Ghost Stories Podcast – Episode One

The first episode of Ghost Stories podcast is online now.

It features Thomas Violence and sound design by Anatole.

The next event will be at Giant Dwarf in Redfern on the 16th of December.

NYWF – STORIES OF LOVE

This piece was originally performed at NYWF ’14 at an event where different kinds of writers wrote on different kinds of love.

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Image taken by Kaitlyn Plyley (@kplyley)

If there is one phrase that has dictated my opinions on any kind of love over the years it would have to be this -

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because you can no longer process emotions correctly.

My father is Western Sydney born, raised and only left once on a R.A.A.F mission but didn’t leave the base and came home the very next day. He looks like me which is unfortunate for us both. When going for walks at night he straps two mining headlamps to his head – one on the front and one on the back, making him look like a kind of marauding lighthouse cutting through the mountains fog in search of a ship that is quite frankly very, very lost. He is neither cruel nor absent – which for someone working in the arts is a gift but feels like a curse – but he equally isn’t an outwardly emotional man.

 

There were only really two things that could bring out real passion in my father and the first was of course the final scene from M.A.S.H: Goodbye Farewell and Amen. You know that scene. You do. You know it. It’s that scene where Hawkeye is flying away and the B.J. wont say goodbye but then Hawkeye’s chopper flies away and GOODBYE is written in stones on the ground presumably by B.J. That’d make a statue cry.

The second love is what I wish to speak about tonight.

The love i wish to describe tonight is the kind you find under bright lights in cold winter nights. It’s the kind of love that leaves all to quickly but always returns. it’s the kind of love that makes you believe again, even for a moment, when you promised yourself you wouldn’t be fooled this time.

I’m talking about the love of Rugby League.

Let’s get this out of the way up the top – Rugby League is dumb. It’s a dumb game played by, let’s face it, mostly actual criminals. The rules don’t make sense, the players are overpaid children repeatedly concussed for our entertainment to the point of not remembering their own careers and the referees literally have a Go-Pro duct taped to their head and still can’t see a fucking thing.

Rugby League is like art itself – mostly terrible and unseen. Also they tried in Perth once but it didn’t really work.

And I love it.

I see myself in Rugby League. It’s scruffy. It hasn’t really gotten itself together yet. It doesn’t have a terrific dress sense. It’s way too influenced by Bundaberg Rum. And if you give it a chance, and if you believe in it – it can be pretty good sometimes.

Panther Park was just as beautiful back then as it is now – which is to say not really very nice at all. It’s a stadium designed by someone who really wanted to get out of the office by 5pm on a Friday. There’s no beauty or nuance. The Panther logo doesn’t look anything like a Panther. If anything it looks like an upset bear that just fell down and can’t get back up.

The lack of finesse in Pamfa park is perhaps best exemplified by the old team song ‘GO THE MIGHTY PANTHERS’

Its lyrics were as follows:

 

Go the Mighty Panthers

They’re running through the field!

Go the Mighty Mountain Men

They’re coming through the field!

(x4)

All that said, I try and give it the same respect my girlfriends over the years have given me and do my utmost to love it in spite of its many obvious faults.

For those who don’t remember, 1998 was a time of crisis. We were deep into the Howard years. Ross and Rachel had just split up – or they were on a break depending on your point of view. And, most troubling, the Cronulla Sharks were undefeated seven weeks into the season.

I was seven years old and i didn’t really know where Penrith was. Being seven my major preoccupation in life was being seven – doing the things a seven year old does – off memory it was eating Samboys and falling down, mostly.

I don’t know what it was about this game – or maybe it was just time – but Dad took me along to see Penrith play the undefeated Sharks.

Before i was born my father was in a car accident that saw hairline fractures in four places in his back. For as long as ive known him he’s lived his life in constant pain. It was something I couldn’t comprehend as a child so i would get upset when we couldn’t bowl more than one over in cricket. Trying to sit in a plastic seat in a grandstand in the cold air was herculean – but he did it.

He brought me a Penrith flag and I sat right at the front waving it all game. I still have it hanging in my room today.

