29 April 2010

The Lateral Hustings

I woke this morning to hear that British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is in a spot of bother over an off-the-cuff comment that the jacket microphone he'd seemingly forgotten he was wearing managed to pick up and broadcast to all and sundry. After a brief chat with an elderly voter, he casually remarked to his aids that it had not gone well, and that the woman was a bigot.

What's truly awful about this is that Brown's actions are being portrayed as a blunder; as all the man did is speak honestly. The chat with voters did not go well, and the woman - complaining about all the Eastern Europeans in Britain was a bigot. I worry greatly that politics and dishonesty have always been so closely intertwined, but I'm even more worried that the media and the public are actively embracing this relationship. It does not bode at all well.

Variant satirists and their works - from the halcyon days of Yes Minister, through the enduring sketches of John Clarke & Brian Dawe, through to more recent fare like The Hollow Men and the British film, In the Loop - have long tried to strip politicians of their cosmetic veneer of spin, and expose the human intrigue behind the masks, where foibles and ideals grabble eternally. It seems that when there are outraged cries pillorying Brown for speaking his mind, that there are many in society who'd prefer the mask stay up.

Frankly, I can't understand it. I'd be overjoyed if I heard a politician who claimed to come from the Left (well, the centre-left) of politics calling a bigot the name they deserve. I'd like them to go further, to be honest, and say, "You know what, folks? We're not the redneck party. If you're in favour of building a dirty-great wall around our nation, and posting guards with guns to shoot anyone trying to get in, then vote for the arms dealer on the right of stage."

But that's just a different kind of spin, isn't it? Better yet would be; "You know what folks? I don't like bigots. I like people who are open. My opponent - he's a decent man, and I like him. On most things, we agree, and I'll support him when we do. But on a couple of fundamental issues - fundamental to us, and I hope, to you, too - we differ greatly. Please use those criteria to decide whom you want to run the show, because for everything else, the face might change, but the policy won't."

Now that would be something. Politics seems to have descended to a level where politicians are afraid to tell the truth. If Brown were to come out and apologise for the insult, but stand by his views, then I'd vote for him if I could. Instead, I'll have to hope that Australian politicians value honesty and integrity over a falsified ideal that pits identical options against one another, where the electoral choice is even more banal than picking a suitcase on Deal or No Deal. The analogy is apt; because in an age of empty spin, most of the cases are empty.

28 April 2010

Lateral Junk

I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for Greece this morning, when I heard that their sovereign debt had been downgraded to junk status. Never mind the perilous financial position this puts them in, or the adverse affect this will have on the Euro, in this context, "junk" is a really, really mean word.

It makes me wonder what their status was before, which got me thinking about the other uses of junk as a descriptive term. It tends to be applied to really bad food, Asian boats and, well, junk. So, I'm guessing Greece were previously on either "casual dining", which is above "junk" but hardly "gourmet"; "yacht", which is better than "junk", but well below "ship" (or even "mega-yacht"); or possibly "store-room", which is usually where we put stuff after we're done using it, but before we throw it out. As you might have gathered, it's a long way from "pool room".

To go from "store-room" to "junk" had to happen eventually, but to go from "pool room" to "junk" must take some doing. I can't remember the last time it happened to a nation, but any framed poster depicting Tiger Woods as a Saint probably knows from where I'm coming.

Still, I hope Greece makes it through. It's a gallant little country, and deserves to do well. Still, when it finally gets around to ordering itself a new economy, I hope it diversifies beyond ouzo and damaged crockery. You know why the Greeks break plates, by the way? After drinking ouzo, breaking plates makes sense, that's why. It should come to no surprise to anyone that a liquor which - as I understand it, is made from feta juice and fermented goat urine - should taste a little peculiar. And when I say peculiar, I mean poisonous. It is to aperitifs to what Napalm is to the threat of trade sanctions.

But enough about ouzo. While Greece looks under the couch (and possibly under the Parthanon) for some coin, it's worth spending some time thinking about what can be learned from their plight, other than don't try to make a beverage (or an economy) from boiled rats. What springs to mind for me is that a broader use of the "junk" classificaton system really ought to be brought in immediately.

For a start, Commetti is "pool room", Russell is "junk". We're going to have to bring in a category below "junk" for Naylor. Given that "turd" can fertilise the garden, I'm leaning towards either "nuclear waste", even though it's a little wordy, and way too powerful, or "mould", which probably has its nose in front.

