The distractions of trade week

I’ve done fuck all work the last week. This has been my most productive day by far. Like many others I’ve been consumed with torturous to and fro of the AFL trade ‘week’. In fact it’s about ten days of relative tedium interspersed with moments of unexpected deals, rampant speculation, and craven hope. It’s hope that compels attention, regardless of what is actually happening.

As any committed sports fan knows, hope springs eternal. No matter how bad a season you’ve experienced there’s always hope for the next. Fresh starts and new beginnings are an integral part of sports myth. There’s always a new recruit, a new coach, a new approach that will make all the difference. As sports fans we ride the crest of emotion when the new star comes on board or the wins mount up; and are dumped when the star recruit does a knee, or wins becomes losses and hope evaporates.

If you’re an AFL supporter this time of year represents a kind of expectant limbo. The season is done and dusted, and all but a small proportion of supporters have been disappointed. The long tail of the season is given new impetus by the activities of the post-season, trade week and, in November, the draft. Only once December comes will it subside till early February.

So this has been trade week, and notwithstanding the drawn out nature of it there’re few footy supporters who haven’t kept a keen eye on it. This is our first go at rejuvenating our club and re-igniting our hope. This is a bite of the cherry which, if managed right, can make all the difference.

For me the ten days has been spent checking things online every few minutes – the footy forum I’m a member of, the AFL site, trade portals, Twitter, and so on. You never know when something might have popped up in the few minutes you weren’t looking! Rumour. Innuendo and unlikely scenarios are floated and shot down. Rumoured conversations and mooted deals do the rounds. So called ‘insiders’ give the benefit of their dubious contacts, exciting comment, hope and ridicule. Self-styled trade auditors will scribble down complex ‘three-way’ deals on a back of an envelope, and will publish it online as a possible outcome. The pessimists decry the likelihood of every prospect, the optimists barely contain their excitement, and the bed wetters fear everything will turn out bad. Hard-line realists like me have a more philosophical take on things: what will be, will be. It’s an objective assessment, though not immune from occasional excitement. (I also take pleasure in slapping down the bed-wetters and the nervous nellies).

This year, for the first time in living memory, something actually happened for my team. It was mooted early on, and the thinking was that sounds great, but won’t get all that done. Two out of three would be a good result. But then all the desired players nominated us as their preferred destination but, even so, what did we have to exchange for footballers of such calibre?

Step up Jackets Dodoro. He’s a bit of a legend among Essendon supporters, and also a divisive figure – I’ve always liked his style. His style can be surmised by a photo one year where he wore three layered jackets, portraying a sort of insouciant style of a recruiting Marlboro man. It captured the imagination of all supporters, hence his nickname.

In reality he’s more like a inscrutable card sharp playing expertly a hand of mixed quality. One after another he got the deals done, winning tricks with low cards, and topping it off by pulling in the big recruit trumping an ace with a pair of tens.

For a supporter of the Essendon football club it was beautiful to behold – no wonder I hit refresh so often. At the end of it there was a collective gasp of pleasure from the Bombers faithful. We killed it. In the space of a little over a week we brought in three very good players – including one who could be anything – for the price of a movie with dinner. With those moves we elevate ourselves from a dangerous mid-ranking team to a truly scary contender. One thing’s for sure, there won’t be a team more exciting next season, and the sky’s the limit.

Now I can get back to work.


What do we learn from this?

I figure this might be one of my more controversial posts, or at least one of the more misunderstood. Misunderstanding comes easy these days.

In the last week there have been a series of revelations about legendary Hollywood movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein. Daily one after another woman has come forward alleging sexual harassment, and even rape. Many of the women are high profile actresses and models. It’s been an eye opening and shocking litany of offences, making clear that Weinstein is a pathetic and obsessive serial offender. At one point I wondered if I was the only person who didn’t have a Harvey Weinstein story.

One of the aspects most disturbing to me is the realisation that so much had been swept under the carpet. I’m no innocent, and tend to cynical view when it comes to the wielding of power. That multiple organisations would choose to view these offences with a blind eye came as no great surprise. What was surprising was that there were so many seemingly influential ‘names’ who had been victim of these offences, but had chosen to remain silent till now.

