Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cricket is More Fun When its Really Really Bad.

The ICC Cricket World Cup is serving up a parade of scintillating cricket. OK, that's a lie. The world cup is serving up its usual collection of wretched mismatches and wastes of time as the four or five nations in the world who actually play cricket take on another dozen or so who have more or less heard of the game. Scores are lopsided with matches tending to have results like Kenya all out for seventeen while chasing a total of nine hundred and thirty eight. I don't know who thinks this might be worth watching but I'm pretty sure they're wrong.

This year the subcontinent is hosting which essentially means India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh because Pakistan still has those embarrassing murder and terrorism issues. The grounds have been well tended and the crowds are gratifyingly large, at least according to the commentators who have used quite a bit of airtime telling us so. They do this probably because it is written into their contract that they have to but also I suspect because there is only so much one can say about a fifty year old, one legged South African expat who is touted as Baluchistan's strike bowler.

I love watching the world cup. It appeals to my sense of the ridiculous and also to my cruelty. Sitting in front of the television for several hours watching people who really aren't very good at cricket being crucified publicly by a bunch of people who are very good at cricket gives me a certain sadistic amusement. It's even better when you have the opportunity to see teams from two nations who have almost certainly never heard of cricket slugging it out to see which of them is going to come second last overall. I actually prefer this to watching a top quality match. It makes the occasional flicker of brilliance shine forth all the more brightly. One of my favourite cricket memories comes from the last world cup when I was privileged to see Bermudan star Dwayne Leverock hurl his twenty stone frame sideways to take a catch any cricketer would have proud of. Unfortunately tonight Pakistan are playing Sri Lanka. Two top quality teams in good form. I think I'll go to bed.

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Uboats

A friend of mine went to a Sound of Music singalong at the State Theatre last night. Apparently it went for four hours. That's longer than the movie. I think it might even be longer than the events on which the movie was based (somewhat inaccurately). If I sound a little jaded its because four hours of Edelweiss would probably be a little more than I could bear.

For those of you who might have come in late I will summarise the Sound of Music for you. Captain Georg von Trapp was an Austrian u-boat commander in the First World War (what Austria, a land locked country in Central Europe needed with u-boats I will explain later). After the war was over (his side lost) he settled in Salzburg, had a bunch of kids (his wife helped) and generally lived his life. Some years later with his wife out of the picture (Dead? Mad? Kidnapped by aliens?) he hired a novice who strongly resembled Julie Andrews from the local nunnery to act as governess for his children. She taught them a bunch of songs, made them clothes out of curtains and thus won their trust (huh?). She persuaded the captain to sing along with them and the lot of them were selected for the Salzburg music festival. At pretty much the same time they decided that Austria ruled by a bunch of German Nazis wasn't for them (what Germans of any political persuasion were doing ruling Austria is something I will explain later) and they used the cover of the festival to sneak away from the Germans and escape over the border to Switzerland.

In actual fact the Nazis didn't have anything in particular against the von Trapp family, the captain and Maria had been married for several years by the time they decided to leave and what they actually did was catch a train to Italy. Somehow Twentieth Century Fox spun the preceding into a movie that lasted for almost three hours and now it is a four hour show at the State Theatre. The twenty hour long documentary can't be far away.

The von Trapps moved to America and toured as The Trapp Family Singers thus making them Austria's most successful export until Inspector Rex. Still four hours is a little much. I hope my friend enjoyed herself but speaking personally when it comes to things Austrian I'll wait until the dog takes over control.

To explain: At the time of von Trapp's naval career Austria was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire which had an extensive coastline on the Adriatic. Hence the need for u-boats.

To explain again: In 1938 Germany (ruled by another Austrian export named Hitler) moved troops into Austria and formally united the nation with the greater German Reich. Captain von Trapp was not impressed but many Austrians were and remained so until 1945 when they suddenly realised the benefit of being Austrian after all or, at least, not German.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Thing He Didn't Call the Kid Twitter

There is a free newspaper called mX which gets handed out at railway stations, apparently under the mistaken apprehension that somebody wants it. Actually calling it a newspaper skates dangerously close to a violation of truth in advertising laws and frankly I think it is overpriced nevertheless I get it most days. I get it for two reasons; firstly I feel sorry for the tree that died to produce it and secondly it is a great repository of human stupidity or to put it another way I use it as source material for my blog. Anyone who had any lingering doubts about the quality of the writing here should now have them pretty much laid to rest. The lame brained rubbish squatting in the pages of mX is grist to my mill.

