Larrikins and one liner’s

I had many comments about my last post. Trying to explain why cricket is not boring. A depressing number of you were likewise unconvinced. It made me depressed. It was a combination of your ignorance and my inept explanations. I tried to explain the game. That was stupid of me. The only people apart from foreigners who find cricket boring are those who only watch it on TV. You have never been at the cricket. That’s obvious.

You don’t go to the cricket to watch the cricket. You go to the cricket to be at the cricket. Being at the “G” (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for the Boxing Day test is a semi religious experience. You have 90,000 people mostly Australians who have gathered at this hallowed ground for one reason and one reason only. They have walked through the turnstiles to be part of an Australian cricket crowd. You are there to enjoy the larrikins and the one liners, the cricket itself is incidental.

When you are at the cricket you can’t see the cricket. It’s too far away. They are like little stick figures on a disturbed red ant nest. If you are going to be at the cricket and for some weird reason you want to watch the cricket you take a mobile device with a paid cricket app and subscription or you be completely primitive and crane your neck toward the grounds big screen if something ever happens.

It all starts with what people try to smuggle into the cricket, up their shirts and about their persons. More of that later.  The main parts of a cricket crowd are the signs, the costumes, the barracking and the crowd participation.

The best sign I saw this year was “Kentucky Fried Poms”. There is nowhere around the ground where you don’t get a visual chuckle sooner rather than later. Every day is different and the signs evolve with the game.

The costuming started years ago when people bought watermelons to ease a blistering hot day, ate the inside out and wore the shells on their head. Wearing Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets is a Johnny come lately imitation. Since then cricket costuming has become magnificent, imaginative and truly entertaining. Those that are provocative and bordering on bad taste are smuggled in under the shirt.

Apart from signs the most common things smuggled in under your shirt are blow up beach balls, sex dolls and blow up sheep (If we are playing New Zealand). A released beach ball out on the ground is invariably followed by a fat unfit security dude trying to stab it with a penknife amidst fickle winds and jeers from the crowd.

A dejected batsman dismissed for a duck(no score) on that long lonely walk back to the pavilion will often look up to see someone in the crowd simulating sex with a blow-up sex doll. A clear and unambiguous message.  If it’s a New Zealander it will be a blow-up sheep and the whole crowd will be going Baa…Baa…Baa!

This last test series a lot of little kids had Mitchell Johnson moustaches drawn on their faces. I loved it. That’s the true spirit of the game.

That brings me to the one liner’s. Somewhere in the crowd around you will be a true Aussie larrikin with a fantastic sense of humour. He or she will entertain you all day. I was at a test match with my Dad when we were playing the West Indies. Big bad Wes Hall, a really fast, fast bowler was ripping them down to some poor unfortunate Aussie. He swung and missed, he swung and missed again, swung and missed a third time when in a dry drawl an Aussie voiced called out: “Hey mate it’s a little round red thing.”

Priceless are the gems, the one liner’s you will hear at the cricket. It is a good enough reason alone to be part of a cricket crowd. The crowd feeds of the fun its larrikins provide.

I often think the real game is not played on the ground; it’s played between the crowd, security and the coppers (police).
Apart from the construction of “beer snakes” made from empty beer cups the Mexican wave has long been a favourite part of crowd participation at the cricket. They tried to ban it a few years ago. Some thought it was because someone threw a fried chicken into the air and it brained a kid. The other reason given was that someone threw a baby into the air during a Mexican wave.

Security would try and identify the person initiating the Mexican wave and throw them out. Wear a hoodie sit next to some poor old innocent start the wave and like a well-trained sniper quickly change position and watch while the crowd booed and jeered security as they dragged the old guy away. People smuggled balloons in, blew them up, tied them to a piece of string and placed them in front of that sections security camera, ran down and started a new wave undetected.

Then the crowd just changed the wave, a cheeky Aussie variant that they could rightly claim was not in fact a Mexican wave. The authorities have since given up and I am pleased to announce the Mexican wave is back in all its glory. The true challenge of the Mexican wave at the “G” is to get those pompous pricks in the members stand to participate. Usually the wave goes around the ground, stops at the members stand and starts up again on the other side. On rare occasions the members stand goes up as well and you will hear the crowd roar approval and appreciation.

As the day gets late and lubricated its drunken dickhead Showtime. Sometimes police can be jeered for trying to eject a happy drunk or cheered as they hunt down an obnoxious drunk and throw them out. The crowd points out the ones they want thrown out and defends those they don’t. The coppers walk the thin and fickle line of the crowd’s approval and sense of justice. Tell me another place you ever see that happen?