And why stop there? I'd like to be able to classify footy teams; whereby Geelong is "poolroom", and Richmond is clearly "junk". Also we could do cities; I mean, what better classification for a city like Adelaide? (Actually, add them to the list of footy teams as well.) There's a decent list of bands whose "junk" status ought to appear on their album covers. (Savage Garden, come on down.) There are even entire record labels that ought to be re-branded so it is clear to all that they are purveyors of "junk". It works for beverages, too; if you're a fan of Victoria Bitter, don't let the change of name worry you. Drinking "junk" isn't illegal; it's just stupid! The name change is for pimarily for folk who know what schaden freude is, and to a lesser extent, for people who can count to ten without falling over. Do you feel where I'm coming from?

Classifications like "junk" are to make people who enjoy feeling superior feel even better about themselves. You can fool some people that they're warnings, but you can't fool me. The "junk" label is really the equivalent of sign-posting cemeteries with the Jolly Roger. Still, if making sure that those who suck are not only aware of it, but that they are humiliated, then bring on the junking. After all, the possibilities are endless! And you can't be too careful. I mean, historically, the Greeks aren't that bright. Having no food or money may not be enough for them, or the countries from which they've begged for food and money, to be fully aware that they have no food and money. Solution? Call them names. Brilliant! And a bottomless well (or pit) of transformed joy. (The joy is recycled misery - this garbage riff is a kicker.)

The only hassle I can see is if we try to fully implement this system of classification to accurately identify the merits of our politicians. A correctly-labelled Canberra would seem like the best organised recycling depot and sewage-treatment plant this side of Adelaide, which, still trading on its "Adelaide: the five cents you get for your bottles is the best thing about our town, and sorry about the smell" motto, is yet to crack the tourist market. Still, the expression "up shit creek" could attain nuanced heights of meaning that were previously undreamt.

I think it's a system worth investigating. But to save on confusion, there will need to be some minor re-branding: in future, if someone says to you that for their dinner, they had Greek, you will know that they went to McDonalds. I can live with it if you can. If you can't, the ouzo's on me.

27 April 2010

Finally! A Lateralist Movie!

No, I've not sold the rights to this blog for a bundle of cash. Not yet, anyway. Rather, I went to the movies tonight with a mate, and watched the movie, Kick-Ass. I thought it a brilliant piece of work that was effective on a great number of levels, the most challenging of all being to balance satire with not only subversion, but affecting drama, genuine comedy and bloody, bloody violence. I once said on this blog that lateral solutions are never violent. I stand by that. Lateral entertainment, however, can be as violent as hell being blown up by suicide-bomber zombies.

Sometimes, films (like all creative works) need to challenge the expectations of their audiences. To succeed, they need to do it well. One way to help faciliate this is to have done your homework, and the makers of Kick-Ass certainly did theirs. From the myriad well-placed references to comics and films that manage to rise well above the level of mere shout-out, to the considered construction of character and plot, there is ample evidence that this film's intention was to provoke its audiences to consider carefully our relationship with fiction, our position as active (or more likely passive) citizens, the nature of violence in entertainment and society, and also at least two entire genres; and it did so whilst enabling us to feel entertained - in terms of a slew of narative elements - and more than a little disturbed.

Kick-Ass has received mixed reviews, due in no small part to so much of the violence in the film being carried out by an eleven year old girl. (In my humble opinion, the performance of that girl deserves an Oscar nomination.) This is understandable, and I won't begrudge folks who held this view. It IS disturbing. (If you don't believe me, read Lolita.) Often, great fiction is disturbing, for all the wrong AND all the right reasons. I think if you go into the film prepared to think, you"ll find Kick-Ass a powerful, thought-provoking film. It helps if you like comic books, know your Tarantino and John Woo, have an idea who Buffy is and have seen The Professional (or Leon, to use its original title), but none of these are essential, I don't think. Well, perhaps they are; I mean, I know these things, and I'm sure it's helped me establish some pretty powerful contextual meaning. But I can't say that you won't be able to make other connections with differing material. (Napoleon Dynamite springs to mind.)

This isn't really a site for film reviews. I like film reviews, but there are quite enough sites out there reviewing films, I think. (There are multiple sites that just compile reviews from other sites, for goodness' sake.) But I'm posting this because I think Kick-Ass is true to the essential lateralist principle of embracing any chance you get to see or question things anew. Not all points of view are equally valid, not all questions worth answering; but you never know until you try. Kick-Ass is, I think, as subversively intelligent as Fight Club, made with a comparably audacious flair, but with just a little more heart, due in no small part to the wonderful performances from its young (and very young) leads. Go see it, but don't take your kids. Seriously, don't take your kids.

26 April 2010

The Lateralist Failure

It emerged on the news tonight that the Western Australian Treasurer had - up until recently - been having an affair with another Member of Parliament. That both are married ought to go without saying, in that if they were not, it would be a relationship, not an affair. That she is a member of different political persuasion (a Green to his Liberal) is actually far more interesting, and worthy of discussion that the political shit-storm about to blight Western Australian politics, due in no small measure to the assumption of small-mindedness inherent to Western Australian media outlets' perception of Western Australian people.

