30 August 2010

Lateralist Cricket - Time to pack it in, Stan

When I was a boy, I loved cricket with a passion. To this day, my recall of inane cricketing trivia is embarrassingly extensive. I mean really; is there any reason I should be able to list every Ausralian cricketer who's taken more than 200 wickets or made more than 5000 runs? No, there isn't. But I can.

Over the years, this love has waned. The main reason - as best I can tell - is the now longstanding inability of the Australian team to be gracious winners. I had no problem with their winning virtually every game they played. After all, they possessed for a time, some of the statistically greatest players to ever don whites. (I refuse to acknowledge the baggy green, as it is an utterly, utterly stupid form of millinery for a game played under hot sun.) And yet somehow, they managed to make their winning (or losing) something about which I no longer cared.

It seems that a team is more than the sum of its parts, but the nuances of the parts themselves never cease to matter. As Kerry "Skull O'Keefe sagely noted, with the retirement of Jason Gillespie, there was no longer a single player left in the Australian side with whom he'd be happy to share a beer. And as anyone who's followed the game via the wireless will attest, there is no saner, calmer, measured voice of cricketing reason in the world than the inestimable, Mr O'Keefe.

The Australian side is efficient and hardworking, with players who do not lack for talent. However, these epithets could also be applied to a band like Kiss, or Bon Jovi, where successful is unarguable, but intrinsic value is doubtful at best. I can see a lot of parallels with Kiss, actually; so much arrogance, but an arrogance derived from success, rather than quality. It's weird, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that many of the current crop, including their offensive captain, possessed a peculiarly malignant blend of arrogance and insecurity. I'm honestly not sure what the problem is, but if nothing else, I am certain that I no longer care whether Australia wins or loses. And this a shame.

But my distaste for the game extends well beyond the Australian side. The game itself has become ghastly to watch. Cricket was once a game of style and substance, and now, it has very little of either. Who cared what David Gower's batting average was? He was great, because to watch him make a hundred on a good day was like watching a master perform Tai Chi. Effortless and beautiful. And he once flew a plane over his own side when they were playing, after being dropped for disciplinary reasons. The man had class and cheek. To say that there is no one world quite like him any more is somewhat of an understatement. All I can say is thank Heavens for Gavin Swann and his trapped feline. Without him, it terms of class and aesthetic value, English cricket would be on a par with the cricket of Inner Mongolia. And in Inner Mongolia, for bats, balls and wickets, (and, in a pinch, players) they use yaks.

The introduction of 20-20 cricket was a bad idea, because it made the two other forms of the game seem questionable, whilst adding nothing to anything except the Indian economy. 20-20 cricket is a forced highlight reel, or worse, a highlight reel comprised of slap and tickle nonsense that could only satiate a drunken buffoon's idea of what the best of cricket looks like. But introduce it they did, and now one-day cricket looks pathetically slow, and tests look endless. To be honest, I'd scrap both one-dayers and 20-20, not simply because they are a waste of time, but because there is a law of diminishing returns. I can care about cricket (in theory) a few months of the year, but not all the time. If the footy season never ended, I'd logically have to care less about it, as I've only got so much time and enthusiasm to go round.

And yet, from here, things only get worse. The problems in Australian cricket pale to those in other parts of the world. The West Indies are a feeble excuse for a cricketing nation, which is horrible, given their illustrious past. England is effectively a representative side for the majority of the Commonwealth, and is played by people almost as distasteful as those here in Australia. India is trying to become the Collingwood of cricket, which is one step short of desiring to force cricket upon Poland, and Pakistan are the most offensive of all.

The door needs to be shut on Pakistan. A side whose players can be bought by betting syndicates, who cannot play a match without the taint of corruption, and who cannot even hold a match on home soil for fear of terrorist attack are not a viable franchise. They are certainly less viable than Zimbabwe, and they were given the boot without any in opposing teams actually being shot at. (Which, under Mugabe, is quite surprising.)

To be honest, it's probably time for the whole game to take a year or so off, and regroup. Tradition be damned - cricket is an international joke right now. I think that perhaps in the much the same way that Australia could (and should) call stumps on the monarchy when the Queen's wicket falls, cricket should come to an end with the retirement of Richie Benaud. At least for a while. And in its much-needed hiatus, it can figure out how to be a viable international sport.

