Monday, February 25, 2013

Bones on the phone

This starts with a great Aussie photographer, Rennie Ellis. I have seen his books before, full of observational street photography documenting Australia in the 70s and 80s. I became aware of an online gallery of his work last year, and saw this image of a Richmond cult hero, Robbie "Bones" McGhie. This is Grand Final Day 1974, I assume before the match. Bones calms the nerves with a quick durrie.  There is a corresponding post-match pic of Bones downing a can of Vic Bitter. He was quite the lad. I remember his footy card very well as being one of only maybe 2 or 3 that showed tattoos. Kevin Murray is the other one who leaps to mind.

So I thought  - what a great image, maybe it would make a good t-shirt?

Before I did anything with it I want to get approval from the photographer's estate and the subject. I am still waiting to hear from Rennie's people (he died in his sixties in 2003). I found an email for Bones, and sent the design to him for comment yesterday.

He rang me this morning! He's 61 now, still smoking. In fact he started a business manufacturing and distributing those waist-high ashtray bollards. He was affable, said he thought the design was OK and to do whatever I liked. I was a bit blown away, and said I thought it was a great photo. He said yes, he thought so too. And I imagined he was busy with his bollards and his sports-strapping-tape business so I let him go.

But - I have to call him back. He's a dual premiership Tiger! I've got to pester him with some questions about the big games he played in, and being coached by Tom Hafey (one of my all-round heroes in life). Leyton Hewitt's dad once played for Richmond and allegedly left after an altercation with Bones in the carpark. True?

Anyway, I now have BONES McGHIE in my mobile address book. Do you think he would mind if I started texting him during Richmond games like I do every other Tiger supporter I know?

Captains courageous

On Friday Marcus came home from school and announced that he was standing for house captain. He's in grade 6 this year, top of the school, and these kind of things will come up through the year. His good buddies Xavier and Ned were also standing. Ned got into minor strife for handing out lollies to the little kids.

We helped Marcus write a speech for today. Our neighbour Adrian is in Grade 6 at another school, and he was elected house captain last week. He had a cracking speech written down, which he gave us for inspiration. As Marcus's opponents were his good friends we suggested he say something like "All of these guys would make great house captains but I hope you'll vote for me".

The staff thought his speech was great - I think the magnanimosity went down very well. The students must have thought so too - he was elected! Lana from next door (the other side) was elected as Marcus's co-captain, so we have three captains in a row here. That is a lot of leadership crammed into one paddling pool.

Lana may regret some of her campaign promises. She undertook to pick up anyone who is struggling in the cross country run on her magic carpet.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lincoln - some errors

I mentioned Lincoln the other day and got one big thing wrong. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, not Steven A. Douglas. Please, calm your seething - it could have happened to anybody who has an inflated idea of their command of American history, as I do.

However - something serious that the filmmakers got wrong is that they show Connecticut voting against the Emancipation Proclamation. Connecticut have apparently demanded this be fixed before the DVD is released.

I think it would be nice if this could be done by having famous Connecticutian and rapper, 50 Cent, do a pimp roll onto the set in a really poor attempt at 1850s costume. When the speaker says "Connecticut?" 50 Cent says "You know it, Wiggy".

Symphony under the stars and a few gatecrashing planets

Most people know that some of the brightest stars are, in fact, planets. This is something I am always forgetting. About a week ago I was marvelling at a bright star that was snuggled right up to the dark side of the moon. I later found out that was Jupiter.

Last night we took the boys to Symphony Under the Stars, and again, as the first "stars" came out I was completely oblivious that they were Venus, Mars and the Big J. It was at lovely Tolosa Park where we have been to various daytime events. People bring picnics and rugs etc. Many bought folding chairs, but unless you are early enough to score a patch on the terraces, I don't think they work that well on a steep slope. We went for simple couch cushions.

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra were in good form on some popular chunes. They played Jupiter from Holst's Planets, which was followed by some discussion of the planets visible, the chief of which was in fact the Jupester.

We haven't been to this gig before so I don't know if there is always a featured vocalist, but we thought the music was most enjoyable when she was out the back changing her frock. The boys were mugging about with cushions over their ears when she sang, and there was certainly a touch of the Madame Castafiore* about her. You could imagine glasses exploding.
*Tintin reference.

One of the less-immediately-lovable bloke-in-a-suit characters is RACT Cube Man. He came out to wave a bit. Christopher Lawrence who was MC-ing asked Cube Man a few questions but he is a very private cube and not much was forthcoming.

We enjoyed it despite the chanteuse, and our distance from the action. Next year get there early, and take the binoculars and the star map.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Break point, out by the biohazard bins

Cam and I had a game of tennis yesterday morning - my first in a few years. We went down to the uni where we last played, but they are only admitting members on the courts now. Pretty crummy. Even if you are prepared to buy a membership you have to do a 20 minute orientation tour, and then still pay by the hour for the court.