It seems as likely as not that the Treasurer is going to lose his job, largely due to his history of being unable to control himself (or be, you know, not a fool) in the company of women. But the primary reason cited will be that he used Government money to conduct some of the affair. I think he's confessed to using tax-payer funds for two nights accommodation. The affair lasted four months, by the way.

Now, whilst I have no desire to be seen to be in favour of affairs, or for Government Ministers (or Employees) to act fraudulently, I have a few minor points to make. For a start, if all in Government employ were sacked for acting immorally, we'd have some vacancies, that likely as not would extend from the parking area to the Prime Minister's office. The same would apply if all those who put Government money to improper use were shown the door; the issue would simply determining who got the boot, which would be directly contingent with whom was in charge of vetting the expenditure's validity.

Right now, that's a shared responsibility; it's called voting. That it is in the Premier's purview to retain or dismiss the Treasurer should remind all that this is a political issue, as opposed to a professional one. Much like the WA media determines how to report the story based on its perception, it is we who are being sized up, and a decision made on our behalf. But don't worry; if you don't like the decision he makes, you can indicate as such with your vote. Whilst forming that opinion, consider the Liberal party currently serving in State Parliament, and ask yourself who'd be a better Treasurer. I don't have the answer for you, I just think there ought to be some consideration of actual - rather than perceived - consequence when determining who ought or ought not be in charge of the State's finances.

I shall withhold my views on the Treasurer, as they ought not be relevant to my assessment on whether or not he keep his job. That's not my call until the next election. A man who has an affair can, likely as not, be described as having behaved poorly, but to do so would be to confuse my business with his. The minute we start employing people on one set of criteria and firing them on another is when we've crossed a pretty dangerous societal line. When laws are broken, that is perhaps another matter, but then even then it depends on the law. Speeding? A problem for the Transport Minister, but not even then, if he's pinged for doing 67 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, surely? Like most things, this is matter best regarded in terms of its degrees. To expect perfect public servants is to have none at all. That said, having none at all is likely better than allowing all transgressions, blunders, lies to occur. As I said before, though, it's a matter of degrees.

That the Treasurer has fraudulently claimed funds that were not his to use is not in dispute, nor is the fact that such actions are wrong, and ought to bring with them serious repercussions. But I can't help but wonder his transgression would be held up as being quite so serious if it were not in the context of an extramarital affair. I don't believe Ministers ought to act fraudulently, but I don't think office-workers should steal stationery, either; and what these two opinions share is a fervent wish that summary judgements aren't made with regards to irrelevant side issues being treated as mitigating facts. And that's pretty much the focus of this posting, which, sadly, is more lateral in intent than ought to be the case in a rational, fair minded society; treat situations on their merits, and no more.

I'll end with a challenge to look at your own life, and ask yourself where you'd like the boundary line drawn between your professional and personal lives. Do you really want your colleagues to be the arbiters of your marriage? Or how you raise your children? Or what you say about your friends behind their backs? If not, think about what you're saying when you confuse a relatively minor financial aberration with your (rightly held) indignance regarding marital infidelity. Still, if you're one of those folk who think politicians ought to be held to a higher standard, you're not alone. It's just I've thought that adage is best applied to parents. If you're happy to start ranking the importance of particular parents in our society, then you're a braver man than I.

25 April 2010

Lateral Golf

Golf is, I should think, a lateral enough pursuit without me tinkering with it. But there's still one thing I've been meaning to do; and one day, I'll do it.

I love golf, even though I'm not that good at it. Of late, my driving has been pretty decent, but my putting has not. And I cannot get out of a bunker without the aid of a shovel. I suck at bunkers. But setting the mechanics of the game to one side, the focus of this particular post is the equipment; namely, the buggy.

I have a new relatively new buggy that goes with my relatively new clubs. It replaced a buggy (which once belonged to my Father) that some mates affectionately nick-named the "Sam Snead", in honour of its considerable age. As worthy as both buggies have been, they just don't cut it, excitement-wise.

I've long wanted to play a round of golf with my clubs in a big, green SULO bin. What's not to like about this plan? For a start, it has wheels and large space in which to shove the clubs. Really, that's pretty much all a golf-buggy needs. But being a good deal larger than a golf buggy, you could put at least a carton of beer (on ice, no less) in the base of thing, and still have room for a full set of clubs, nineteen spare putters, about a thousand balls, and a good-sized sack of trash.

