Seven years ago tomorrow


Tomorrow will be the 7th anniversary of my mum’s death. It might have slipped my mind altogether had someone not reminded me yesterday, but I’m glad to remember.

It’s a time still vivid in my life. I remember taking the call at about 6am. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still came as a shock. There was nothing I could do at that time of day – it was a Saturday also – but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I remember it hit me about five minutes later, the whole enormity of it – my mum is gone from my life forever. Suddenly, for the first time in your life, you inhabit a world in which she no longer exists.

Eventually made myself coffee and, as soon as a civilised hour approached, began making calls. I called family and friends and all those who loved mum. Much as with me, there was no surprise but much sadness, though there were some who expressed relief that her suffering was over. I was very focused throughout this. I slipped into a professional persona. It was hard at times standing there listening to the grief at the other end of the phone, but I remained composed.

I called the funeral director then, and at some time – probably days later, began the ring around for other matters related to her funeral to come such as catering and cleaning and flowers and so on. Around lunchtime the funeral director arrived to confirm details.

I don’t remember the afternoon at all. It seemed a very quiet day. Still and silent, like you hear a clock ticking.

In the evening Donna came round to support me – no sign of my sister throughout this – and we went to dinner at a local Thai restaurant. I remember then feeling utterly drained and quite lost. I was glad to have someone there with me.

A few days later was the funeral. I remember, I split my pants not long before the ceremony and there was no time to do anything but staple up the split and hope no-one noticed. It was fine at the church, though I recall choking up as people came up to me before the ceremony outside to express their sympathy. The ceremony began and a few of us spoke up for mum, my stepsister, my niece, and I gave a eulogy recalling mum as she was. It was all fine until the minister mum had asked to speak for her instead rabbited on about god. We sat there listening becoming quietly angry at what seemed a betrayal. It was done though, and later I thanked him and gave him a bottle of some unusual fortified spirit he liked I’d had to hunt down.

The wake was at mum’s home next door to the church. It was my home at the time also. There was big crowd there – mum was much loved, and I was gratified that a number of my friends had made the effort to attend in support of me.

I remember for the first hour or so circulating through the crowd as mum would have once, making sure I touched base with as many people as possible and checking that everything was going well. I think someone – I can’t remember who – told me to take a break and time for myself after that, and I did that gratefully. I sat with my friends. We talked and laughed and remembered. We drank the beer and wine, and later we ordered in pizzas. Later, I think, I began to feel it, like something that has been held back because there were things to do. It was a quiet thing, a settling in me, something private. So that was that.

That’s how I remember that day.

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2019 footy preview


The 2019 AFL footy season kicks off tonight after much anticipation. We’ve had practice matches and JLT since February, but that’s pretend football and does nothing but pique the appetite for the authentic and rip-roaring real thing. There’s a number of notable rule changes this year which may have a profound effect on the game. They were trialled through the pre-season and looked good, but most teams will have held back revealing their tactics until the season proper begins, particularly in regards to kick-ins. It could make for some exciting footy this year, and will suit some teams more than others.

Last year I gave a preview of the season and I’ve been asked to do so again. I think I know who the top teams will be, but every season there is a surprise. I expect there will be this year too, though I haven’t forecast it. My smoky is Brisbane for what it’s worth. They’re coming together nicely and have a good squad of talented players. I don’t think they’ll make the finals this year, but will present a real danger. In years to come I’m certain they’ll be a contender.

So who have I picked for the finals?

The popular pick right now is Richmond, deemed to be the best team over the last two years but who were eliminated last year in the prelim in what was a surprise result.

It’s hard to look past Richmond. They’re a proven lineup and they’ve added Tom Lynch to the run on team. If they had one weakness previously it was that they had but the one reliable tall up forward in Jack Riewoldt. Lynch takes a lot of the pressure off and is a serious player in his own right. I think they’ll be top 4, but I’m not as bullish as some. They’ve had an excellent run with injuries the last couple of years, and they have less depth this year than previously. And I wonder whether they might have been worked out a little bit, though the new rules muddy that. Certainly I reckon Martin will be a great beneficiary either in midfield or up forward.