To do this, it will need to reduce itself to one code. I vote for tests. It also needs to devise a system of competition and roster of games that works. And it needs to ban corrupt sides immediately and indefinitely.

Australia has some work to do, too. For a start, it needs to abolish all Cricket Academies, in the hope that less prattish folk will decide to play the game. It needs to get rid of the Allan Border Medal - an award that makes being issued with a parking ticket seem an honour by comparison. And above all else, it needs to learn how to play with a spirit and a desire that aspires to more than winning.

I've never really stopped watching cricket. It's in my blood, like some kind of virus. But I've stopped caring about it. And that's a shame.

I like to think things can get better, but I think it's going to take time, and come at a cost. Reducing the number of viable international sides down to about six teams might seem drastic, but expansion is not the mother of all success. So, it's time for the Pakistanis to get the arse. It's sad to do this to them when their country is underwater, but then I think their players should have thought harder about the long term value in being paid to, in every sense of the phrase, over-step the mark.

Or I could just start watching hockey. It's just an anarchic form of cricket anyway....

27 August 2010

Shopping - A Lateralist Encounter

Just because I detest supermarkets doesn't mean I manage to completely avoid them. I had an experience in one some time ago that really surprised me.

I was in the checkout queue, when a woman with a full basket came up behind me. I was in the process of putting my items on the conveyor belt. She was a woman who looked to be in her sixties. And she asked me, if I'd mind whether or not if she went in front of me, as she only had a few items.

Now, this in itself is a forthright if not unreasonable request. I've often waived people with one or two items to go ahead of me, and I've once asked if I could go through ahead of someone else, when I had only one item, and was in a terrible rush. (My request was granted.)

But I turned this woman down. I explained that whilst it was true that, in the grand scheme of things that she didn't have all that much, she still had almost twice as many items as I did. But in spite of what I thought were my very reasonable grounds for refusal, she looked put out. I tried to look empathetic. But I didn't try too hard.

It amazes me just how much front some people have. What's to be done? Not much, really. Perhaps the best approach, is to keep trying to do the decent thing. Many people are grateful for courtesy when it is extended to them, and others aren't likely to notice much about their surroundings one way or the other.

You know what I really wish for? I wish they could make a conveyor that can move (and stop moving) at a pace that doesn't make bottles of soda water fall over. I mean, really; how hard is that?

And one day, I'm going to finally get a t-shirt (or hat, or badge) that says, "No, I do not have fly-bys etc", and point to it when asked.

Or better yet, one that says "I dislike certain questions". That's less confrontational, and useable (at my discretion) in more circumstances. I mean, I could have pointed to it when that woman asked to go in front of me. Or when people come knocking at my door wanting to sell me a place in Heaven. Or enquire about my phone service. Or ask if I've taken the bin out...

Yes, I really should get onto that...

25 August 2010

Katter - Lateral musings on (and from) the fringes...

As a Lateralist, I am overjoyed that finally, the time has come for a man like Bob Katter to take centre stage in the epic saga that is The Election That Never Ends.

I've been trying to work out why, after detesting Wilson Tuckey with such fervour, I find myself regarding Bob Katter with such warmth. I mean, the man's track record is spotty to say the least. He once asserted that there were no homosexuals in his district, and is on record advocating for the building of a giant statue of Jesus somewhere in Queensland.

Now, Bob's an old bloke from the country who probably doesn't realise just how many gay people he's met (and liked) in his life. And let's face it, a big statue of Jesus in Queensland would hardly blight the landscape. (It's Queensland for goodness sake - a nuclear strike would improve it.) I just think that as long as a few statues of Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu, Thor and Yoda are erected, then it's fine. Oh, and that the few mountains left without a statue need a plaque that identifies them as Atheist sites.

So what's the difference between these two old buggers from the country? It's pretty clear, when it comes down to it. Wilson's nickname was "Ironbar", and that's basically all the Liberal Party used him for. He was a blunt instrument with which to beat opponents with relative impunity, and the consistent delight he took in lowering the standard of intellectual debate and parliamentary process in Australia is but one of the many reasons why anyone with half a brain (no matter what their political persuasion) should take delight in his demise. It's also why I'm deeply, deeply sceptical of any overtures made by the Liberal Party towards their "belief" in the virtues of a less confrontational Parliament. They are, it must be said, the most adversarial of Parties, and the temerity they have displayed in blaming Labor for the battles of the past three years when they have been - in every sense - the party of opposition, is cheek of the highest order.