It was a game that just-so-happened to be a Penrith classic. The sharks got out to an early lead and Penrith seemed all but ready to give up – when at half time in the locker room one of our forwards, this is true, gave an impassioned speech about being tired of losing all the time – and Penrith came out swinging. We scored try after try from impressive flying catches to break away runs – but it all seemed for naught. It was the final minutes of the game and we were still four points down. Worse, Cronulla were attacking on our line and looked poised to score.

That was until our golden boy, hero of Penrith, Ryan Girdler (Australian representative, Cleo Bachelor of the Year Nominee and owner of the second most successful Gloria Jeans in downtown Penrith) plucked the game-winning pass out of the air in front of the Cronulla winger and charged down the field with the determination with which his Gloria Jeans franchise would later funnel money to homophobic organisations.

The crowd were on their feet screaming for him to make it. More importantly, dad was on his feet, which was no small task.

Gidler crossed the 50, the 40, the 30. Time expired. Whatever happened this would be the last play. It wasn’t looking good. He crossed the twenty as two Sharks jumped onto his back. He slowed but kept pushing. More sharks piled on and the crowd jumped to their feet screaming GO, GO, GO. And so he went. He dragged what I remember as half the team on his back over that try line and he brought the win home for Penrith.

The town was electric. The streets sangs. I was in love.

Five years later Penrith made the Grand Final for the first time since i was an infant. The streets were empty as the entire Hawkesbury Nepean region crowded around televisions. In fact, maybe the only person ten kilometers in any direction not watching the game was me. I was 13 and far too nervous to watch the game in case i accidentally cursed the team with my love, which is something that does happen occasionally. Putting any kind of emotion in my hands is like handing a rabbit to Lenny from Of mice and men. No, instead i rode my scooter in a circle around Hobartville Primary School – Go the Fightin Pegasi. I sat on the street corner and cried nervous tears until the sun went down. I scooted off home and as i opened the door my dad told me the final score. They had done it. We won and it was the happiest I could ever remember being. The feeling in the streets was the same as that first game years earlier – it was pride. Pride rippled through the hearts of everyone who had been told for years that they were nothing but Westies.

It’s a rare phenomena in the West for people to be truly and vocally proud of where they’re from but that’s the true value of sport. It’s not about the tribalism of my house being better than yours – it’s about being proud of my house – even if it usually only brings you sadness and every once in a while Brad Fitler comes in and wrecks the place.

My birthday often falls on Father’s day and neither of us are particularly easy to buy for. This year Penrith really had a chance of making the Grand Final – which is to be played this coming Sunday – It was an outside shot. There was also a realistic chance at the time that the Grand Final could end up as the Sydney Roosters vs the Manly Sea Eagles in which case my prefered result would be a comet crashing into ANZ stadium and ending all life on this miserable planet.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and dare to dream. I brought dad and I two tickets to the Grand FInal this Sunday. It will be the first game my father and I attend together since that cold night in Penrith all those years ago.

He will be there – and I will be there – the only people missing will be the fucking Penrith Panthers because they choked against the Bulldogs and got themselves knocked out last week as I sat on the 20m line with my head in my hands.

Don’t cry because it’s over – smile because you don’t know how to deal with emotions anymore.

This hasn’t dampened my father’s spirits, though.

For one important reason:

My father is a Souths fan.

They did make the grand final.

He has been since he was a little kid and his dad, who was a Bulldogs fan, took him along to a game. I don’t know why that game – maybe it was a rite of passage – maybe it was just time.

The last time Souths were in a Grand Final my dad was thirteen years old. Same as me. He was selling newspapers at Redfern Oval and was almost too nervous to watch.

His father passed away this year.

They weren’t close but I could tell it still hurt. He didn’t say anything but I knew it did.

But all that will be forgotten in a few days when he will sit with his son and watch his team play his father’s team for the Grand Final.

And I will do my best not to cry like I do every time I watch MASH: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.

[Note – The fucking won, too.]

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A COMPLETELY HYPOTHETICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF GEORGE BRANDIS AS VIEWED THROUGH HIS METADATA.