My pick is Melbourne. They were patchy last year, but when they were good they were very good, and were impressive in the finals. Their one great weakness was the lack of a big defender, but the recruitment of May is a big win, and the loss of Hogan is well covered up forward. They’re close to the complete team, their only minor deficiency is the lack of outside pace. I think quick teams will be suited by the rule changes, but they move the ball quickly so likely offset. I think some of the constraints of the new rules may also benefit Melbourne by reining in some of Goodwin’s preferred tactics, which I don’t think have always benefiited the team. I think he’s a excellent coach otherwise, and I’m tipping Melbourne for the grand final.

Adelaide could be the other grand finalist, though I’m not sold yet. They have the talent and, on their day, can be irresistible. Last year was poor, but then they had a shitload of important players injured. The jury is out for me, but I’m wary.

Last year’s grand finalists will be thereabouts. The winners, WCE, will have a stronger team going into the season with the return of Gaff and Shepherd, and Naitanui further down the track. I don’t think they’re the best team in the comp, but they’re canny and professional and I think they’ll be thereabouts.

It might be my innate anti-Collingwood bias, but I think they over-achieved last year. There’s a part of me that thinks they won’t be so prominent this year, but then they have good players either returning or being added to the squad. And sometimes teams just click, and what was over-achievement last year becomes the new norm. Jamie Elliott will be great addition, assuming he stays fit, and I’m a fan of Beams – though given their midfield depth believe the benefit will be only incremental. They’d have been better of recruiting a tall forward IMO. I rank them somewhere in the 4-6 range.

My team is somewhere about there, Essendon. We’re close to being the complete team also with no obvious weaknesses. There’s pace aplenty, a lot of flair, and attacking half-back line and a dangerous forward line. Add to that Dylan Shiel and the Bombers are a contender. We go into the season without Hooker and Daniher but, both very good players. We can cover Daniher – he was absent most of last season – but Hooker leaves a bigger hole. He’s important to structure and a fine player to boot. There might be a slow start to the season, but the team will be flying at some point.

I think the premiership team will be one of those. GWS are always about, but they’ve lost good players, including important structural players. Not a fan of their coach either. They’ll make a run at some point, but will fade. Geelong are perennial finalists but I was prepared to write them off – they’re an aging team. They’ve recruited well though, and I think Ratogolea will be important for them.

I’m tipping Sydney and Hawthorn to both miss the finals, but North Melbourne could be thereabouts. Port Adelaide are rebuilding, but have recruited well and, other than the Lions, the rest are nowhere. GCS to win the wooden spoon – no surprises there – and Carlton to improve before fading as the season goes on, winning 4-6 games.

Let’s see how I go – like I said, something will jump up, and all predictions are contingent on variables such as injuries.

Can’t wait.

Burning outrage


One of the problems today is the polarisation of society and the dogmatic nature of the extremes. This is never more evident on social media, especially so in the wake of events such as the shooting in Christchurch on Friday.

I follow twitter pretty avidly, and though I sometimes wonder why it’s because I’ll occasionally come across a piece of news or information, or a perspective, unavailable elsewhere. Our news services are anodyne these days and the reality is if you really want the full scope of news around the world you have to go underground. For me that’s the great value of twitter – it’s a way in to news you wouldn’t otherwise see. Unfortunately you need to deal with the ratbag views and general shoutiness.

It’s never more shouty – or feral or rabid – than after some event of consequence. As I generally follow those I’m more sympathetic with much of what I see generally accords with my politics, though I’m exposed to the other side to. Even though most of the views expressed are in the same neighbourhood as mine oftentimes I am left bemused by the tone and the violence with which those views are held. This is a problem.

I’m known as a man who knows his own mind and who has some strong opinions, but I also hope that I’m a reasonable man. By reasonable I mean I’m willing to listen and consider alternative views and will discourse absent of anger. That doesn’t mean I won’t express the occasional scathing opinion, but I’m well aware that I’m not going to change anyone’s opinion by getting shouty and aggressive.

This is the issue, however. There’s a lot of shouty and aggressive language. It’s clear that people don’t care what others think. They’re not interested in understanding the broader picture, and certainly not in debating an issue. The person they take issue with is an enemy they despise. The point is shouting louder than the person opposed to you.