We left in a huff, and tried our luck at the old court behind St Johns Hospital in South Hobart. I've seen people playing there - I've always assumed they must be staff. But we went in to reception and asked.Well, actually the ladies were too busy to ask, so we just stood there in our sports gear with our racquets and assumed they would twig what we were after. When the phone stopped ringing for a few seconds someone found us a key - and asked for $3! Surely it costs the hospital more than that just to have their reception staff interrupted.

With a bit of exaggeration I can see a comedy bit in this. Pompous over-serious tennis player jogging on the spot while he waits for someone to notice him, stretching and then eventually opening a can and practising his ball-toss. Meanwhile medical emergencies of ever-increasing seriousness play out behind him.

The hospital is pretty old, and it has grown in fits and starts, so it's a rabbit warren. It was founded as a homeopathic hospital in 1899. Out the back behind the coach-house (which now contains specialists rooms) are some sheds, the biohazard bins, piles of rusting rubbish and a neglected tennis court.We enquired in one of the worksheds and borrowed a spade and broom, and dealt with the tufts of grass growing down the tramlines.

Eventually we were up and running. Cam is a much better player than I - I hardly made a first serve all day. Yet he made more errors than me and ended up losing his usual steely focus. I won the first set and was up 3-1 in the second when we abandoned the match. It was just too hot and we had to play indoor soccer later in the day so we were saving our legs. (We lost soccer 5-4 so we should have quit tennis sooner).


Again, I am writing merely to announce that I have a new laptop. How thrilling, I hear you exclaim.In fact, it is (again) a borrowed laptop with a teeny tiny keyboard. And its not a Mac. So, expect quite a few blog posts with a vaguely peeved undertone.

Ha ha.only kidding.Although my mouse button seems to have two distinct personalities and that will take a little bit of getting used to.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

AFL 2103 - scrying the entrails

Premiers: West Coast
Runners Up: Collingwood
Rest of the top 8: Sydney, Adelaide, Hawthorn, Geelong, Fremantle, Richmond
Wooden Spoon: Melbourne
Brownlow Medal: Scott Pendlebury, Collingwood
Coleman Medal: Jack Darling, West Coast (67)
Richmond Outlook: In the mix with Freo, Essendon, North and Carlton for unwinnable 7th and 8th spots. To just see them in a final would be amazing for Marcus who was born after their great finals run of 2001.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Reality-challenged hatters

Well - what’s the euphemism for mad nowadays? Socially-excluded troubled-behaviours hatters?

It matters not. We had a theme, we had some kids, we had some parents, we had a lot of food (including 3 or 4 pints of not-quite right icing) and we partied-down. To celebrate Michael's 9th birthday of some 3 weeks ago. 

Elf organised everything and made the sensational cake. Sally made a rainbow cake for Arthur a few months back, and I connected the dots thinking Elf copied that. In fact she didn’t even see that cake, this was simply great cake minds thinking alike. 

The shindig went well! Thanks to Imp for the lend of the chocolate fountain and to the weather for being stonking. Childers repaired to the pool to shout and douse each other, adults hung around the shady deck and stretched the party into a practically all-day event, and in so doing mopped up the excess food. 

We are tired but happy, as another year’s party season honks to a close.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thinning on top

Got my standard haircut today - Nº2 back and sides, Nº3 across the scone. After that, the hairdresser asked, in all seriousness, “Do want me to thin it out on top?”

I did 2 or 3 doubletakes, and ended up saying “Er, if you think it needs it?” She did.

Hands up how many people;
  1. remember Gerald Ford as US President and
  2. have the hairdresser thinning them out on top?
Anyone? No. Just me. So thanks to my dad's side of the family for the tenacious hair genes. Good one, Reeses and Stubbingses!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Dogs and cats agree

Everyone loves the little blue pool.

Zero Dark Thirty

Tuesday was the first day of the school year, and also my dear wife returned to work. So, as a person who works from home, you would imagine I just revelled in the peace and quiet and/or called a No Pants Day. In fact I decided that I, - free of the need to include, involve, listen to or supervise others - would walk to North Hobart, see a very long movie, then walk home again. And that would be my day.

So, I had a very nice walk. I get anxious about being late for things, and that has spoiled my enjoyment of many a walk - the thought that if I don’t speed up I’m going to miss something. I walked to school with Elf and the kids thinking after that I would walk home, and then at some stage head off to the cinema for the 10.45 showing. At some point I abandoned that plan, and after seeing the kids to their new classrooms, I just kept on walking, and gave myself a very, very leisurely stroll.

Now to the movie. I had seen that it had very positive reviews, and the chap in the local paper said that it dealt with the very violent real events (torture, terrorist attacks and the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden) in a restrained way - which convinced me to see it, as I am not interested in gore & splatter.

The first two minutes are sound only - over a black screen you hear very affecting audio from September 11. At the start of the film we meet Maya, the young, slim, redhead CIA officer who becomes obsessed with finding Bin Laden. This is all supposedly based on the facts, but I don’t know if this is a montage of more than one person or a completely invented character.