Bob stands apart from the Coalition. He is a true independent, and more than any other politician in the House of Representatives, seeks to represent the interests of his electorate. Is he divisive? Of course. But if anything in Parliament looks coherent, it's probably not democratic. Is he wilfully obstructive? I don't believe so. But I think he'll use the leverage he's been given to advance the much maligned sector that is rural Australia. I only hope he does so for areas outside his electorate. As I'm sure Bob knows, there's an awful lot of rural Australia, and most of it is in dire need of help.

As I watched him on the 7:30 Report the other night, swaying from foot to foot with arms folded, hat shading him (and the ten square metres around him), with nostrils flaring like the spinnakers of two yachts racing, I thought to myself, this is a restless spirit; a proud, driven, ethical man with a fierce sense that his role as a politician is actually one of vocation in service of rural Australia. He will do his utmost to help those in need in his area. Is he mad? Of course he his. But he's the right kind of mad. I genuinely believe he will listen to reason on most issues. On some, he'll take some convincing, but he will listen.

I think that both Labor and especially the Coalition are about to get put through the wringer. (Jeez, it must suck being Barnaby "Fool" Joyce right now.) And it's about bloody time. These two political heavyweights have slugged it out to the detriment of not only any progress being made toward redressing numerous societal wrongs, but to their own detriment as well. In the ranks of both parties, decent people - with measured, reasonable sentiments to express - sit silent. When speaking in his Party role, Joe Hockey is a belligerent half-wit whose intellectual acumen is in inverse proportion to his girth. But when he speaks as a human being - as he's done on issues of faith (amongst others) from time to time - he's very impressive. The party machine is killing our leaders. And it needs to stop.

Bob's a spike in the spokes of that machine. Good luck, mate. You're a crazy old bastard of 70, and I'm on your side.

22 August 2010

The Election - Lateralist Musings

From the perspective of someone who has historically aligned himself with Labor and the Left, the "result" from Saturday's election looks like an absolute disaster. It is in one sense, but that's not the only way to process what has occurred. In fact, what has occurred could turn out to be anything but disastrous. But this remains to be seen.

It is staggering, if hardly surprising, that Labor managed to turn their triumphant victory of 2007 to the farcical virtual-defeat of 2010, given the number of breathtakingly poor decisions made prior to and during the election campaign. It's worth revisiting those decisions in the context of the result.

One of the most costly mistakes was the decision to take the Emissions Trading Scheme off the table. Environmental concerns formed the basis for many voters to oust the Howard Goverment, and Rudd and co made a huge tactical blunder by appearing to sideline the issue. The swing of votes to the Greens - which almost triples the swing to the Coalition - seems to bear this out. Had Rudd kept hammering away at this issue, he'd have been in the position to take the issue to the election, and attack the Opposition for its obstruction of this necessary legislation. And it would likely have been Rudd, rather than Gillard, leading the Party if this had occurred.

The Roof Insulation Scheme, The Schools Building Project and the Mining Tax are worth addressing jointly, as they are all failures of implementation and marketing, rather than with policy.

The Roof Insulation Scheme failed not because of administrative error, but because of the haste with which it was implemented, and due to the greed of those who sought to exploit the opportunity for a quick buck it presented to the unscrupulous. Labor ought to have presented it as such, and if needs be, sacrificed Peter Garrett. But Rudd stupidly elected to shoulder the blame, which was the first real smear of tarnish on his otherwise smear-resistant shining armor. It would have been considerably smarter for Labor to attack those who tried to profit from exploiting the scheme, but they did not do so with anywhere near enough conviction.

The Schools Project, in spite of Abbott's consistent protestations of waste, was independently found to have been wasteful in only 2.7% of all projects around the country. Not once did I hear Labor point this out; instead, it was left to Kerry O'Brien. So rather than press Abbott to pledge to run a Government that operated at no less that 97.3% efficiency at all time, they dropped the ball.