It’s a little glimpse of the ancient colosseum, temporary time travel. When you see a section of the crowd verbally abuse a security guard trying to sanction a larrikin running on the edge of the rules but still, for now, a crowd favourite you will understand the perverse joy Romans must have had when turning their thumbs up or down.

During the day you make lifelong friends with the couple in the next row and forget them completely tomorrow.

You think I’m wrong? Watch cricket on TV but ignore the players and notice the crowd, none of them are watching the cricket unless there has been a wicket, a boundary, a big 6 hit into the members stand or a batsman scores a ton(100). The rest of the time they are their own entertainment. In fact the slower the game the better the day you are going to have.

It’s a bucket list experience, ask anyone that’s ever been there. I rest my case.

Thanks and Best Wishes

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes for the Festive Season, whether you are Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Rastafarian. In particular I extend my thanks to you all for reading my blog this year. The support, encouragement, ideas and feedback I have received from everybody has been truly gratifying. My posts have been few in the last two months due to an overload of public service paperwork required by my profession as a teacher. Because of your fantastic support I will aim for one or two stories per week in the New Year.

I failed miserably with my class of wonderful Danish students from Aalborg in two things. First I totally failed to convert them into happy little vegemite’s.  Universally they hate it. They think it tastes like shit. In fact that was my first Danish word, “Lort”. It tastes like lort with salt they said. One of them wanted to take a few jars back as presents to reek revenge on friends. Another thought it was illegal in Denmark and if it wasn’t it should be.

They arrived 18 weeks ago, milk white and freaked out to be in a country that has more poisonous snakes and spiders than anywhere else in the world. They left bronzed beach lovers still confused by Australian slang. Was a “good piece of crumpet” a breakfast food or a pretty girl? It’s both mate didn’t help. They left in board shorts, thongs (not the underwear kind) and T shirts to arrive home to minus five degrees. It doesn’t get that cold in the average Australian refrigerator. If you want a piece of Denmark this time of year sit in your fridge for 30 minutes. A form of extreme bonding.

My next failure was to excite them about cricket. No matter how hard I tried I could not excite them about our wonderful summer game. Best of luck today everybody in your back yard test matches. When I told my nephew I reckoned I could still take him down like I could when he was a little kid I got this reply:

“HaHa, merry Xmas to you numb nuts. I hereby accept your backyard cricket challenge and will commence bodyline training immediately. All challengers will be required to bring their own bat and ball and I recommend you bring a box uncle. “

I couldn’t entice the Danes even with the mathematics of Mitchell Johnson bowling at 155 kilometres an hour over 22 yards. The batsman has milliseconds to decide whether to play the ball forward or back. Nah it’s boring they said. How can you play a game that takes five days to play and even then its likely nobody wins? Trying to describe the variable unknowns of a wickets wear over the five days of a test match being a highly strategic part of the game was totally lost on them.

I will try harder with next year’s group. Thank you once again, one and all.

GOT S03E10 Withdrawal Symptoms

About this time last year I walked into the staff room to announce how much I was looking forward to the start of season 2 of The Game of Thrones. I had read reports the previous year before season 1, how HBO was being considered very brave to do a fantasy series. They had not being rating well in the years preceding and the amount of money they were going to spend on both locations and authenticity was impressive despite what many perceived as a risky concept.  The producers believed that the cult status the series had received from a very large readership could translate to the screen and it did, big time.

One of the early reports about the series stated: “It’s a cross between the Sopranos and the Lord of the Rings” it was an understatement.

One of those cult readers was a staff member who asked on seeing my enthusiasm if I had read the books. What followed was one of those cross media conversations: was it better to read the book then watch the series? Or watch the series and read the book. In the opinion of my colleague HBO had done such a fantastic job in selecting the actors that they matched the pictures your imaginative reading conjured up perfectly. As I read the books I found that to be true.

Something happened to me that hadn’t happened for years. Reading the books was an addictive can’t put down obsessive experience that possessed my every waking moment. It was great, sort of. It would be 2 O’clock in the morning as I finished that point of view chapter. It would leave that character on a cliff edge with their arse hanging in the wind. The first sentence of the next chapter was an enticing summary of where that characters arse was left hanging. Its only 2 O’clock. I’ll just read one more chapter. Next time I looked up it was dawn. I just ate, slept, crapped and read the entire series back to back. It was mortifying to finish and learn that there are two novels left to go to complete the series. It usually takes George RR Martin three and a half years to write one. That’s seven years to find out how it all turns out.