I find this deeply dismaying. It’s dispiriting to read these exchanges because nothing is ever advanced. That’s the dogmatic nature of the views. If you don’t agree with me then you’re the enemy. Lost in this is any sophistication or nuance, and with that any possibility of coming to terms with a person or situation. Nothing can be achieved unless we seek understanding, and nothing resolved until we find an answer that doesn’t involve belligerence or abuse.

You might say to me, but how can you be balanced when it comes to events like in Christchurch? Naturally, I’m like most people, I’m horrified and angry and – of course – there can be no defence of what happened. It happened though, it’s a fact, and I’m interested in why it happened. My views are polarised on this too, but my ears are open to understand better. It’s easy to vilify these terrorists as some kind of cypher, but the fact of the matter is until last week they were a just another person. I can heap scorn and abuse upon his head, and on those sympathetic to his views – and I do – but to reduce them to mere symbols undermines our capacity to decipher motive and cause.

In this battle between there’s a lot of collateral damage. More moderate voices are caught in the crossfire. There have been several instances of this over the last few days, but one particularly is instructive.

By and large most people supported eggboy’s actions in smashing the egg against Anning’s skull. I’m one of them. In fact, I reckon it’s one of the best forms civil disobedience/protest I’ve seen for many a day. There were some though who questioned the act. These were moderate, generally reasonable people as horrified as the rest of us by what happened in Christchurch. Their opinion was that we shouldn’t be encouraging ‘violence’ on public officials, no matter how deserved. Now it’s ridiculous to suggest any equivalence between acts, and I would argue that the alleged violence of the eggboy was anything but. I understand their point, however, even if I strongly disagree with it.

I’m happy for them to have their opinion. I don’t demand agreement. I don’t expect everyone to believe as I do. Democracy, after all, is about the right to have different opinions – and the difference in their opinions really is pretty innocuous. Or so you would think. And yet any who ventured to share this opinion were buried beneath an avalanche of abuse and ridicule way out of proportion to the act. Their words were twisted into a kind of apologia for Anning and, worse still, as some kind of support. It was totally unreasonable, but that sums up a lot of twitter at least – generally unreasoning.

There is one person I follow with whom I exchanged some friendly opinions and byplay early days. In more recent times I can’t bring myself to interact with her. This is an intelligent and otherwise compassionate person but, one could argue, over-engaged and rigid with dogma. There’s not an issue she won’t comment on serially. She must post hundreds of tweets every day. When things are normal so is she, but then there are issues that trigger her, and events which lay bare the raw anger inside, for that is what it is. It’s ugly to watch, like a bully who won’t stop teasing and harassing and abusing. This is what it’s like, a feral pile-in whenever someone holds an opposing view.

This is someone I liked, but this is way unhealthy. Let it go, take a breath, think twice. There’s probably some impulsion to express those red hot opinions, but ask yourself why. The world isn’t about to be changed by you ridiculing someone.

This is how it is though for many – the burning need to express outrage. Was it ever so, or has social media enabled this? There’s no scale, it’s either zero or 100kmh. I may be old school, but I can’t understand, and can’t believe we can ever become an integrated society until we begin to come together.

Oscar worthy?


I haven’t watched all the Oscar nominated movies from this year, but I’ve seen a few now, including the movie that won it for best picture. The movies I’ve missed are probably those I’m less interested in watching to start with, and while it’s hard to be categorical without seeing them all, it seems a pretty ordinary batch of movies.

Pretty ordinary is a relative term in these circumstances. You expect best picture nominees to be of a different class, though sometimes I wonder what makes a best picture winner. Comedies, for example, are rarely, if ever, nominated for the best picture, and to my knowledge none have ever won. Best movie winners generally have some technical excellence, and be of more sober temperament. Many fall into the category of worthy. In my view, some could also be called dull – even as they have the patina of an Oscar worthy film. To my memory few winners have been daring or progressive – the academy is too conservative for that, and winners could mostly be called safe, even if eminently deserving. There’s few winning movies I’ve felt the need to rush out and see, but there have been some ripping winners.

I commented on Bohemian Rhapsody when I watched it – fun to watch without reaching any great artistic heights.