The Mining Tax - a tax that really ought to have been able to sell itself, was a sales bungle of the highest order. When you had Gina Rhinehart waddling to the front of a picket line to rattle her jewellery in protest, it ought to have been like stealing candy from a baby to sell the thing to the Australian public. But no, they cocked it up.

These factors created the impression that the Government had, to coin a horrible phrase, "lost its way". The decision to depose Rudd was abominably short-sighted, and a powerful signal of no-confidence from within the Party itself. How on earth could it now campaign with conviction on its record - of Health Reform, of Recession-avoidance - if the very same party responsible for that record was claiming to have lost its way? Put simply, it could not.

And during the campaign itself, Julia Gillard could not have erred more egregiously if she had tried. In stating her intention to be herself, all she did was underline for many the sense that she was a fraudulent, factionally-controlled stooge. And in calling the election so close to her rise to power, she ought hardly be surprised that issues pertaining to Rudd dogged her campaign to the extent that they did. The deposition of a Prime Minster might have occurred from within the Party, but for the public, it was never, ever going to be seen as just an internal party matter.

Tony Abbott ran a campaign of considerable energy and discipline. He channelled the petty, racist, self-serving divisiveness of John Howard, and shoved it into a pair of budgie smugglers. The perfect combination of youthful verve and fearful, baby-boomer sneer and jeer. Labor needed to attack him for being a fear-mongering throwback, but in deposing Rudd, it lost the platform from which it could do so with any authority. Those who lead that particular charge, by the way, should be removed from the party immediately, and all who voted for it should hang their heads in shame. Because this is its cost.

But Rudd is not without blame. He made his own position seem untenable. It wasn't untenable, but he made it seem so, as by failing to continue to vigorously promote the need for environmental action, he gave the moral high ground to the Greens. And they took it. The Greens were, in the political long term, absolutely right not to support Rudd's ETS, because they now have the balance of power in the Senate to show for it, and that's a power that is not dependant whatsoever on the make up of the House of Representatives, and they are going to cause a Coalition Government (should one form) no end of pain. But if Labor can scrounge a Government, then ironically, they'll be in a better position than before. It'll be interesting to see just how much these notions play on the minds of the Independent Members. A vote for the Coalition from the likes of Bob Katter is by no means a certainty. On broadband policy alone, he and the Coalition are poles apart.

And as such, another election is distinctly possible. Which is a shame, because just once, I'd like to see both Parties try and make a bipartisan Government that actually works. A Prime Minister from one Party, and a Deputy from the other. Ministers from both sides of the aisle. Why not let a Greens Senator be the Minister for the Environment? Why not let Ken Wyatt, the first Indigenous Member of the House of Representatives, be Minister for Indigenous Affairs? Is there anyone in Government who could make a better Foreign Minister than Kevin Rudd? I doubt it. But this is why this won't happen.

Right now, politics has become about spin; about the war of words that emanates around issues, rather than about meaningfully addressing them. A unified approach would mean that our elected officials would actually have to work at solving issues, rather than harassing each other as to why one or the other can't, or worse, won't. (I say worse, because often, neither even needs to broach the issue in hand.)

But if they could actually put the bullshit aside, then local members would be voted in on their local representations of issues, and Ministers would keep their jobs based on whether or not they did them effectively, which if voted uopn by 149 other people, would likely be a considerably more objective verdict than the binary blancmange of blind faith and character assassination that takes place right now.

This election verdict is as much a vote of no-confidence in our system of government as it is the Government of the day. It's significant and shameful that in some electorates, up to five percent of votes cast were informal. It's a pathetic form of protest, but I don't blame many in the community for not seeing many other options. The Coalition can carp on about being back in business all they like, but neither major party has a mortgage on public sentiment this time around. And to be honest, the only way I think they're ever likely to get it, it if they work together. Which of course, is never going to happen.

They say people get the Government which they deserve. I'm not quite sure what this result says about us, but I'll hazard a guess and say it's this; we are dissatisfied with what we have, but don't know what we want it its place.

I know what I want. I want a Government I can trust, where genuine sentiments supplant spin. Where our leaders aren't afraid to agree and disagree in good faith. Where all leaders at all times are obliged to vote their conscience. And where our most pressing issues - such as health, education and the environment are given the diligent attention they deserve.