Attorney-General George Brandis surrounded by what he thinks is Metadata.

 

 

Attorney-General George Brandis has likened metadata to the writing on the front of an envelope. In reality, metadata is created whenever you view or access data. To illustrate this point, we’re going to follow a completely hypothetical day in the life of Attorney-General George Brandis by only viewing his metadata.

7:30 AM - Website Accessed ‘Google’

7:31 AM – Google Search ‘Convincing Family You Are Human’

7:34 AM – Google Search ‘Breakfast Oils’

7:35 AM – Google Search ‘Which Oil Is The Most Nutritious For Cyborgs?’

7:40 AM –  Website Accessed ‘Supercheap Auto’

 

8:20 AM - Email Sent – User ‘Hockey, Joe <BeautyAndBrains@Hotmail.com>’

8:21 AM – Email Sent – User ‘Hockey, Joe <BeautyAndBrains@Hotmail.com>’

8:23 AM – Phone Call – Contact ‘Joe Suckey’ – Duration 0:30

8:30 AM –  Website Accessed ‘Wikipedia.org’

8:31 AM – Website Accessed – Edit Page – Joe Hockey

8:34 AM –  Email Received – User ‘Wikipedia Anti-Vandalism’

8:35 AM –  Website Accessed – Edit Page – Joe Suckey

 

8:40 AM – Google Search ‘The Pointy Building On The Hill With The Bad Men’

8:41 AM – Website Accessed ‘Google Maps’

8:42 AM – Google Maps Search ‘Parliament House’

 

9:10 AM – Google Search ‘What does an Attorney-General Do?’

 

10:05 AM –  Website Accessed ‘The Pirate Bay’

10:07 AM –  The Pirate Bay Search ‘Grand Designs Series 11’

10:08 AM – Google Search ‘Download Speed Test’

10:09 AM –  Google Search ‘National Broadband Network’

10:11 AM –  Email Sent – User ‘Turnbull, Malcolm <greyfox69@ozemail.com.au>’

 

12:30 PM – Menulog Search ‘Bones’

12:31 PM – Menulog Search ‘People Bones’

 

2:00 PM – Email Sent – User ‘Bolt, Andrew <A.Bolt@Greens.org.au>’

2:30 PM - Website Accessed ‘Bolt Blog: Brandis Right On Data’

2:35 PM – Email Sent – User ‘Bolt, Andrew <A.Bolt@Greens.org.au>’

2:37 PM – Website Accessed ‘Bolt Blog: Brandis Right On Data, Handsome As Heck’

 

2:50 PM – Email Received ‘Amnesty International’

2:52 PM – Email Received ‘Anti-Racism Collective’

2:54 PM – Email Received ‘Wilson, Tim’

2:56 PM – Email Sent – User ‘Wilson, Tim <AynRandy@Gmail.com>’

 

3:30 PM – Google Search ‘Birthday Presents For 11 Year Olds’

3:35 PM – Google Search ‘Birthday Presents for Attorney Generals’

3:40 PM – Website Accessed ‘Amazon.com/AttorneyGenerals’

 

4:55 PM – Google Search ‘Place with the food and bothersome organisms’

4:57 PM – Google Maps Search ‘Home’

 

6:00 PM – Google Search ‘Noises to make when you taste the food’

 

8:00 PM - Email Reminder ‘Sky News Interview’

8:05 PM – Google Search ‘Metadata’

8:06 PM – Google Search ‘Data’

8:07 PM – Google Search ‘Computer’

8:15 PM – Google Search ‘Dogs In Party Hats’

 

8:25 PM – Google Search ‘Sky News Journalist Grey Hair, Glasses, Name?’

8:30 PM – Wikipedia Edit Page ‘David Speers’

8:32 PM – Email Received – User – ‘Wikipedia Anti-Vandalism’

8:35 PM – Website Accessed ‘Webjet’

8:36 pm – Webjet Search ‘Anywhere Else’

 

3:03 AM –  Phone Call – ‘Joe Suckey’ – Duration 0:03

 

This Fortnight In Bad Posts

We start with an attempt to not escalate things..