I needed therapy. On his website and Blog there were millions like me. A lot of them were trying to write the next two for him. Frantic panicky forum typing, threads of lost souls lamenting. When the poor old fella mentioned his favourite football team in a blog post he got a worldwide, cross cultural, in your face scream of digital outrage from his cult following. “WTF, what are you thinking get back to writing!” was the general drift.

The last episode Game of Thrones s03e10, broke both ratings and piracy records after it aired to end the season. In Australia Foxtel recorded its highest one-day rating for the show. The finale increased 28% on the last episode of season 2. Always a good sign of increasing viewer-ship, legal that is. Internet streaming and multi platform delivery was an example of the increasing online demand. Illegally it had already broken all records for illegal downloads on season debut.
“TorrentFreak predicts the episode will be downloaded more than 5 million times in the coming weeks and that Game of Thrones is certain to be the most downloaded show of the year” –  Giles Hardie

If you are having withdrawal symptoms since the last episode of season 3 Game of Thrones I have absolutely no sympathy for you whatsoever. “Tough Titty” (An Australian expression meaning I couldn’t care less). Read the books you’ve got a year. When you have done that read his three novelettes set 90 years before Game of Thrones. Still waiting for season 4? Read the three books in the “Avenging Kings” series. Martin said they gave him inspiration.

After that you are on your own. Join us lamenting lost souls on the forum. He has a couple of chapters of the next one done.

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Monitor the Mutt

Apart from a couple of years at university from the age of four I have never not had a dog. Even while at university my dogs were waiting for me back on the farm and even though some say they have only a five minute memory no matter how long I was away they never forgot me. In fact it was when I was about seven years old that I discovered they have a sixth sense. I loved going out in the paddocks (fields) with my father to help bring in the sheep. I was standing behind him when I first noticed. You can caste your dog’s either to the left or the right and you do so by raising your arm in the direction you want the dogs to go and giving the command “Go back” I noticed that the dogs would already be moving before the command was given. They never got it wrong. How do they know? I asked my father. They sense it he said, they are smarter than people give them credit for. It was something I never felt comfortable telling city friends until I read Tim Bodens book “One Crowded Hour” about Neil Davis a combat camera man in the Vietnam War.  Neil Davis preferred to accompany South Vietnamese soldiers from the country villages because they had a sixth sense for danger, always in touch with their surroundings. He mentioned the same thing about his father’s sheep dogs in Tasmania as I had observed with ours, a sixth sense.

 

You have a totally different relationship with a working dog than you do with a dog that is a house pet. It’s really difficult to have both roles in the one dog. Except Border Collies, they can be both. Work all day in the sheep yard and then come home and play cricket with you for the rest of the day. On our old family farm I remember as a young child, dogs for working sheep, dogs for working cattle, a whippet pack for hunting rabbits and a Kangaroo dog pack for hunting kangaroos and some fox terriers for rats and mice. You were aware of your neighbour’s dogs and they were aware of yours. If you saw someone’s dog roaming across your farm you would call it in, tie it up and ring your neighbour. They would come over and gratefully get their dog. You would do it for them and they would do it for you. Everybody accepted the responsibility for looking out for each other’s dogs. They took a long time to train. They were worth a lot to you. You couldn’t farm without them. You loved and respected them, they in return gave you unqualified loyalty, loved their work and would exhaust themselves just to please you. Once you have had a working relationship with a dog it is something you never forget. If this you doubt read the story of a dog that remained faithfully beside his dead owner for five weeks out in the bush. 

 

As the town began to encroach on the country you had idiots on the outskirts who let dogs run loose not realising a dog can travel 30 miles in a night, kill sheep and be back sleeping it off on the back doorstep before “dip stick” gets out of bed in the morning to insist the dog had been in the back yard all night. You only have to see the results of a pack attack once to forever after hunt them down without mercy. You find a sheep still alive with its stomach torn open, entrails wrapped around its legs to trip it up. Done on purpose by one dog in a two dog killing team. The pack kill in pairs and they kill for fun. You find the sheep still alive with both kidneys eaten out and you have to cut its throat to put it out of its misery. People often wonder and question why farmers will shoot a stray dog on sight. I don’t, and we have hundreds of these packs roaming the bush now because of irresponsible owners who don’t deserve to have dogs in the first place. No one in a suburb should own a pit dog born to fight. It is going to maul someone sooner or later, it can’t help itself, and it’s only doing what it was bred to do. Yet it is the one that gets put down. Out in the outback where feral pigs are destroying our unique Australian environment a well-trained pack of pit dogs is an efficient but cruel eradication method.