If I thought that could happen, I wouldn't care who became Prime Minister. In fact, they could rotate it every second month, if they so chose.

But seeing that those in the political business are too entrenched in the Machiavellian machinations that have come to irreparably blight the Federal landscape, then on balance, the best result is a minority Labor Government, because the Greens will (rightly) strangle a Coalition one. Failing that, it's back to the polls.

And if it turns out that we are obliged to vote again, it really would be something if this all happened again. Maybe the pollies would finally get it; we want more from them than politics.

And for those who still think this whole election has been a farce, I'd like to point out that Wilson Tuckey is going to lose his seat. Thank you, Lord.

See? There's an upside to everything.

18 August 2010

Keeping Left: Escalator Revolution (Lateralist-Style)

Keep Left. It's not that hard, is it?

Why is it that so many of the people of Perth, when using an escalator, haven't developed the basic common sense and courtesy necessary for them stand close to the left hand side of it in order that folks in a hurry - or who just aren't bone lazy - are able walk up the thing whilst free of obstruction?

Part of me longs to decree that these blithely indifferent folks ought to be shoved aside at will, or even pushed over the side, but that is unbecoming.

Instead, I propose the following. If you find your way blocked by a person or persons, find a way to irritate them. Should you possess the natural ability, I'd fart or belch with as much vigour as you can muster. That'll probably get them moving. (But hopefully not you, too. Remember, don't strain to make your point.)

But if you don't possess the requisite bodily control, you should invest in one of those cans of horn used to define the quarters at junior footy games. A short, sharp blast - and if necessary, a sustained one - should get them moving.

But if they still don't budge, please fret not. Wait until they get to the top. Then take a moment to size up their direction. Once you know where they're headed, quickly dart in front of them. And stop. Odds are, they'll frown, then walk round you. Once they do, dart in front them again. And stop.

I recommend doing this at least twenty-six times. Eventually, they'll probably ask you what on earth you're doing. At that point, you can give them a crash course in Pedestrian Travel 101. If you're foresighted enough to have brought with you diagrams and possibly an overhead projector, they'll likely grasp the salient points in under an hour.

If not, chat to them at length about the virtues of online shopping. With any luck, they'll love it, and will waddle home only to never leave their houses again. And you can skip your way to the top like Maria von Trapp.

Together, we can make a difference.

17 August 2010

On the Retirement of Ben Cousins

It was with a genuine sense of sadness and admiration that I watched (via the internet) the retirement press conference of former Eagle and current (soon-to-be-former) Tiger, Ben Cousins.

Cousins has certainly had his share of ups and downs, and as I watched him eloquently thank friends, family and fellow players, a reminder of just how bitter a blight drugs can be in our society came into sharp focus. Cousins all but had his professional and personal life destroyed. That he managed to salvage it to the standard that he has is cause for celebration.

It's a shame that so many (particularly Eastern States-based) football pundits saw fit to pile their contempt upon a player and a club for what is unquestionably a medical condition. That poor choices play their role in the creation of addiction is both true and simplistic, as poor choices can lead to cancer, diabetes and, come to think of it, knee reconstructions. And to reduce the complexity of psychology and personal experience to "poor choices" is painfully simplistic. Whether or not the West Coast Eagles ought to have done better in assisting Cousins is another matter, and hardly one for which Cousins himself needs to be held to account.

Cousins' on-field courage was staggering, and he deserves to be remembered as a great player. That his personal life is not blemish free hardly sets him apart from his peers. They say in life that we fall to climb. Cousins certainly did that. The challenges of remaining free of his addiction without the support network of the game he loves is likely to be stark, but he deserves nothing less than our very best wishes.

13 August 2010

Lateral Communication

I have a mobile phone. I quite like it. I don't like to the same extent that some people I know like their iPhone, but I like it nevertheless. For the record, I do not have an iPhone. I'm not against them, nor do I yearn to own one; I just don't have one. Perhaps one day, if ever they make one that isn't considered flawed, I might just decide to get one.

I find it useful, assuming of course that carrying round in my pocket hasn't (or won't) give me testicular cancer. These days, I keep my phone in my drawer. It's not glued to my ear; in fact, I probably text with it more than I speak into it.

To that end, I reckon I could do without it, if I implement a particular lateralist solution.