Some life ambitions are significant in their scope; be a good person, a good father, a good husband, publish a novel, travel the world. Others are little more winsome. One day, my buggy will be a big, green trash receptacle, and my game will ascend to a whole new level. There are great days ahead...

Labor Day Lobster? Public Holiday Nourishment.

It's ANZAC day today - one of the justifiably significant days on Australia's national calendar. Unlike a number of national days, this one comes with a snack! If you've never eaten an ANZAC biscuit, chances are you've not been in Australia very long. I like this association between an event and a food. And I think there should be more of it.

I think we should have the chance to chow down on Foundation Day muffins, Labor Day baguettes and New Year's Day crumpets. In fact, we may need to create some additional holidays for some culinary delights that might otherwise go uncelebrated. To that end, May 7th is now Bradman Day. We traditionally have croissants.

Lateral Souvenirs

I've been meaning to mention that a few weeks ago, my wife and I visited Margaret River.

I don't go to Margaret River as often as I should. For a start, it's a lovely place (envisage the term "boutique country and you'll be pretty close to the feel of it), and with the addition of a new highway, not too far away. With its beaches, restaurants and wineries, it makes for a relaxing (and indulgent) retreat.

But as I walked from shop to shop, digesting one meal and eagerly planning the next, I couldn't help but notice that in the midst of designer labels and local arts, there was of course a number of shops selling the kinds of tacky souvenirs that sadly adorn any location with a tourist target-market. I have no particular moral issue with folks trying to make a living off-loading as much cheap shite to any folk silly enough to buy it. But, surely there is a better way.

To that end, I propose that any tourist items - which includes all items featuring the name of the place in question or some associated geographic feature - must be manufactured in the place in question. There is something inherently stupid in buying a souvenir of one's time in Margaret River which has been imported from China. Aside from being symbolically illogical, it hardly helps the local economy in the way a tourist purchase should, and it's also environmentally stupid.

So, let's change things. Go to a place, like it, feel obliged to take a bit of it away with you? Take something actually made in that place, rather than brought in just so you can play the tourist game. Me? I bought chocolate. And some secondhand books. Okay, they probably weren't made in Margaret River. And that bottle of port, from Portugal, probably wasn't either. Damn.

24 April 2010

A Lateral Ring-Tone

As I watched - for what must have been the thousandth time - one of the sappier advertisements on Western Australian television, I was reminded of something I thought of a while ago. The advertisement in question was for City Subaru, which largely comprises of what is, in effect a little folk song, sung in worrying earnest by a young woman, and her acoustic guitarist, who, just to add to the folksy vibe, gives his guitar-body a percussive slap or two. It's a wonder I've not heard anyone busking it in the Hay St Mall.

And that's when it struck me; I could irritate a lot of people if I got that tune as a ring tone for my portable telephone. (I don't care for the term "mobile", unless it's a coat-hanger with visual distractions affixed to beguile infants, and a cell is where you put neer-do-wells.) You see, I don't actually want to irritate people indiscriminately, but I'd like to have a back-up ring tone to respond to people who seem not to care about just how bothersome their ring tones are.

I once worked in an office environment where one particular women, who was frequently absent from her desk - but whose phone was not - who thought nothing of letting her infernal device ring incessantly, and at a volume that could raise the dead. Fortunately, I managed to shame her into altering this practice, largely through ruminating airily about the kind of ring tone I might soon select if she did not change her ways. I thought about getting a fog horn, or an air raid siren. I thought about the sound of a chainsaw, ideally being used to remove the leg of someone lacking either anaesthetic or infection. If somebody had thought to record the sound of Dresden being bombed, I could have used that. Or, most annoying of all, the sound of Brian Naylor attempting to call a football game.

But as it turns out, none of the above were needed. A shame, in a a way, as I've never set my PT to ring with anything but the blandest of ring tones. That Subaru advertisement could be just the ticket. And if I could isolate that percussive slapping sound, that might work perfectly to signify the arrival of a message. (The word "text" is redundant - there is no such thing as a message that is not a text. You can call it a word message if you like, but a both word message and voice message are texts.)

You know, it'd be great if I could get the sound of Big Ben on my PT. And I'll conclude with a little known fact; the tune that most clocks play to sound the hours has lyrics. They are; "O Lord our God/Be Thou our guide/That by thy help/No foot may slide." I can't for the life of me think of something poignant, or even interesting to add in response to that, other than to wonder why the lyricist thought that people need pray about their adroitness every fifteen minutes for the duration of their lives. I guess footpaths were more slippery back then.

And once my phone sounded like a clock, I could go about making all of my appliances swap sound. My washing machine could whistle when my clothes are done, my kettle could chime like my doorbell. (Which I guess would be silent, as I don't have a doorbell. So, I'll have to get a kettle that knocks.) Then, I can go about giving my whitegoods more slightly less literal names.
All while humming that Subaru tune. I wonder if it's on iTunes. Lord, I hope so.