On an unrelated note, what is grist? I'm sure there is a mill fanatic out there who can answer me.

In the "newspaper" the other day, in between a picture of Lady Gaga getting off a train and a piece on decorators robbing a police station, was a little snippet about an Egyptian man who has named his daughter Facebook presumably in honour of the social networking site's contribution to the early departure of ex President Mubarak. Not a bad idea for a name really, the only thing I can think of which might be more appropriate is if he named the girl Prolonged Period of Military Rule but that probably wouldn't fit on the birth certificate.

Yes the Egyptians have finally rid themselves of their dictator which only goes to show that a fake democracy is still better than a blatant tyranny. Mubarak left because various members of the power structure he built were sufficiently in tune with reality to know they had to toss the public a bone. Mubarak was the bone. Whether the public gets anything more remains to be seen. Across the border in Blatant Tyranny Land Colonel Gaddafi is washing the streets of his cities with blood. The Saudis are probably hoping he can cling to power, if any more deposed dictators wind up in Saudi Arabia they will be able to form their own minority group.

What exactly are we going to do if the Arab nations all become democracies? No quiet little torture cells, deniable prisons, proxy soldiers and the like. What will we do? Democracy could set the cause of democracy back decades. Besides how are western nations supposed to deal with countries that change their government every four or five years? The world is going to be in chaos. The Arab sections of our foreign ministries will have to actually do some research rather than just dusting off the same ten year old situation report every time a politician asks a question. The backlash has begun already. Not in the Arab world, for the moment they seem quite keen on democracy. Its the democracies that seem to be a little nervous about it.

Several knowledgeable and experienced commentators (they must be knowledgeable and experienced, they've been interviewed by the media) have wondered aloud if the Arabs are quite ready for democracy. Its a perfectly valid question, I have frequently wondered aloud if the Americans, British and Australians are quite ready for democracy. I think we all agree that the French won't be ready for democracy for at least another thousand years. Germany and Russia are definitely ready for democracy but that is largely because we've seen what happens when they don't have it. In Russia you can still see it.

I think the Arabs are ready for democracy personally. As one wanders around the "Arab Street", as people who want to pretend they know something about the subject are wont to call it, one can see a breathtaking combination of ignorance, stupidity, prejudice, irresponsibility and self interest masquerading as national pride and concern for others. Seriously, these guys already have democracy, all they need now is the vote.

The Joys of Getting Old

I've decided I'm going to be eccentric when I'm old. I'm going to wander around in baggy, mismatched clothes, wear sandals with long socks and mutter to myself as I walk down the street. No young person will escape my disapproving gaze or querulous demands that they get a job, smarten themselves up and pay me the respect due to someone on the point of death. I will tell them tedious, rambling stories about how much tougher things were when I was their age.

We lose much as we age; teeth, bladder control, sexual function, friends, memory its only fitting that there should be a few things reserved to us by inalienable right. The most important of these things is the right to be as annoying to the young as is humanly possible. I, for one, plan to take full advantage. After a lifetime of pleasing no one but myself I will suddenly discover the urge to lecture random youth on the need for community values and services to others, by which I mean me. I will apply for every benefit the government in its wisdom doles out to those close to death and some of them I will get twice.

It's all about me of course, it always is. Two million years of evolution, thousands of years of toil, achievements artistic, political and scientific, all these have culminated in me. The fact that the human race is still off doing all these things is simply evidence that we don't know when to stop.

As I spiral towards the grave I will create a vortex which will dizzy and outrage those who surround me. I will tell war stories (I have never been in a war but don't think that will stop me), flirt with eighteen year old girls and tell shaven headed youths to get a haircut. In short I will be unbearable. I will also eat a lot of waffles. With maple syrup. I will be a waffle fueled bitching machine. I might dye my hair as well, although judging by my current rate of hair loss possibly dying my scalp would be a better option. It is also possible that gaol time will be part of my retirement plan. I intend to acquire a serious drug habit as well (I think you can get them on ebay now) just to pass the time you understand. Some people may be shocked at that but which would you prefer? An obituary that says "died of cholesterol poisoning and heart failure" or one that reads "cut down in the cross fire of a drug war at a crack house". At least that way someone might actually come to my funeral even if it is only police looking to see who else turns up.