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While not forgetting where our priorities actually lie..

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And twitter, now broken, got angry..

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The ABC almost did clickbait..

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But what really saved the  day was much needed comedy..

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WikiLeaks was back, revealing more damaging secrets than ever..

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To this week and Obama’s voluntary appearance on a scripted comedy show ’caused everyone to shit their dacks..

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More secrets came out, really clearing some things up..

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And we forgot that dumb is actually smarter than dumber..

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Australia took a moral stance..

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And Jessica Rudd taught us how to feel again..

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Turnbull over-corrected..

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And the ABC found a fun lil laugh in the Pistorious murder trial.. (via Ash Morse)

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But it could be worse..

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You could be reading print..

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(via  Jonathan Baker)

Now get out there and have a great day!

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For more on bad posts check out Stop The Posts available free on iTunes.

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Arguing With Your Fellow Progressive

[Don’t expect this to be brilliant. If your response is ‘Duh’ it’s not aimed at you. If you’re heaps conservative and accidentally landed on this page when searching for watercannons to deter protests or some shit you might with to move along past this one.]

It’s important to start with the fact that I’m almost certainly wrong. At least by some estimations some elements will be wrong. That should be encouraged. Progressivism separates itself by being a conversation. Progressivism should be in flux. There should be passionate arguments and you will not and should not win them all.

An inherent problem here is I’m not a poster boy for progressivism. I’m a young, white, cis male. There are important elements of society and experiences of other progressives which I cannot relate to, and refuse to pretend I can. I don’t know the experiences of a young indigenous mother. I don’t know the experiences of a middle-aged man of Palestinian descent. I haven’t got experience with drug abuse, homelessness or a variety of other factors which can inform someone’s life experience. That’s part of the point, though. No one is definitely able to speak for everyone. It’s arrogant to believe you can.

With that (essential if long) disclaimer understood, I wanted offer some support and advice for people who, like me, are slowly learning progressivism. There are certain very difficult things that you have to admit. Yes, you are sexist to some degree. You are racist to some degree. You have certain privileges that aren’t universal, even if you’re disadvantaged in other ways.

These topics have been elaborated on by much more well-informed people from varying perspectives and I’ll leave you to research them. The important element I wish to focus on is how to engage with fellow progressives.

When you start leaning left it’s understandable to assume the hardest conversations you’re going to have are over Christmas dinner when your unreasonable uncle decides to down his third drink and get political. That’s easy. Drunk Uncles love talking points and you know how to respond to talking points. It’s much harder to engage with another progressive. Particularly one who is telling you you’re wrong.

Good progressivism is not instantaneous. It’s a long journey that requires education. It requires being humble. It requires, though you might hate to hear it, shutting up and listening once in a while. That’s okay. That’s how you learn. If all you wanted to hear were your own opinions then you have no reason to engage in a debate.

It’s not the job of a ‘more well informed’ progressive person to educate you if you make a mistake. A common complaint I’ve seen from good people trying to be good progressives is that they are attacked whenever they offer an opinion. This needs to be understood from a number of perspectives.

First, you need to understand the context of the person who you perceive as attacking you (or perhaps simply not engaging). When someone is oppressed it doesn’t simply emerge in the comments of Facebook news stories. It may well be felt constantly. To expect someone to simply disregard this to personally tutor you about their daily experience shows an incredible level of entitlement.

An important part of this context is understanding a lot of these truths should be self-evident. This is a fact you’d probably agree on if you had it presented to you. This could be a myriad of issues but as a thought experiment say you were trying to be a good ally and engaging in a debate on LGBTI issues. In the heat of battle you overreach and attempt to speak for a community that never asked you to speak for them. It’s understandable for you to be taken aback when you’re admonished for this. You were being the good guy. Why isn’t anyone pouring gatorade on you and carrying you off the field on their shoulders?

It’s no one’s job to explain to you why a group of people should be allowed to speak for themselves. It’s no one’s job to engage with you on this. Particularly when the environment where these conversations come up aren’t exactly conducive to effective learning. It’s an expectation that you will think about the situation and come to this conclusion yourself.