It’s a regular tale told of how many victims of sex crimes either choose not to report them, or do so and are humiliated by the experience, or disbelieved. It’s a fundamental societal issue, particularly as it seems that sexual offences are far more common than I would have believed. I understand how difficult it is to confront the judicial system after being victim of this, particularly when you have little faith in the process. Unfortunately, by failing to report it makes it harder for the next woman, and it vindicates the actions of the perpetrator, potentially allowing him to go again – as clearly has been the case with Weinstein.

I believed, falsely as it turns out, that high profile actresses would not have the same fears. Even if behind the scenes I thought something would be done, but until the bombshell last week no-one had really spoken out. It’s a sorry tale, and in the wake of it there are thousands of women coming out with the #metoo hashtag admitting to being sexually harassed, or worse. If there is a positive out of this it’s that it has been put under the spotlight, and perhaps with strength in numbers more women will come forward, and the low-lives committing these offences will be properly punished. Only then can we hope to stamp this behaviour out.

As a man, I’m horrified. I’ve wondered if I’ve ever done anything that might be construed as sexual harassment. I can’t think of anything, and there has never been an intention to do anything like that – but who am I to judge?

So, Weinstein, and this is the controversial bit. It’s shocking what he has done, but I can’t help feeling some pity for him. In the first place there is obviously something wrong with him that he should be such a repeat offender. There’s something pathetic about it which speaks to the nature of his psyche. What craving did he seek to satisfy, and why? Many of the stories about him are similar, with Weinstein making unwelcome advances, either verbal, or physical such as walking in naked. For the women it is disgusting, but looking at Weinstein from afar there is something pitiful in it. How does this happen? Where have we gone wrong?

The other part of it is that he’s being piled into right now. Every man and his dog is cracking in. He’s been kicked out of a roll-call of heavyweight industry associations, including the production company he helped found. It’s hard not to be cynical about some of that. I’m sure his behaviour was well known, but tolerated until he got caught out. Now it’s about the optics. Not surprisingly his wife has left him as well. Everything he was, everything he identified with, has been taken from him, and you might say, so he deserves, and maybe you’re right. What is unedifying is some of the glee attached to this.

It doesn’t sit quite right with me. He should receive his just desserts, but right now it’s all outrage, much of it genuine, but a good part of it faux. I don’t doubt the stories told of him, but as it stands they are allegations. I’m not given to hyperbole. I believe in due process and justice. This should be investigated and go to court, and hopefully it will. In the meantime he has been judged and found guilty in the court of public opinion, and duly punished. It amounts to a form of bullying, and – as I said – some of it for cynical reasons.

I can’t help but wonder how he is now, abandoned by his industry, his wife, even his brother, his name turned into click-bait and subject to ridicule. These are our times, everything is extreme – I wonder though what the reaction would be if in days from now he decides he cannot go on. I’m not saying that will happen – it shouldn’t – but what if it did?

It would change nothing of the nature of his crimes, but perhaps there are reasonable questions then about our response to them.

Faraway worlds

Having made comment on the respective merits of the two Blade Runner movies the other day I went home thinking back on the original. I prefer the sequel, but there is a scene in the original Blade Runner which is one of my favourite movie sequences of all time. It’s a favourite with a lot of people, for good reason. It’s Roy Batty’s soliloquy when he knows he can’t fight it any more, when he knows his time is done – and yet feels wonder, and some pride, at the life he has been afforded:
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Some time after I had reached rock bottom this scene popped into my head, and in the weeks and months after was never far away. I felt a little like Roy Batty. I had lived a life. I had seen things few do, had experienced moments of wonder and profundity. I had immersed myself in experience and been richly rewarded for it.

All that was true, but there I was, with nothing, and with nothing concrete to hope for. I clung to a life I once had, grateful for it – grateful at least that I had that – but isolated by my present circumstances. I wanted to proclaim it, I’m not this homeless man, I am rather the man who has seen these things, been to these wondrous places, live moments of sublime insight.

Once something is gone, it’s gone. I remember when my grandmother died, then my mother years after, how those worlds died with them. They live only as long as they are in someone’s mind but, even so, they fade, they are of a past that cannot be returned to. It’s one reason I write, I think, to pin down and make permanent that sense of transient life.

I have moved on, but sometimes those words still return to me, like a reminder. They are still true to some meaning, though it less defined now that I have at least something, though very little.