Yes, my old age is going to be pretty wild. Except for the sandals and socks. That may take a little getting used to.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beware Small Fish; You're Next!

Good news on the small fish front (you didn't know there was a small fish front did you? Its just ahead of the small fish back). Apparently overfishing of larger, more predatory fish has led to an explosion in small fish numbers. This is good news for small fish, small fishermen and anybody who likes anchovies on their pizza. As we hoover up their larger finny cousins the smaller ones are swimming through the holes in our nets and secretly rejoicing every time they see a fishing boat.

It has to be said there is no sense of piscine loyalty out in the cruel, briny deep. Any fish alive would sell out its scaly brethren for a few extra months of rather soggy existence. Every fish is a sneaking, crawling Benedict Arnold surreptitiously encouraging their friends and relatives onto hooks, guiding schools of lost tuna into nets and slyly pointing out where the larger fish can be found.

All of which leads me to the inescapable conclusion; fish are stupid. Don't those little race traitors realise that once we're done with the big fish we will come gunning (or rather netting) for them? The odd thing about this is that fish are supposed to be brain food. A diet high in seafood is one of the theories currently being used to explain how our knuckle dragging ancestors managed to get onto the path that would lead to nuclear fission, focus groups and viral marketing. How our deeply unintelligent ancestors managed to catch fish in the first place is something I'm a little unclear on. Shellfish are simple of course; they're easy to pick up and they can't run very fast. It is rather difficult to imagine an entire evolutionary process built on rock scrapings but stranger things have happened, Jersey Shore for example.

Actually Jersey Shore should pretty much kill any theories about the proximity of the coastline having an impact on intellectual development although possibly the cast members don't eat the fish. Since they live in New Jersey that's probably one of the smartest decisions they've ever made.

As you can see from the above fish have a lot to answer for; viral marketing, iphones, Snooki. Killing is too good for them (the fish that is but don't get me started on Snooki). Sweep the seas clean I say. Scour them, come amongst the fish with a hook in each hand and blood in our eyes (particularly if we haven't been very careful with those hooks). Pursue this act of oceanographic cleansing until the only fish alive are swimming in bowls owned by six year old girls. Think how smart we'll be once we've eaten all the fish in the world. Our skulls will have to expand to accommodate our newly enlarged brains.

Of course having hugely sized heads will bring a few problems. We will fall over easily and we'll have to drag our heads behind us where ever we go. However there is a simple solution. We just need to move to an environment more supporting of our newly enhanced bodies. Fortunately the planet will be littered with empty oceans we can move into. Good thing we killed all the fish really.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I've Decided Not to Mutilate Rabbits for Easter

I have been thinking of taking up mutilating rabbits as a hobby (don't worry kiddies; I change my mind). It isn't that I have anything in particular against these floppy eared harbingers of the apocalypse, I'm just getting a little sick of the fact that the shops are full of Easter merchandise when its only half past February. Possibly doing horrible things to rabbits might alter this a little.

When it comes to obscene marketing orgies masquerading as religious events I must admit that my favourite is Valentines Day (or VD as I like to call it). I like VD because the principal article to purchase is flowers and the shops simply can't stuff their shelves full of flowers two months in advance otherwise they won't be any good on the day.

Like many religious holidays VD seems to take its inspiration from something rather hideous in history. According to tradition (or pseudo tradition or, more accurately, a pack of liars and fantasists) Valentine was a Roman soldier (and Christian) during the reign of the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. Roman soldiers enlisted for twenty years (pretty harsh at a time when the life expectancy wasn't much past forty) and were forbidden to marry while they served with the legions. Valentine (being a mutinous soul) married his sweetheart and was executed. Another version has Valentine as a Christian priest who aroused the ire of Claudius by performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers in defiance of the law. Since Claudius was only emperor for about sixteen months and spent most of the time chasing barbarians around the empire one can't help wondering where he found the time to bother with what a single priest was getting up to. In this version Valentine was slung in gaol and eventually executed. Before he was killed he is said to have performed a miracle by curing the daughter of his gaoler of her blindness. One can't help thinking a more pertinent miracle might have been to extend her blindness to her father. Still the Lord moves in mysterious ways.