An easy mistake to make in a situation like this, and one I’ve made myself, is to tailspin. Keep arguing and trying to make your point. Then try and make a point about progressivism as a whole. Play yourself as the victim and this conversation as the reason that these views aren’t held worldwide. This happens because the alternative is much harder. Be a grown up and take your damn medicine.

There’s no shame in apologising. It’s hard as hell but it breeds growth. This is nothing new. You were taught it in kindergarten and it holds true now. Say sorry. Acknowledge your fault. Try again. Fail better.

In an ideal world a pamphlet would be handed out the first time you showed interest in progressivism. Something with a handy title along the lines of ‘So you’re starting to sound like an arsehole on Facebook..’ but unfortunately there isn’t. Like everything else here this is on you. If you want to be strong don’t compromise your beliefs when they start to turn against your interests. Those are the times they matter most.

You’re never going to look forward to doing this. I’m not looking forward to having the things I’ve gotten dead wrong pointed out to me. That’s fine. Progressivism isn’t about making my life easy it’s making sure that human beings are treated with the respect they deserve.

 

What the NRL can learn from the NFL

[Originally posted on The Roar here]

With the Superbowl and the NRL pre-season both rapidly approaching it’s time to examine exactly what our lovable little sport can learn from the United States juggernaut.

While the NRL can’t exactly hope to have eighty thousand people packing out the stadium each week, there are certainly aspects of the NFL which could be adapted into NRL gameplay.

In this article I’ll discuss just some of the slight modifications the could be easily added to the NRL to improve gameplay, the fan experience, and even player well-being. It should be understood that what I’d really like to add is Beyonce performing at half-time but it doesn’t seem practical so it’s been ignored.

This isn’t going to be a piece where I am suggesting we radically change the NRL. I’m not looking to create another gridiron code. Both games are fantastic for their own reasons. That’s not to say the NRL is beyond adapting.

My goal here is, to steal a line from the American Constitution, to help form a ‘more perfect union’. Sorry, I mean ‘a more perfect league.’

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a fairly recent convert to the NFL but have been a life-long fan of NRL. Or at least, I’ve been a life-long fan of the Penrith Panthers who can often be charitably described as ‘technically playing NRL’.

Kickoffs
Let’s begin at the beginning. Or, more accurately, begin at the restarts. I’m yet to be presented with a good reason why, after points are scored, the scoring team should receive the ball again.

It seems counter-intuitive that having scored you should be given the opportunity to continue scoring ad-infinitum. One can imagine how one-sided basketball games could become if this was the case.

The kickoff rule as it stands reduces the variation in gameplay. Sure, it privileges ball-security but ball-security was already highly privileged. Having the ball is pretty important in most sports.

In defence of this rule, it can lead to wonderfully tight finishes where teams are able to make break after break to pull back a game that was once thought lost. This seems to conveniently omit the fact that a good number of the leads are generated because the opposition had earlier gotten on a roll scoring try after try.

The question is whether you value an amazing come-from-behind victory over a tight match over eighty minutes, where one team slips away at the last second. When it comes to this I’d argue that the reason those come-from-behind victories are so amazing is because they rarely happen.

Usually in the NRL when a team is getting blown out they stay blown out. Unless it’s my beloved Panthers who like to get just close enough to dare their fanbase to dream before crashing like a German blimp.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct
NRL fans have a bizarre infatuation with the moments when players stop playing the damn game we tuned in to watch them play, and punch each other.

The fans who claim ‘the biff’ is part of the game are watching the wrong sport.

If you want a slug-fest that only ends when one competitor is partially brain-damaged then boxing is your more your speed.

If you want a sport where the referee becomes purely ornamental as soon as grown men decide to throw fists around may I suggest either professional wrestling or ice hockey.

Football should be about football and any suggestion otherwise is just an attempt by Matthew Johns to sell T-shirts and DVDs.

Fights are going to happen. NRL players are incredibly competitive and the sport is very physical, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be disciplined when their behaviour needs moderating.