Regardless, it’s one of the great movie scenes.

Just as the Romans did

It may be my imagination, but it feels like tourist season in Melbourne right now, and why not? This is the time of year I’d visit too, if I was a tourist.

Walking the city streets today every second person seems a tourist dressed in their smart casual, camera slung over their shoulder and a bag with a bottle of water, and what not. They wander the arcades, Royal and Block, exclaiming at the architecture and swivelling to take a different pic, or stopping to have lunch or coffee at one of the pavement cafes. It’s a beautiful day, crisp and warm – about 30 degrees. The skies are that great Australian blue, against which the tree lined streets are fresh and green. It feels good, even to me.

I had no plans at lunch. I just started walking, through shops and arcades and down laneways, taking whichever direction caught my whim. I looked about as I went along, taking in the clustered tourists, Asian and European, listened in as they pointed out the next point of interest. As I came out into Collins street I bathed in the sunshine, before finding myself in a subterranean bookshop.

I’m back in the office now, and soon to a meeting. A Roman a couple of millennia ago probably did and thought much as I have done, wandering the streets of Rome and observing the Gauls and Egyptians, the Germans and the Persians, and so on, taken in the sunshine before returning to scribe something in his designated corner. These sorts of things are eternal, but so should they be. Life at its simplest.

I like the new Blade Runner better than the old

I have an admission to make: I never really got into the original Blade Runner. For years this puzzled me. It felt as if it was a personal flaw, and so I would watch and re-watch it again and again in different cuts. I always enjoyed it, but I never loved it. What was really strange was this was just about the perfect movie for me to love. It had all the elements I like in story-telling and movie-making, and yet…

I would watch the movie with great admiration. It was a terrific story. Visually it was fantastic. It was moody and imaginative. It had memorable characters played by excellent actors. As always I found myself admiring Ridley Scott’s skill as a movie maker. Every element just about ticked the box for me, but as a whole it seemed a little less than the sum of those elements. For years I wondered at that, before finally concluding that I was not as emotionally involved in the fate of the characters as I should be.

There is a coolness, an emotional detachment, which is perhaps common in Scott’s movies. Generally you get so wrapped up in the gripping story that it never really occurs to you. The Alien movies are basically monster movies elevated to high-art. The story-line races along, and for those couple of hours you are thrilled to be taken away to inhabit a strange, perfectly imagined other world where you find yourself fascinated, and sitting at the edge of your seat. Scott is one of my favourite film makers, and he is in his element creating fantastic worlds and directing narratives headlong and building tension. His movies are high art, beautifully shot, and masterpieces of set design. Blade Runner is that, but at its heart is a story which I could appreciate, but never really feel.

So on Friday night I went and saw Blade Runner 2049 with the guys. It’s not a perfect film, but I think it a better film than the original.

So why isn’t it perfect? There is so much that is breathtakingly good. Visually it’s as stunning as anything Ridley Scott ever designed, and more. Some of the set-pieces are literally awesome. This is a brilliantly conceived world, and executed better than anything we’ve seen before. As a story it’s even better than the original – really, a worthy sequels, as so many aren’t. The characters are great, the acting fantastic, many of the sequences compelling. It’s a little too long to be perfect, perhaps, a little too ambitious to be perfect.

For me these are small things, and are made only in reference to how a movie like this might be shaped. Both my friends enjoyed it, but neither loved it, and both thought it about 30 minutes too long. I could understand, and from a purely technical perspective they’re probably right – but speaking for myself, I was happy for that extra 30 minutes.

I loved that they didn’t take the simpler option. There would have been a very satisfying movie without the additional elements, but for me those elements really topped it off, taking the story from impressive to poignant. Most will see it as gilding the lily, but it’s that stuff I live for.

Setting aside the sheer film making, super-impressive as it is, it’s the story that lifts this well above the average movie. The story-line is elegant, fascinating, and ultimately profound – and the writing matches it.

You can see this movie as a superior piece of entertainment if you like, like the original Alien say. I think that’s what my friends were looking for, and so will many others. It is that, but the ambitions of the director and writers go beyond that. There is a philosophical thread throughout this which goes to the human condition, and indeed, what it means to be human. This is inverted, our expectations confounded, but in so doing the point is pressed deeper. This is a sci-fi action movie which is really a character study, and which engages with some high end questions of identity.