She is newly arrived in-country at one of the CIA’s secret bases. I forget if this was in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Her new boss Dan is waterboarding a prisoner, and we get to see plenty of that. It’s monstrous. Some such as Waleed Aly have called this a pro-torture film. Maya goes from being very uncomfortable witnessing waterboardings, to ordering them to be carried out. As she is the “hero” of the film and is ultimately successful in getting intelligence that leads them to OBL, it leaves itself open to this accusation.

But I disagree. The film does not show any prisoner giving up intelligence while being waterboarded or immediately after. Maya’s stroke of genius was  POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT  to convince a disoriented and sleep-deprived man that he had already told them what they wanted to know. From there, he let his guard down. Yes - waterboarding, 24-hour death metal music and other abuses of human rights got him to that point.

I am an Amnesty member and anti-torture. The reality is that there is a wide grey area between what is illegal and what I am comfortable with. Do I have the right to urge the banning of things that are a) effective and b) not illegal? 

One of the planks of Amnesty’s anti-torture platform is actually expressed by a sceptical character in the film, and it’s not about human rights at all. It is that “intelligence gained through torture is low quality intelligence - in these circumstances people just say anything”. This is an amoral argument against torture, but a good one, which is why Amnesty uses it.

I think what the film does show is that the treatment the US defines as being short of torture is (as depicted) torture. The US military says that waterboarding is OK as it is not “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” Dan says repeatedly to the prisoner - “You lie to me, I hurt you” and then does. Whether it’s severe - well, Maya didn’t want to watch when she was first confronted with it.

I got caught up in the spy thriller aspect, but a bit confused by some of the helicopters-over-Abbotabad stuff.  PSA  One chopper is damaged on landing and can’t take off. Some of the SEALs on the ground blow it up, as it is a top-secret weapon, but we see that from within the other chopper that has taken off. So guys were left behind? No - it looks like everyone makes it back OK. Odd.

It was a very good film, but one that filled me with dread and paranoia. If I was backpacking near the Pakistan border now (rather than 15 years ago) this is NOT a film I would like see. It is not going to win any friends in the Pakistan Tourism Board, that’s for sure. 


Sure, I made them co-operate. But still - they’re cooperating.

A study in tong size polarisation

I need some MEDIUM tongs. MEDIUM!!! STAT!!!

Friday, February 08, 2013


I am very keen to see the new Abe Lincoln film. I just went to my first movie on my own for about 20 years (Zero Dark Thirty - review to follow), and the trailer for Lincoln was pretty compelling. I love the idea of Tommy Lee Jones as Steven A. Douglas.

Anyway. I was just trawling through some Lincoln stuff and I came across this quote from a letter to a newspaper editor. During the civil war Lincoln was under tremendous pressure to do this, that or the other for the slaves. He had very strong personal view that the slavery should end, but as he explains, his personal view came second to his official duty.
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union ...  I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
It's striking how clear to Lincoln was the distinction between his personal view and his duty as President. Although we in Australia wish our politicians now had more deep convictions and would act on them more often*, Abraham Lincoln’s statesmanship here rests on putting his aside. Interesting.

*This is written in the early stage of a 7-month election campaign where the Labor government has pinched most of its policies from the previous Liberal government, and the Liberal opposition's policies are merely bumper sticker slogans, most beginning with the words No or Stop.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Footscray via 52 Suburbs

visited Footscray. Delightful photography.

Cadet herald

This is Michael’s most recent coat of arms. I am hoping we can get him a cadetship at the Royal College of Arms as some sort of Heraldic Intern.

Today we went to Richmond, the well-known colonial village and Devonshire Tea Hub. There are antique shops, and kind-of-antique shops that mostly stock those huge flat clockfaces printed with an olde world graphic, and cushions with PARIS on them. Wrought iron. Lifesize brass dogs. Lots of stuff with crowns, fleurs-de-lis and rampant lions.

One of the wall hangings had what I recognised as something like the royal arms of the UK, with swirling behind it the flags of St George and St Andrew.

“What’s that coat of arms Michael?”
“Erm, that’s the Stuart royal arms from between 1604 and 1689 - then William married Mary and put his, erm, thing on it and it changed.”

He knows his stuff.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Lord Headley and I

The parallels between the late Lord Headley and I are uncanny. Much like he, I too was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and entered Middle Temple, before commencing studies at King’s College London, subsequently becoming a civil engineer, a builder of roads in India, and an authority on the protection of intertidal zones. I too am an enthusiastic practitioner of boxing as well as other arts of self defence and am a widely traveled man. Like Headley I also inherited my peerage from my cousin, married an Australian author, and then became bankrupt. In a spooky case of history repeating, I too was offered the throne of Albania but refused it.

The main difference between us is that he converted to Islam and founded the British Muslim Society, whereas I, inspired by my deep interest in loosely-woven cotton fabrics, founded the British Muslin Society.

Truth* sometimes really is stranger than fiction**.

*Which this isn’t.
**Which this is.