Either of these stories would provide an appropriate back history for St Valentine unfortunately they are both total bollocks (and I may have made one of them up). As near as anyone can tell the title St Valentine actually refers to a few (possibly as many as three) early Christian martyrs who had (possibly) the name Valentine. This is pretty much all we know about any of them except that they died as martyrs for their Christian faith. Not too much should be read into that as all a Christian had to do to get martyred in those days was to say "I'm a Christian". Not even a Muslim with a death wish could find martyrdom so easily.

Anyway to get back to the theme of bunny evisceration with which I started this entry; it is high time we did something about the insidious extension of Easter throughout the year. If we're not careful we won't have time for Christmas. I do realise that attacking something as intrinsically cute and adorable (if you're not a farmer) as a bunny rabbit may seem like a cruel, pointless and largely ineffective way of protesting against Easter. To this I reply that a quick glance at human history will show that most of what we do is pointless and ineffective and a good deal of it is cruel. Don't shoot the messenger is all I'm saying. It's still better than my original idea which was to nail religious leaders to crosses until people got sick of it. I gave up on that because I was rather afraid that people wouldn't get sick of it.

Oh all right, I'm not going to mutilate rabbits either. I got some, brought them home and tried to psych myself up for a sort Hannibal Lecter stars in Watership Down scene but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I fed them lettuce instead. Rabbits being what they are my apartment is now wall to wall (and several layers deep) in bunnies. Walking from room to room is now rather like stepping on deep (and slightly damp) shag pile carpet. Besides even if I went ahead with my horrible scheme I bet it would take the shops less than a week to come out with chocolate tortured rabbits. And its still only February.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Blog Entry Slightly More About Cars Than the Last One

I have realised, somewhat belatedly, that, despite its title, the previous blog entry had very little to do with cars. It started well enough; the very first line mentioned the proliferation of cars in the world. That was a good starting point and could have provided an introduction for several paragraphs of vehicle related writing. Unfortunately, just as I was getting into my stride the whole thing veered off on a rather piranha intensive tangent. I'm very sorry and would like to extend an especial apology to car enthusiasts who kept going to the end of the previous entry in the hopes that I would pick up my original theme. As recompense here is another blog entry about cars. Enjoy.

So, how about those piranha hey? Pretty fearsome little beasts aren't they? I'm sorry, the truth of the matter is I don't know very much about cars. I do watch Top Gear religiously (that is, once every few weeks, I fall asleep in the middle and forget to put any money in the collection plate). I did drive once for a few months several years ago but I stopped as soon as I decently could. So my qualifications for talking about cars are even less than those I possess for talking about piranhas. For example I have no idea how long it would take a school of cars to strip a cow to the bone.

What do I know about cars? Cars are noisy, dirty and dangerous. In the hands of the stupid, the careless or the just plain unlucky they are incredibly dangerous. Cars are also freedom. One of the principal reasons for people's acceptance of tyranny over the centuries has been a lack of alternatives. If you lived near a border you might be able flee across it but for most folk what ever disease ridden hell hole you were born in was where you stayed unless you were unfortunate enough to be conscripted into the local army in which case travel opportunities would dramatically increase as would your chances of a horrible death. Car ownership changed all that, now if you simply mildly dislike a place you can pack up the family and be somewhere else by morning.

Cheap public transport was the beginning of freedom. Trains, trams and the like gave mobility to the peasants but for some reason the trains only ran where those in charge of them wanted, like from your house to the factory where you worked. Nevertheless the hint had been given and soon cars trundled along to help people get to places they might actually want to go.

I've never quite managed to work out why some people seem to love cars though. Mind you, some people will love just about anything (and those people have a website) but this wholesale adoration of a piece of machinery is something I don't understand. Jeremy Clarkson is on the record as believing that certain cars have a soul. I hope he's wrong as that would make things a little awkward really. Every car owner would effectively be a slave holder. Soon there would be a resistance movement, questions asked in parliament, protests by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Automobiles) and cries of "vehicles of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your club locks". The revolution would be messy and carbon intensive. Besides why should a car be more entitled to a soul than, say, a toaster. OK sure, a car will take you where you want to go but can it transform mere bread into hot, toasty deliciousness?

No cars (as Freud almost said) are just cars. They are important not for what they are but for what they imply. It is mobility that is freedom, not the cars themselves. Cars are just the delivery platform. They will be replaced one day by something better (or cheaper, or better marketed) and no doubt cars lovers will kick up a fuss but by that stage most of us will be treating them with the same contempt they currently reserve for pedestrians and bicyclists. As long as we keep the mobility when the car is replaced we will have lost nothing worth keeping.