   

The problem with people who have dogs as pets is they treat them as if they are human. They give them human attributes and treat them as such. They are not human. They are a pack animal with pecking order instincts built in. In your household they assume you are the pack leader, number one dog. If they have any spirit they will disobey you because one day they want to be number one dog in your household pack. When they do you must assert your position as pack leader. You must make them roll over and show their belly in sign of submission. I remember staying at a Hunt club that had nine foxhounds in a yard. On the weekend these English throw backs would come out, drink Champaign and eat cucumber sandwiches, don the red jackets, blow the trumpet, let the dogs out and chase an artificial aniseed trail instead of a fox. During the weekdays the caretaker every afternoon would bring nine big cattle bones from the abattoir and throw them in the yard. We were fascinated with the next 45 minutes and would watch this ritual most days. The top dog has to make every other dog submit and then take a piece out of every bone.  Very little violence was needed, the threat of it being enough.  The main activity was always on the extremes of the distribution curve.  Would dog number two get it over dog number one today? Would poor old number nine get past number eight? In fact if he couldn’t you would have to sooner or later take him out and feed him separately otherwise he would starve to death, as he would in a wild pack. 

 

The fact that most humans don’t acknowledge this fact and see their dogs as human is easily seen in the incredible amount of money we spend on them. Last figures from 2009 reveal we spend $2.2 billion dollars annually on vet bills for pets in Australia. The average is around $6 thousand per pet each year. It’s no wonder we have health care plans for pets. We even have doggy day care facilities. In total disbelieve I listened to a Radio National interview of a man spending over $100 a week on doggy day-care, picking up his dog in the afternoon after work. He lived in an inner city flat. The attendant was telling him that little Rex had been a bit antisocial in the morning but after “sleepy time” had bonded better in the afternoon. I thought it was a comedy routine but it was not. I was visiting a friend recently who had one of those little yap yap lap dogs. It was missing a back leg. Every time it tried to scratch itself it fell over. Every time it cocked its leg to piss it fell over and pissed all over itself. “Has this little fella just lost his back leg recently?” I asked. My friend replied yes that a big dog had jumped on his dog and split its pelvis. He could have paid $5000 for micro surgery to save the leg, $900 for an amputation or $200 to put it down. The farmer’s son in me had made my choice, I said nothing, but I do understand the love.

 

Now a company called Whistle has introduced a pendant tracking device for your dog
“We’re introducing a window into their lives; creating a way for owners and veterinarians to take a preventative approach to our pets’ health.”
Ben Jacobs the owner of the company quotes.

All your doggies’ daily data downloaded to your app, probably uploaded to your vet and doggy day-care centre for the ongoing preventative health of your furball with feet. I haven’t noticed this device being used on starving children in the refugee camps of third world hell holes, have you? It seems I’m wrong, dogs are human after all.

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He told 18,000 People to do What?

You have probably gathered by now I have had a lifelong love of education. If you have any interest in education yourself I insist you watch this TED lecture. Watch it now because I will not continue this post until you do and there will be a multiple choice test at the end.

Your back? Good! Isn’t he something? He is right too isn’t he? Two things resonated with me the very first time I watched it.

“You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked on the grounds you would not get a job doing that. Don’t do music you are not going to be a musician, don’t do art you are not going to be an artist. Benign advice now profoundly mistaken.
…….The consequence is many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they are not. Because the things they were good at, at school were not valued or were actually stigmatised.”

My dusty little town, nowheresville, the outback you could spend an entire year in that town in a single day. We had this new person turn up at the school called a careers advisor. On reviewing my school records he advised me that I was good at English and History and the best I could hope for was to be an English teacher but if I really wanted a successful career I should do a science degree and become a scientist. If I could find that guy now I would sneak into his house and crap in his boot.

The second thing that Sir Ken Robinson said that resonated with me was the value of making mistakes.
“If you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything that’s original.”
“We stigmatise mistakes”
“We are now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make and the result is we are educating children out of their creativity capacities.”

In one of my classes there was a geeky kid, let’s call him Andrew. Very quiet, shy and I rarely got a peep out of him. If we held eye contact for any more than 10 seconds I could hear him thinking: Please don’t let him ask me a question. He did his work really well and handed in great assignments.

One day my Head teacher came striding into my computer room with two security guards in tow demanding to know who was at computer number 15. It was Andrews. As he was escorted out, I was shot this unmistakable glance which said: You and I will be talking about this later! After class I was informed that Andrew had penetrated the network and using the command line messaging system had told all 18000 employees of the North Coast Institute of TAFE to get stuffed. (If you are not sure what that means don’t click here!) “Even the Institute Director?” I asked.
“Including the Institute director. I’m going to have to expel him” My Head Teacher replied.
“Ah don’t do that Boss, I mean you have talked to him, there is no way he would have meant to do that. It’s got to be a mistake.” I entreated.
“He will have to, at the very least go on a behaviour contract for the rest of the semester and you will be responsible for its administration.”
It’s got to be said I have been blessed with wonderful Head Teachers during my career who have tolerated my eccentricities and storytelling teaching style and have been admirable educational leaders.
So there I am sitting across from Andrew at our first weekly review of his behaviour. “What were you thinking Andrew?”
“I didn’t mean it, honest I thought I was just telling Johnny across the aisle to get stuffed, I must have got the addressing wrong”
“You couldn’t have used “Hello World” like the rest of us?” I said.