I applaud them for that: it’s bold film making, and I wish there were more film makers willing to risk that. This is not just a sci-fi movie, and if you are willing to immerse yourself in it you’ll come away with questions in your mind, wonders in your head, and in your heart a sense of humanity we too often miss. This time my emotions were fully engaged.

Feeling my age

It’s been a unhealthy year for lots of Victorians. The flu season has been just about the worst ever, with over a hundred now having died from it. There have been lot of coughing, sniffling workers, and a lot of sick days. Looking about me there’s no-one who sits in my vicinity who hasn’t suffered, and just about everyone among my friends too.

By comparison I’ve been pretty good, which is a surprise as I start from a back-mark because of my chest. I had one day feeling pretty crook, and a few days otherwise significantly less than 100%, but nothing debilitating, touch wood. I’ve soldiered on pretty well, and in theory the worst should be behind us.

All that sounds good, except that for the last month I’ve been feeling generally unhealthy. Sometimes you feel bursting with health and energy. Most of the time you feel a level of health which is unremarkable because it tracks the middle ground. There are times when you’ll pick up an infection or virus and your health will dip before, having mended, you return to an unremarkable level. And there are times when there is no particular ailment but you feel generally off. That’s been me. Not bad enough to see a doc or take time off or indeed do anything much different, but sufficiently poor that energy comes hard and the little bits and pieces add up to a feeling of being run down.

It’s got to the point that I figure I need to do something about it. In reality there is little I can do – perhaps eat more healthily, exercise more, sleep better. I’ve made an effort to eat more sensibly and I’ve upped my exercise regime. Sleep is not really an issue – I always sleep well, though perhaps I could sleep longer.

I’ve started to think about it more too because some of the niggles are distinct things I know won’t go away, and potentially could become worse unless I do something about it. I reckon I’ve had a very low-level cold for the last 6 months. I don’t notice it most of the time, except for when I get to bed and my sinus feel half blocked. Sometimes it flares up – as it has now – into sniffles, or I will start coughing again, which I have been lately. In fact there have been times lately when I’ve felt slightly short of breath because of congestion in my chest.

Then there’s my foot. The DVT I had means I’m meant to be on permanent medication (which mostly I can’t afford to buy). It means that each day my left calf will swell, and with that my foot. It’s got to the point that it’s become painful, and potentially causing other issues.

The problem is my left shoe is not big enough for my foot when it swells. My little toe and left edge of my foot is calloused from rubbing up against the size of the shoe. By the end of the day my foot feels tightly bound, and come the evening – even with shoes off – my foot aches, the sole feels as made of small, delicate bones, and occasionally I’ll suffer from shooting pains.

I think the solution is that I need new shoes, and probably custom made shoes to account for the difference in size between my feet. Of course, I can’t afford that.

And when I get up in the morning both feet feel tender, and my Achilles foreshortened.

Some of this is just getting older. I have my situations, but I’m still relatively fit. I regularly exercise and average about 9,000 steps a day. I’m lucky enough to still look years younger than my age. It all catches up on you though, and I reckon there are some things I just have to get used to. There are some things I can do something about though.

Comes a time in your life when you realise that you can’t play as fast and loose with your health as you did before. That time is now for me, and I have to commit to repairing and looking after myself more earnestly, as much as I can.

Send to darkness

I submitted an entry into a literary competition on Sunday. There was never any doubt I would enter, but I looked hard at what it meant for me. Ultimately the opportunities outweighed the inconvenience, even if I don’t win. For the record, I don’t expect to win – I need a good editor – but maybe submitting an entry will open doors for me.

I’ve spent much of the last eighteen months pondering a decent title. For much of that time it had a working title of River’s End, which I think is a bit lame. Good titles are hard to come by, but I’m pleased with the title I ultimately chose: Send to Darkness.

I took it from a quote by Shakespeare in Rome and Juliet, and it’s actually pretty apt for the novel:

I will be treble-sinewed, hearted, breathed,

And fight maliciously; for when mine hours

Were nice and lucky, men did ransom lives

Of me for jests; but now I’ll set my teeth

And send to darkness all that stop me.

Cross your fingers for me. I don’t find out till February.