And yet when I'm walking down a street and I see some expensively dressed prat roaring down the street in a Lamborghini or a Ferrari I think, "What a complete wanker...and what an awesome car".

A Blog Entry About Cars

I've suddenly realised that the world is full of cars. They're rather like metal fleas hopping about all over the place. You know, on closer examination I don't think the previous analogy made a lot of sense. Cars are not very much like fleas. Cars rarely hide in long grass waiting for an opportunity to jump onto a passerby. I think I can count on the fingers of one foot the number of times the vet has fixed me with a stern gaze and solemnly informed me that my cat has cars. I have never had to put a collar on anything to keep cars away. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that cars are rather unlike metal fleas hopping all over the place. Yes, that's much better. That's what I should have said in the first place.

Still there are a lot of cars out there; they swarm like piranha on a corpse. Oh dear, I've done it again haven't I? Of course cars don't swarm like anything really. I don't even know if piranha swarm. Swarming implies a collective purpose and I don't know whether piranha possess that. It is entirely possible that every piranha makes its way individually to the corpse and before the feeding frenzy begins there is five minutes of "Hi Fred, fancy meeting you here. How's Ruth and the fingerlings?" No cars aren't much like piranha really which is probably a bit of a relief to motorists, particularly if they happen to live near the Amazon.

I wonder if piranha get fleas? That would be terrible because I don't think piranha are well equipped to deal with fleas. It would be very difficult to scratch or slap yourself when all you have is fins. The tragedy of the flea riddled piranha is one of the saddest sights in nature although I suspect that any observers are secretly relieved that the piranha are flailing desperately at themselves rather than stripping them to the bone.

They do say that a school of piranha can strip a cow to its bones in five minutes (who are "they" and how do they know this stuff?). The question I want answered is how do piranha get hold of a cow in the first place? Do they sneak out of the river at night and stalk the paddocks seeking flesh? I can't help thinking that researchers toss the occasional cow into the Amazon and then sit there with a stopwatch. Rather a cruel way of getting a dinner conversation topic in my opinion.

I hope the piranha give them fleas.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mosquitoes Are Jumping and the Cotton is High

Well it would appear that Summer has arrived. The only alternative explanation for the weather is that the Earth is about to plunge into the Sun. My the days have just skipped by haven't they? It seems like no more than six months ago I was writing a blog entry about Winter. As I recall I bitched a little about the cold. I will try and avoid using my Summer blog entry as an excuse to bitch about the heat.

My Christ its hot! It is so freaking hot! Hot hot hot hot!!! As you may have guessed from the preceding things are a little warm at my domicile. The season may have been a little late getting here but it is making up for lost time now. Summer has descended upon us like a ravening vulture upon a mortally wounded wildebeest. Victoria is under water, Queensland is under water and what isn't under water has been flattened by a cyclone. Bits of Western Australia are burning down as we speak and as for me well the water in my pool has been so warm for the last few nights that it was barely refreshing. As you can see things are tough all round.

Still, I like Summer. As seasons go it is definitely in the top four. Summer speaks of long warm nights and lazy sleep filled days (some of them on weekends). Summer is the time of cricket and tennis both of which I love because I enjoy watching other people run around in thirty degree heat while I sprawl in my armchair and only get up to freshen the ice in my drink. At night the gentle drone of mosquitoes lulls me to sleep.

Oh all right, the droning of the mosquitoes is giving me the shits. I don't mind sharing a little of my blood with these nocturnal flatmates but that whine of theirs sets my teeth on edge. If evolution knew its job it would have made the mosquito drone a gentle soporific tone to encourage sleep in the intended victim. Instead we get a noise which makes it sound like we're being attacked by airborne band saws thus prompting frantic slapping and the invention of insect repellent. Still I suppose that that noise is the only thing that stops us from waking as dessicated corpses.

Speaking of dessicated corpses I understand Cher has a new movie out. I must remember not to go and see it.

The dreadful boiling heat of the last week is gone now thank God. A cool change blew in yesterday dropping the temperature by about fifteen degrees in as many minutes. A cold wind is blowing and rain threatens. What the hell kind of Summer is this anyway?