Incidentally, this kind of blog is what happens when the Eagles play as badly as they are right now. John Worsfold, you've got a lot of bloody work to do.

We're going to need a bigger teacup...

I doubt there is a river of excrement of sufficient capacity to accommodate all of the poor folk - sadly now sans paddle - adversely affected by the inability of certain individuals at the Melbourne Storm to pay their players the going rate. Mind you, I bet there a few particular disgruntled members who'd happily grunt away for eternity, if only to create an excremental stream deep enough to drown Brian Waldron.

I've never really cared for Rugby in any form. I can tolerate Rugby Union, but League has always reminded me of what it might look like if you asked a group of troglodytes to try and built an ant hill. That the ground remains as flat as it does is telling.

My feelings regarding Melbourne are not dissimilar to my feelings on Greece; in that I bear neither ill will, but will lose little sleep pondering their respective (and respectively unfortunate) fates. That Melbourne now has a new, almost-completed White Elephant - in the form a stadium for a team in disgrace from a sport barely tolerated - seems sad, smirk-worthy, fair and apt in equal measure. It seems somehow appropriate that a rather insubstantial code - in its quest for a greater market share - has fallen foul of the law.

And yet, the real crime is not one of just of greed, but of also hubris; the belief that a select few were above the code and its conditions. And I include the recipients of this fraud as well as those who perpetuated it; after all, it is only because certain players were willing to be bought that a crime of bribery - and that is what a salary cap breach is in effect - was able to be committed.

I sincerely hope that the Melbourne Storm can play out the season with the kind of commitment that sportsmen were once able to display when their remuneration was little more than pocket money. That the players are not in a position to receive premiership points does not mean they cannot play to win. Imagine how much sport would benefit from seeing a humiliated side show some resilience and some pride.

The Melbourne Storm may no longer be a financially viable franchise. But they can still demonstrate that they are a fan-viable team, by playing like one.

06 April 2010

May I collect thee? A lateralist request...

In their weekend match, West Coast Eagle player Shannon Hurn delivered a solid bump (or shirt-front) to Port Adelaide player Paul Stewart which left him (Stewart) with concussion and a broken nose. It was a very solid bump. Earlier today, Hurn accepted a two-week suspension for rough conduct. I find this extremely depressing.

Anyone who saw the incident would surely conclude - like I have - that there was very little Hurn could have done. Stewart, like Hurn, was going for the ball. Stewart erred by slipping, which meant he bore the brunt of Hurn's intent for the ball. Stewart has not escaped unscathed, but his injuries will not prevent him from representing his club this weekend. Hurn will miss the next fortnight, through no real fault of his own.

That the incident was physical is not in question, but I have issues with it being called rough. Hurn may have knocked his opponent unconscious, but he (Hurn) is a large man both extremely solid and extremely agile. If it were not his clear intention to minimise contact with Stewart, then I think he could have caused far greater injury. Get a bloke who weights 100 kilos to run at you with malicious intent and see what happens. Trust me, a broken nose and a headache would be the least of your problems.

Now, short of abandoning his pursuit of the ball, I don't know what Hurn was really expected to do. It bothers me that the AFL do not see that they have created a logical quandary, where neither of the only two options available to a player are acceptable. I mean, if you have to decide not to try and get the ball because you might hurt your opponent, then it's surely time to stop pretending that footy is still a contact sport. Of course, it's still physical; soccer is physical; but the fact remains that there was once a difference between the two codes signified by more than simply the use of one's hands or the average quantity of goals scored. Now, the difference seems largely discernible only by the weather in which each code is played. That, to put it bluntly, sucks.

I like my footy played with some degree of body contact. I am not advocating a return to the bad old days where blokes slugged each other indiscriminately, but I do not want footy to become a slightly more anarchic and adroit version of basketball. That might work for some folks, but it will not work for me.

And yet, I recognise that we live in the oxymoronic age of professional sport, which apparently is the justification for penalising the inevitable. (I don't think Dimwitriou knows a lot about mine sites as work-places, but I'll set that aside for now.) So, perhaps the issue is one of awareness. To that end, I propose that players be allowed to knock the stuffing out of one another, with the proviso that they provide their opponents with a written declaration of the intent to inflict physical harm prior to doing so.

Now, I'm sure this will slow the game down a little. But that's ok. Test cricket takes five days, and that seems to work just fine. To be honest, I can see far more gain than loss. I mean, just think of this simple practicality; those folk currently serving as runners will also need to become both scribes and postmen (or postwomen), which will no doubt bring to them increased remuneration commensurate with increased responsibilities. No complaints from them, I'd wager.