A few weeks back I watched The Favourite, which for me falls into the category of clever but unengaging. I watched it over a couple of sittings, so uninspired was I. It looks very nice and has some good performances and the script is clever and often witty and sometimes outrageous, but the package as a whole fell flat for me. It felt episodic, and it was hard to feel any great sympathy for any of the characters. Partly that was because they weren’t particularly attractive, but otherwise it was because they weren’t really taken seriously. It felt like a dilettantes movie, an interesting after dinner story without much substance. I was very disappointed.

On the weekend I watched Green Book, which actually won the best picture Oscar in a bit of an upset. For a start I have to say this was the most enjoyable of these movies to watch. It was an engaging story about interesting characters you came to feel a genuine affection for. It’s very formulaic and predictable, but it’s a classic trope that people never seem to grow tired of – the odd couple thrown together who endure travails and misunderstandings and ultimately grow into friends. Of course, each learns from the other and it’s all happy families. In this case there was the race angle, definitely worthy, but simplistic verging on the cutesie.

I seem to be damning it with faint praise, but I enjoyed it, and the performances by the two leading characters was fantastic (Mahershala Ali is one of those actors I watch perform in anything). It’s just that I don’t see this as anything more than a good, ordinary film. The sort of film that leaves you feeling good for a while before fading from memory. Great that it was made – and based on a legitimate true story – but it was absent the gravity you expect from a best picture winner.

It could be that this was just an ordinary year – but then I haven’t seen Roma, the pre-ceremony favourite all the critics raved about (the word on the street being it’s boring).

The question is: how much do the so-called best movies actually align with the movies the average punter enjoyed most? And, should they align?

Wilting


For two days running now we’ve had no air-conditioning in my corner of the office. Both days have been 30 degrees and muggy, and combined with a crowded office and the heat coming off monitors it’s made for a fetid and uncomfortable workplace. Small compensation has been a portable air-con running, much too small for such an area, and the provision of icy slurpees each morning. By the end of yesterday I was feeling utterly drained, and my shirt was limp with perspiration.
It all adds up, this. You get home and fire up the air-conditioning and it’s nice, but then you go to bed and your rest is incomplete and you return to work weary, only to find once more the air-con is off.

Where I sit gets the worst of it, right on the corner facing the sun, and today quite a few people have decamped to sit at vacant desks on the other side of the building. It’s a bit like a ghost town this area.

I worked late in these conditions last night before heading off to a nearby bar after work with one of the girls here. We sat on a rooftop sipping on cold beers while the dark clouds gathered overhead and the distant rumble of thunder could be heard. After three beers the thunder was closer and we left. I was glad to go. I like a drink and all that but I was fading and wanted to get home before the rain – tipped to be a month’s worth – tumbled down proper.

Lightning streaked across the sky while I waited at Richmond station for a connecting train and rain – much less than forecast – began to fall. Fortunately the rain had eased off by the time I got off at Hampton station, and started again almost the instant I walked in my front door. I didn’t get a drop on me.

I’ve got things to report, etc, but am too tired and apathetic right now to comment. Will get to it.

Enough with the heat


I’ll tell you what I’m sick of: hot weather. Today is actually reasonable, 24 or something, but it’s been bloody hot more often than not.I read this morning that January was the hottest month on record in Oz, following on from the hottest December on record. Personally, I can’t remember a hotter January in Melbourne.

It’s funny how such fierce weather can be so pretty. January was a beautiful month. There was hardly any rain, though there was a picturesque thunderstorm on Wednesday, few clouds, and the sky has been that very Australian blue. We need rain though, as always, and too many hot days lead to exhaustion and ill temper.

I find it trying, but I can live with it. My heart really goes out to all those beasties who have to endure this without the comforts of home. On those really hot days, I close the back door with Rigby inside and leave the aircon running for him. It also means I come home to a relatively comfortable environment, and it’s easier keeping the place cool than making it so.

January we had two days of about 44 degrees Celsius, a couple more in the low forties, and probably eight or nine days in the thirties. For most of the month, I had only the bedroom aircon working. The main aircon actually conked out on the first of the 44 degree days. I was able to sleep okay with the aircon in the bedroom but I’m never completely comfortable sleeping with it on. It dries out the air and makes for a lighter sleep and most days I would wake up weary. Tack a few days on end like that – and mine is a hot home – then it begins to add up. And it’s the same for pretty well everyone.