I'm not anti-phone as such; I just think they're an unnecessary expense. The drive to upgrade them is relentless, and the pile of junk created from superseded phones an ever-growing problem. So, I think that rather than keep chasing that particular dragon, I think that it's high time we brought back the pigeon.

The carrier pigeon is symbol of simpler times. When the world moved a bit more slowly. Frankly, I see no problem at all in returning the pace of our daily lives to something a bit more sedate. We live in a world where the instant is equated directly with relevance and value, which is a nonsense. The more immediate information is, the more likely it is to be of peripheral importance, to be honest. News and information that endures isn't dependent on when, but what.

So, rather than have an electronic device, powered by a mercury (or lithium) cell, why not get a bird, powered by seed? I can see it now; the sky, a feathery highway of messages, arching gently, and delivery a message with a real twitter, or whatever you call that noise pigeons make.

And they'd be harder to use on trains, buses, and of course, in cinemas and restaurants, which I think would be a much-needed boon for our society as a whole.

Of course, pigeons are but one option. There are many birds out there, and, in our age of brand competition, why not give the other species a go? In fact, why not give yourself a veritable aviary of options. For that simple, "Do you want to catch up for dinner?" message, by all means dispatch the pigeon. But for that lengthy diatribe against Tony Abbott, you might need to press the carrier pelican into service to lug that particular scroll across the suburbs.

We're often told that technology is our friend, and that it makes the world a better place. I think we're told that so often, in order to ensure that we're perhaps more disinclined to question the actual truth of that sentiment than we ought to be. So, let's get back to nature a little, by putting nature to work. Now, that's what I call the good old days.

And if you think that what I'm proposing seems too hard, then here's a suggestion; talk to someone in ear-shot. I know that interpersonal communications are a bit old school, but it really does work. Trust me. And I'll tell you about my idea that will revolutionise radio broadcasts the next chance I get. I'd do it now, but my cat is trying to eat my phone-bird, which is making it (the phone-bird) excrete in panic.

Changing the world can be messy, but someone's got to do it.

03 August 2010

A Lateral Parliament

This election is certainly the dullest I've seen, and just to put things into context, I once paid extremely close attention to the tussle for President at the East Fremantle Bowling Club. (For the record, bowls is everybody's game.)

So, I reckon I'll ignore it for the moment. As dull as it is, we will end up with a Prime Minister and a Parliament come what may. And they'll behave like idiots.

Politicians have a lot things about which they should feel guilty, and the general conduct of Federal Parliamentarians is one of those things. It really is no wonder the majority of Australians are cynical to the point of contempt for those whom they elect to represent them.

I'm fairly certain they wouldn't carry on that way outside of Parliament (Wilson Tuckey aside), so why do they do it inside? It's a vexing question, but rather than ponder it, I'm just going to go right ahead and fix it.

It is hereby decreed that a creche be built on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

It is an insane irony, but if you place policitians in a room full of small children, they will stop acting like children, and model the kind of behaviour they ought have been displaying from the outset. So, we'll let our nation's future moderate the conduct of those in charge with setting the course of our nation's future. If you want to open your gob in Parliament, you must have a toddler in your arms. And if you start making less sense - or start showing less self-control - than the young 'un in your arms, you get to sit down. And you get a pacifier shoved between your gums. And if you throw a tanty, you'll be dealt with in a manner commensurate with your policies.

So, if Bob Brown steps out of line, he gets a hug, a pot-bottle and a crystal shoved up his clacker. Tony Abbot gets locked below decks off the coast of Nehru. Wilson Tuckey gets shot in the balls, and I make no apology for that.

Politicians only have to look at their own conduct if ever they wish to better understand why the public has so little time for them. But with a little help from generation Z, they might just learn how to behave themselves. And it not, we'll just replace them with Gen Z sooner rather than later. They'll hardly behave any worse than their predecessors. The odd dump under the back benches might seem a bit on the nose, but Wilson's dribbled shit from back there for years. If a senile redneck can get away with it, why not an infant? And I bet the breast-feeding laws will finally get the overhaul they so badly need.

It'll be like Lord of the Flies, only cooler. And the Wiggles' version of Advance Australia Fair is a must-listen. Trust me. It's for the best.