Initially, I think the real winners will be the players. I mean, look at a bloke like Barry Hall. I don't care what they say down at Dog-land; you can't tell me that Big, Bad Bazza isn't just itching to snot someone any chance he gets. Now, you'd think that anyone in line for one of Barry's love pats would decline the chance to receive one, if given the opportunity. But to reach such a conclusion would be to apply the logic of a sensible person, rather than a footballer. Footballers, you see, don't think like normal people. For them to refuse a request by someone requesting to be allowed to sock them one would be the height of bad manners. You want to biff me? Please, I insist! Just tell me where to stand, and I'll be there. That's how a footy player worth his salt would respond.

So, not only will players continue to be able to biff each other to their hearts' content, they'll learn a few pointers about etiquette whilst they're at it, about which, if we're honest, they're clearly learning sod-all right now. It takes a bit of thought - at least it ought to - to artfully compose a request to give some other chap a bunch of fives. To that end, I sincerely hope time and money is set aside for compositional training, and for there to be tribunal hearings (and sanctions if necessary) for those who just get their scribe to place a question mark next to a circled picture (of the biff-ee-to-be) and make their X illegibly. No, under my new regime, actuall formalities must needs be exchanged.

In fact, it could be quite the spectacle for fans, if each solemn request for a bit of argey-bargey be writ large on the big screens, with the accompanying oohs and ahhs, and careful analysis from expert commentators, whose ranks will need to expand to include a literary expert, unless of course Dennis Cometti is in the box. (Don't forget: Daily Dennis.) I can hear it now, an earnest voice opining on how a particular player's use of "sincerely" rather than his customary "faithfully" is surely a sign of his profound wish to give his opponent a right seeing to. It'll add a real literary zest to a game that for too long has floundered belly-up at the shallow end of inter-personal communication. And imagine the anticipation for spectators, knowing that later today, Player X is finally going to deliver to Player Y his long-promised bop to to the noggin. Honestly, I'd pay to see that.

It's either let the players get on with playing a full contact sport, or allow this obsession with professionalism to actually transform the game into something new. A game that embraces change (via more rule alterations than I thought possible) whist simultaneously denying it is sure to tear itself apart before too long.

To return to the incident that sparked this blog, there was bugger all Shannon Hurn could have done. In my new regime, perhaps a post-dated card (the kind with which one might send belated birthday wishes) will be sufficient, providing it doesn't happen too often. Still, I hope that with his time off, Hurn can send a few letters in time for him to be able to dish out the kind of punishment that will likely reflect his considerable frustration at having to twiddle his thumbs for a fornight after simply continuing with his intention (and right) to get hold of the ball.

But I am nothing if not an adherent to that which I propose. If all responses to my new scheme could be received by Thursday at the latest, that would be appreciated. And lastly, to Dwayne Russell (if you're reading), consider yourself notified. I'm coming for you. With kind regards.

Sport & Religion - A Lateral Solution

There seems to have been a debate raging recently between those who declare an affiliation to a particular religion, and those who declare with comparable ardour that all deities are fictitious. I'm not certain why people are so interested in the beliefs of others. I'm not saying it's necessarily problematic, but I wonder if those who seek to justify their own beliefs, or those who take the bolder - some might say unwarranted - step of seeking to question (or even try to change) the beliefs of others have actually through what they are doing. Perhaps I'm asking too much of them, I don't know.

What I do know is that recently I was forwarded an - what to call it? Blog, I suppose - purportedly written by Gary Ablett Snr, the former star footballer from Geelong. The subject matter he chose to address was rather surprising, given his previous careers, firstly as a footballer, and more recently as a neer-do-well, now reformed (or if one is a stirrer - re-defined). Mr Ablett chose to talk about religion.

That he chose to frame his views from the point of view of one who has noted a progressively downward turn in society's values and could not, in good conscience, remain silent any longer was in itself sadly all too prosaic; so often, it seems that when people - often decent, reflective people, too - reach a point of crisis in their own lives, they cannot fail to see their personal journey as being utterly synchronous with the journey of society itself. It's as if, having struggled through a long dark night of the soul, they have emerged, somehow, atop a vast mountain; whereby they (and they alone) have attained the perspective requisite for all society's ills to be put to rights. The geographical inconsistency in the simile is not accidental; and it's a good rule of thumb for assessing your mental health, I think; if you believe you have worked out what's wrong with society, trust me, you haven't, and, you need a good lie down.