I managed to get the aircon fixed last week (on the same day I had a specialist appointment costing me $380; got my car aircon regassed; and had my bathroom taps replaced – on a 38-degree day). This weekend we have another 35 and a 39 forecast.

This sort of weather is made for staying indoors where it’s cool, or socialising out in the sunshine. I spent Sunday afternoon wading up to my knees at Hampton beach before having a few beers, some wine, and some take-away fish and chips with some friends on the foreshore.

This is what summer should be, only there’s too much of it. This is all over Australia and it’s hard not to think climate change and global warming, and be fearful. I wonder what those born today will have to endure in years to come. There’s no real reason to believe the small-minded politicians all over the world will ever wake up to the fact and actually cooperate in doing something to prevent this. By the time they do it’ll be too late. Hands up who disagrees? Barring some technological miracle, I figure that in a thousand years’ time we’ll be pretty well wiped out. All our doing, too.

The smarter state


I remember the last state election I was staying in Rosebud. I voted there and in the evening my entertainment was watching the election broadcast. By coincidence I was once more in Rosebud over the weekend when the latest election took place.

I was busy out and about through the day but caught up with latest reports and results as they filtered in as I sat down for dinner. Very early on it was a clear that Labor where going to bolt it in. As it turned out that was spot on. The Libs in Victoria have been decimated and Daniel Andrews and his government given a ringing endorsement. It’s well deserved.

I’m a big fan of Daniel Andrews. I was a sceptic when he took on the role of Labor leader but I’m a convert. As premier he’s done what few of his predecessors have managed to do. He’s set out an agenda and delivered on it. It’s been a bold, innovative agenda too – removing level crossings, starting on the much mooted but forever delayed metro tunnel, he’s brought in assisted dying legislation, the safe injection room in Richmond, has championed safe schools and initiated a ground-breaking inquiry into domestic violence – among many other things.

Andrews has made things happen and my admiration on that front is shared by many Victorians. That’s a big reason he got so many votes on Saturday: he does what he says he will do, and he does a lot.

That’s not the only reason he go re-elected. The Libs, both federally and at state level played into his hands.

The rank dysfunction federally, the policy confusion, the stupid booting of Turnbull, along with an embarrassingly buffoonish PM don’t go down well in Victoria.

At state level Matthew Guy is a uncharismatic, slightly shifty character it’s hard to warm too. He might have had a chance, however, but for the ridiculous policy direction and campaigning.

Their slogan for the campaign was ‘Getting back in control’. I guess they’re trying to make a point, but fact is most Victorians would have laughed at the idea that things weren’t in control. The corollary of this slogan was law and order.

Law and order is a classic election theme, especially for the conservative side of politics. The problem in this case is that the scare tactics so much in play over the last twenty years have worn thin. It’s taken a while, but people are beginning to see them for what they are – hysterical attempts to inflame outrage and fear. Most of us have become cynical, if not disgusted, by the hyperbolic attempts to politicise what are matters of humanity.

It might work in Queensland, but there’s no chance in Victoria. Victoria is the most progressive state in the land. Victorians are not prone to knee-jerk reactions and will make their own judgement. Much has been made of this post-election, but I think it’s true. The Liberal tradition here has always been small ‘l’. We are liberal by inclination. With the Liberal party swinging to the unpalatable right a successful Labor party becomes a much more attractive option. Add to that a pretty handy protest vote directed at Canberra there’s no surprise it was a Labor landslide.

What is surprising is how the Libs have been ignorant of this. None of this comes as a surprise to the man on the street. I’ll tell you what’s important – climate change matters and we should be doing more about it, rather than playing politics. Education and transport matters. We’re tired of the demonization of asylum seekers and pity the children marooned offshore, and we’re cynical of the dog whistling regarding Muslims and ethnic groups – the likes of Dutton and Abbott have been disastrous in Victoria.

I expect the Victorian result will be largely replicated come the federal election next year. The Libs show no ability to learn and Morrison is a fool of the highest order. And I expect the lunatic right wing fringe will continue to hold the party to ransom. Reality is they’re too damn stupid to deserve power. I thought Abbott was a shocker, but Morrison comes a close second.