Andrew graduated with distinction and disappeared into that world where your ex-students go. Some years later at a party in a little village called Uki, Andrews’s parents introduced themselves to me in order to thank me for standing up for their son all that time ago. On asking where Andrew was now I was told he was Head System Administrator of a huge hospital in Queensland.

The lesson, mistakes are good. Mistakes foster creative and divergent thinking. Mistakes should be encouraged not stigmatised.
There is no test I was just kidding!
(Student Disclaimer: Don’t even think about it!)

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THE LAST “LAST POST” IN ORUZGAN

Today is ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) Day in Australia. Being a former convict colony of the English and now a multicultural society that embraces cultural difference rather than policies of integration, it’s understandable that this day celebrates a military defeat. The only other universal commemoration of people killing people in all our wars is Remembrance Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when WW1 finally ended the extraordinary bloodletting started by the European royals. We all stood in the school yard and got whacked across the legs if we fidgeted during the one minute’s silence. Yet the haunting sound of the last post still resonates with Australians young and old even though all our veterans of the war to end all war are gone and most of our veterans from my Fathers war are gone as well. American friends who visit this country are amazed by the lack of a military presence on our streets. They tell us even on the streets of small town America it’s rare not to see a military uniform whilst in their travels across Australia not a single military uniform was seen.

I am proud to tell them that they are in one of the very few countries that have never gone to war with itself. The closest thing we have to a civil war is the state of origin Rugby League series while they slaughtered more of their own people during the American civil war than have died in all the wars they have started or been in since. My long term American friend from North Carolina has never forgiven Sherman for the devastation, rape and pillage he visited on his family in his infamous march to the sea at Savannah. He has no time even now, for anyone who lives north of the Mason Dixon line. They are still Yankees in his eyes. Just goes to show that once a country has done that to itself there is no going back. Each retelling of stories of atrocity around each family’s kitchen table ensures the hatred will go generationally deep.

I am mindful while saying this that although we have never had a civil war we still have to answer for the war of guns, dogs and poison and the slaughter by neglect that we have inflicted on the first Australians. We are still very much strangers in a strange land. We have only just started to eat Kangaroo and apart from macadamia nuts and maybe tea tree oil everything on our dining room tables have originated from across the sea like the first fleet.

Today the last post will be played for the last time at the last ANZAC ceremony for Australian troops in Afghanistan. In a country where no foreign power has ever, or will ever win a war. Proves countries never learn anything from history. Our young men and women serving there, the 9/11 generation were eight years old on that day. Most of them probably got a day off school to watch continual replays and close-ups of the falling towers including the “jumpers”. They come home without the memory of the appalling loses of Pozieres or the hell of the Kokoda track with only thirty nine lives lost. But it’s not just thirty nine lives is it? Its thirty nine families. It’s their friends and the friends of friends, those Facebook fingers reaching out across town and country. They come home I hope with the knowledge that they gave children a chance to be children for at least a time amongst that mud brick pestilence.

It is to them I dedicate this post.

I thought it was April Fools Day

Not only is today April Fools Day. Not only is today the first day for the release of Season 3 Game of Thrones. Today is World Backup day. You didnt know that did you? I didnt even know we had a world backup day. Some people got such a thrill from World Backup Day they even backed up their backup!
Its true, try it, you will get a little semi goose bump moment when the Windows bell goes off and the message “Backup Complete” makes your day.

“Winter is Coming”. Around the world people are getting into Winterfell dressups in anticipation for the release of Game of Thrones season three. Apparently Australia is responsible for 10.1% of all illegal downloads of the show. That means 430,000 illegally downloaded it in Australia and 90,000 payed to view. So today at 4:30 Foxtel is rush releasing it two hours after it airs in the US. Goooood luck Foxtel.

Here is an interesting cross media notion. It takes George RR Martin about five years to write a book in the series and he say’s he has two to go. However when you have a look at his website forums you notice the huge cult following is trying to write the books for him. Since he usually kills off every character you get to like, the forums are filled with potent pleas for Mercy. Fan written books, I wonder?