It's not my intention to ridicule poor Gary, as I don't think he really needs my criticism, nor for that matter, my praise or support. But he did get me thinking about all of the ill will currently emanating from this theosophical debate with which society has temporarily become fixated. (And it is most assuredly temporary. One of the good things about a mass media with a low attention span is that we rarely become inundated with any issue for too long. It's also why some rather more pressing concerns fail to get the sustained and rigorous attention they deserve, but then there are always swings and roundabouts in this world.) Seeing this issue, in my humble opinion is likely here to stay in the world (if not the mass media) for some time, then why not put it to good use? It is hereby proposed that all footy teams (starting in Australia - but spreading world wide if it takes off) be immediately dissolved, and re-built from the ground up, according to beliefs.

I am a proud supporter of the West Coast Eagles, but would happily let this allegiance dissolve if I knew that I could tune in on Saturday to see the Atheists (known as the Fremantle "Dawkins") and the Christians (either Benedict's XVIII or possibly - and conveniently, the Saints) really take it to one another. And on Sunday, perhaps the Buddhists v Muslims could match them in intensity. Of course, there will be a few practicalities to resolve. I mean, I wonder if, in honour of their spiritual leader, - who, for once, is actually a spiritual leader - the Christians will field only XVI players, rather than the customary XVIII? And will the Muslims observe the dietary strictures of Ramadam, when it is likely to leave their players a little low on energy in the month before the finals? I await the outcome of these little quandaries with keen interest.

But why stop there? Why should our definition of belief only encompass the religious spectrum? How about the Loggers and the Greens each form a team, and sort out their differences like men? Forget the whether or not an old growth forest gets turned into sawdust, it's when four points are on the line that you'll see who really believes in the strength of their cause. And, given that Loggers would be basically the Fitzroy of the new league, there's a merger ready and waiting between the ailing Loggers and the rising force that are the Polluters, who, under their new banner, the Carbon Negatives, could well dominate the competition for years to come.

I mean, who hasn't thought about how great it would be to have an all-Indigenous side in the AFL? Well, now it could happen. But not only can it happen, they can stick it to the White Supremacists in the revamped Heritage round. With any luck, Labor can thrash Liberal, too, and the Refugees can give the Isolationists the flogging they so richly deserve! And the Gays could pants the Homophobes! And then, later in the season, they can do it to them again!

That's the beauty of organising sporting teams according to beliefs; there can be regular, set fixtures for these disputes. So, if the Athiests lose, they can take heart in the fact that before too long, they'll get another crack at those Christians. It's all about next week in football; no point living in the past. I really do hope this new system makes it worldwide. It could do wonders in the middle east....

Sometimes, issues can be hard to resolve. It's a healthy aspect of our society, I think, that we keep coming back to the quandaries that have flummoxed us in the past, and no doubt will continue to vex us in the future. It's just a shame that so very rarely are complex, nuanced issues addressed in a manner befitting their complexity. So, if we're going to reduce them to the level of a media sport, we might as well go the whole hog, and form an actually sporting league league. After all, to many in Australia, sport is their religion; so, let the sporties become a belief-based franchise in their own right, and have at it.

Of course, there are many who, rather than ponder or pontificate at length about their (or others') particular beliefs, simply get on with playing the hand that they are dealt. They aren't defined by the vociferousness of their beliefs, but rather, their moderate indifference to binary states of conviction. I like to think of them as the "Meh" brigade. And you know what, if the "Meh" brigade turn out to be the strongest team in the competition, then perhaps there's something to be learned from that. But I am happy for what precisely there is to be learned (or by whom) to remain, at least for a while, a transcendent mystery, or, for those of a less theological bent, an as-yet unsolved proof. It's been long established that you don't want to peak too early in the season.

But enough rules, umpire; let the boys play.

04 April 2010

Laterally Brutal

It's probably axiomatic to say that television commercials do not have our best interests at heart. That I find many, many commercials profoundly irritating will likely come as no surprise to anyone who has read some of the other entries on this blog, let alone actually met me.

I'd suggest that offering a scathing critique of any number of television commercials would be akin to shooting fish in a barrel, if that particular cliche didn't ring quite so false a note for me. I am not a gun person, and I like fish. When I say I like them, I like them swimming free, or on my plate. Shooting one would seem to counter both desired states in a fashion that does not please me. Also, the only gun I could (if pressed) get access to is an old shot gun that once belonged to my grandfather, and which now (to his dismay) belongs to my father. And here is where the problems start.

Given the rather unwieldly length of this gun, there are several logistical issues. A ladder could be used, I suppose, but this is yet one more item to attain, after the need to get a gun, bullets, a barrel, some water and some fish. As far as cliches designed to express ease actually go, this is getting difficult.

Perhaps a small barrel could be used, whereby the gun could be pointed directly at the fish from overhead, whilst in a standing position? Hmm - this is a large gun, so the barrel would have to be really quite small; not much more than a bucket, really. Personally, I'd worry about shooting myself in the foot.

