springboard? I'd pay to see that. (And I'd bring my own towel.)

Doesn't really make too much sense to spend hours and hours (and stacks of money) on preparing for an as-yet-unknown sport, does it? And that's the point.

Far too much money is spent on sport. Granted, even spending all the world's money on sport is certainly still saner than spending it on nuclear weapons or, say, James Blunt albums, but it is still not quite as sensible as investing in the curing of disease, alleviating world hunger or negotiating the challenges of an all-too-rapidly changing climate.

To that end, I think an even more lateral solution is not to select the sport at random, but to select the athletes at random. An international Olympic lottery, whereby all nations send fifty randomly selected folk to compete in, say, ten sports each. That would really determine which is the greatest sporting nation on earth. Granted, you might lose a few computer programmers in the yachting, or the hammer throw, but the national pride such self-sacrifice would engender would be well worth it. And yes, it is possible that certain, large and largely undemocratic nations might simply compel all citizens to constantly train for a myriad of sports just to ensure success, but that kind of churlishness is really no more pathetic than any nation that seeks to feed its soul through triumph, rather than feed its citizens.

To be honest, if my name came up, I'd be terrified. Especially if it required horse-riding. But I'd give it a go. The Olympics is, when it comes down it, a wonderful idea. A lateral approach just might engender the spirit so often spoken in a light previously thought impossible. An elderly man, hoisting a few kilograms to his frail shoulders in a bid for Olympic gold.

I'd pay to see that.

When is it Lateralist?

Deciding whether or not a solution or action is a worthy of being called lateralist is either the most exact of sciences, or not really a science at all. More elusive than alchemy, theremin-playing, and even the endless mystery of trying to determine what excuse to offer when you want to call in sick, sometimes lateralism is to quicksilver what quicksilver is to solid rock.

Take names for example. I read some time ago of a women who named her daughter what sounded like "Jodasha" when said aloud. When spelt, it was Jo-A. A noisy hyphen. (Note to self - The Planes must record a song or album called noisy hyphen.)

As unexpected a use of punctuation as this is, it is not lateralist. It just gives a child an embarrassing name. But consider the case of a young man in Germany who badly wanted a personalised number plate, but could not afford one. So determined was he to fulfil his rather sad dream, he changed his name to his existing number plate. His name is now 7X44 2089. (Or some such - like it really matters.)

This is most certainly lateralist, if only because he did it to himself. I have far more respect for him than I do for folks who have "literal" personalised number plates. To me, it makes about as much sense of wearing a name tag in public.

Herewith, it is proposed that folks desiring personalised number-plates must personalised everything they use. I want names (with stupid 3's for e's) on t-shirts, shorts, hats and thongs. I want a dainty label hung from the front of wheelbarrows, lawn-mowers and prams. If it's good enough for the car, it can be good enough for the shopping trolley.

So let us raise a labeled glass to Mr 7. May his sense of identity never waver.

23 February 2010

The Lateralist Code #1

Lateralist solutions seldom if ever require violence. (They may suggest it in jest, but not in reality.) Violence is usually the most literal of all possible responses.

Laterally "on fire"

I don't think its presumptuous to suppose that the vast majority of those who enter the AFL commentary box - having once pulled on the boots as players - didn't exactly excel at English (or, Heaven-forbid, Literature) at school. In fact, it sometimes seems that some are called upon to offer "expert opinions" in what I can only assume is not their first language. Or if it is their first language, they've spent pretty much their entire lives sans language, which really is alarming.

What's to be done? A simple solution might be to, you know, actually find out if those seeking to be commentators are sufficiently conversant in the English. Granted, they can't all be Dennis Cometti (www.dailydennis.com) but surely it's not too much to ask that they are a little more communicative than a chimp smearing faeces.

However meritorious this vetting process might prove, it neither goes far enough, nor is it lateral enough. Instead, it is hereby proposed that all AFL players must demonstrate a high level of linguistic competence before they are actually allowed to play in the AFL.

What's not to like about this plan? Nothing! Imagine how much better a player Chris Judd would be if he'd read Proust! Imagine how much more you'd respect his efforts, knowing that he had! Consider if Alan Didak or Ben Cousins had read Dostoyevsky; both might have learnt a few things that could have done them no end of good. (Or made things worse; it's hard to tell with those two.)

Forget the beep test - bring on a rigorous examination of their grammatical knowledge. And by rigorous, I mean that I'd like to know more than whether or not they know that "brang" is not a word. I'd like to know more than if they're aware that a split infinitive is not a knee-related injury requiring four to six weeks on the sidelines.

Now, I'll grant you, not all those who can kick a ball around will necessarily be able to read a novel by Patrick White. As far as I'm concerned, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. Let the adroit also be the erudite, or let them go and do something else. At least this way, come the time of retirement, all players will be able to enter the commentary box without fear of subtracting from the sum total of human culture. Those who don't might also be able to keep themselves occupied in a comparatively wholesome manner. I'm not saying that former players have a tendency to go off the rails. Rather, I'm suggesting that they tend to steal whatever rails they can find and sell their purloined steel to scrap-metal merchants in order to live unsoundly. For shame.

Let a lateral approach to literature fortify the world of football. And let the next time I hear the phrase "he's literally on fire" be when I bump into Dwayne Russell in hell.

Lateralist Book-Buying

Book sales could be revolutionised by the introduction of selling books by the metre. Take the classic novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. It retails for around $11.95. As it happens the edition I have in front of me is 15mm thick, which is 0.015 metres. Therefore, its price could also be accurately stated as $796.67 a metre. I think this more accurately conveys the value of this text. It also explains just how foolish it is to spend $477.35 a metre on anything written by Dan Brown.

I am fairly certain that this makes the novella, Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers the most expensive book I own. It's 7mm thick, and I paid $18.95 for it, which works out to a whopping $2707.14 per metre. As good as it is, I'm not sure it's quite that good.

Books by the metre. Shopping for something to read would either require some deft mental arithmetic, or better yet, people will start taking their abaci to their local book store once more. I'm sure that the boffins at Apple will expeditiously introduce some dodgy parchment/yardage application, but I will boycott it. I won't tell you how much an iPhone costs by the metre, because if I did, and you owned one, you'd be aghast. Take heed, and buy a bargain copy of Proust. It'll save you a fortune.

An observation

Billy Connolly once expressed his loathing of people whom, when speaking, make the sign for inverted commas in the air with their hands. He fervently expressed a wish that such folk be made to use hand signals for ALL punctuation marks when they speak.

I think the notion strongly merits lateralist consideration.

Mission Statement

For far too long, there has been a simplistic desire to equate solution with problem, in the vein that one might seek to equate an equation. This is not the lateralist way. Lateralists seek to redefine the problem, the solution and if needs be, the laws of nature in their quest to set things to rights. Like surrealists with a purpose other than to make dreams from fish, Lateralists jump down the rabbit hole in search of better things.