Which leaves the final option of simply trying to shoot the fish from through the side of the barrel, which would seem to negate any notion of marksmanship, unless the barrel was clear perspex or something. Either way, unless you got the fish first time, the cliche would then need to be quickly adapted to shooting at fish flapping helplessly on the ground in lieu of having an intact barrel in which to swim. The bloke who opted to shell peas rather than shoot fish in a barrel ought to be feeling pretty smug by now.

As such, I intend to press on from my close scrutiny of this particular expression, and focus on the comparatively far simpler task of applying the same process of rigorous examination to that horrible little advertisement for the deodorant, Brut, which currently happens to be my least favourite commercial.

I don't know if you've seen the advertisement yourself, but the premise is pretty simple; an anotomically imprecise robot (which seems to be male given the deepness of its leer) "improves" the things around it, to create its perfect little world. The focus on possessions is as materialistically asinine as one might expect from a product pitch, but the extent to which this nasty little advertisement presents women as malleable fantasy objects is the bitter little pill that sticks in my throat.

That the slogan for this advertisement is "still brutally male" should sound a pretty loud warning bell on its own. Brutal is not a word I'd be using to advertise a deodorant, unless my target market was rapists. To be be brutal - if the dictionary is to be believed (and it's generally one of the more reliable texts out there) - is to be savage, cruel, and even inhuman. Well, the main "male" figure in this commercial is a robot, rather than a man, which to me, makes the gender representations all the more cowardly. It is defined to mask the offensiveness of the commercial? I think it is.

That our little robot coward turns a doll, which is conveniently and offensively labeled an "object" into a two-dimensional caricature of a sexy women is appalling on more levels than I can count. An image associated with a child becomes something to pleasure a fake, hollow male avatar. Honestly, whenever I have to sit through this advertisement, I feel I need to apologise to all women and men on behalf of my gender. Please believe me when I say that we are better than this.

It seems then only appropriate that Brut stinks to high heaven (or should that be lowly hell?), and couldn't possibly deodorise anything. Its pungent stench could mask the smell of a rotting horse, but I'm not sure that one is actually gaining anything from arranging such a substitution. Better to just smell the horse, methinks.

We could just hope the advertisement gets taken of the air, but that's not enough. In truth, nothing really is. But if you see anyone buying or wearing Brut, pat them on the back (or butt heads with them if you want to be culturally sensitive) and then give them a bottle of cheap bourbon (something called Pig F*cker or some such), a gun, some ute keys and some porn. Oh, and a doll. Then encourage them to drive at high speeds over a cliff. Yee-hah.

Companies are always going to try and sell their products. But don't let them get away with selling your soul while they're at it. Life really ought to be embraced as being too short and too precious for this kind of shit. I know that my life is far too short (and precious) to ever wear Brut. I'd rather shoot fish in barrels.

Lateralist Disaster Movie

I don't really know why, but I quite like disaster movies. Watching some (if not all) of the planet get torn apart by some almighty force in high definition is, for me, a good night in. (I'm a home theatre kind of guy - and sooner or later, I'll explain why.) I'm not saying I put Roland Emmerich into the same directorial league as either Stanley Kubrick, Clint Eastwood or a host of other directors, but he does what he does with considerable aplomb, as far as I'm concerned.

Years ago, when there was a particular run of disaster films being released, the thought occurred that there was one major form of disaster that was getting short shrift from the Hollywood machine. We had floods, fires, volcanoes, asteroids, hell, even the earth's core somehow managed to lose its mojo, and despite the clear love for the genre amongst audiences worldwide, no one thought to put drought in the stage centre position it clearly deserves.

I'll make my case in simple terms. One of the key problems with any disaster film is the script. Not that the scripts are often inane, vacuous or shallow; no, the problem is the need to have one at all. Whilst it is possible to have dialogue in the midst of glaciers melting or islands splitting and sinking, it can be somewhat distracting for audiences. In a move sure to gladden the hearts of all would-be Emmerichs (and hopefully the great man himself), I've managed to get the script for Drought down to a single dialogue exchange, which in itself comprises just three words.

The script:

Rained yet?

Simplicity itself.

Now, I'll grant you, as a natural disaster, drought may not initally appear to have the flashy insouciance of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake, but in the hands of the right director, don't underestimate its allure. Picture it; no water. Anywhere. No water at all. Bone dry. No "H", no "2" and certainly no f*cking "O". Once you start opening your mind to it, it just gels, doesn't it? Or rather, I should say "clicks" rather than "gels", as gel is a bit too liquidy for our theme.

Drought. Give it a chance, and it'll rock your world.