There’s supposed to be a check-and-balance for this: the sin bin. Unfortunately our current breed of referees would be timid about giving a war criminal ten in the bin. It’s too heavy a punishment.

Instead, referees will march the captain out, say something about how their players shouldn’t try and break the other team’s jaw, then send them back to the line.

The solution seems to be territory penalties. Losing ten metres for a sportsmanship infraction isn’t so harsh that it can completely decide a game every single time but it’s also not toothless.

Any form of unsportsmanlike conduct should result in a team being marched ten metres down the field (or, within the twenty metre line, half the distance to the goal). This is a tangible punishment and one which will force captains to be self-policing so their team isn’t giving up an extra ten on every play.

That’s not to say it should be used without discretion. The NFL seems to be moving to completely remove post-score celebrations. These are excellent and should still be around. Like most rules in our society the discretion required could probably be reduced to the age old maxim: “hey, don’t be an asshole.”

Mic The Referees
This one seems like a no-brainer and it’s bizarre that it hasn’t been implemented yet. Giving the referee a microphone both allows people in the nosebleeds that miss the fun knock-on hand gesture understand what the hell is going on and allows the person interpreting the rules to explain their interpretation.

In saying that, it is fun to listen to Gus Gould talk about the motion of Venus in an attempt to explain exactly why an obstruction was called. Also, it’s a fantastic chance to boo, and what crowd would give that up?

Penalty Flags
If there’s one thing that epitomises the NRL, it’s a wonderful break away try after a solid series of passes in a team’s own half to find and exploit a gap.

If there’s a second thing that epitomises the NRL, it’s the endless replays of the simple and obvious infraction that occurred at the very start of that same play which was then allowed to run to the point that it couldn’t be called back. (There has even been some suggestion of teams taking tackles on questionable plays so they can avoid these kinds of reviews altogether).

Introduction of a penalty flag system allows a referee to indicate their intention to check an aspect of a play without necessarily stopping the play. This removes the pressure from a referee to immediately blow a play dead or to let it run to the point that it’s no longer practical to call back.

Will this slow the game down if a player on a fast break is tackled on the ten yard line looking for a quick play of the ball? Certainly, but I promise you this will only be frustrating when it happens to your player and not the other team.

When it’s the other team you’ll be begging for the flag. You’ll love the flag.

Beyond this, the flag system creates a means of communication between multiple referees allowing the presiding referee to hear a call and subsequently decide to accept or overrule it.

This can also be beneficial to the team who the penalty is called against. They might prefer their eighty-metre run to stand rather than be called back for a kick at their ten metre line.

Concussions
Here’s where the NRL needs to learn from the mistakes of the NFL. Football has been described as a game where you pay to watch young men get brain damage. This has gone on for far too long.

This story is already blowing up in the United States and the league’s response has been horrifically unsatisfactory.

This past week, a judge refused to accept a settlement between the league and players which totals over $750 million dollars as it wasn’t large enough.

Firstly, this is after the NFL pressured ESPN into not pursuing the story.

Secondly, it still got out.

To expect that the same isn’t coming for Australian sports is ridiculous. Peter Fitzsimons has been quite noteworthy in his campaign to raise the awareness of the issue. It’s something that can or should be ignored.

We can no longer pretend to care about the well-being of our players only to abandon them the moment their careers end. It’s not good enough to say head injuries are part of the game. These are young men whose lives will be affected irreparably by attempting to entertain us.

Seeing a player returned to the field after suffering a massive blow to the head was once seen as a sign of courage.

I’m not claiming that these players aren’t courageous. I’m claiming the league has a duty of care to ensure that this courage doesn’t override safety.

The NRL has been so far open to implementing changes to concussion policy to assist the well-being of players.

It is of paramount importance that this continues to be updated with investments being made in researching both current and former player’s health and well-being to ensure the players we love can continue playing the game they love, and still enjoy a life after football.

Don’t Worry, This Isn’t A Eulogy

This is a bit of a departure. I’m not mad at some perceived hypocrisy or even mad at all. So, if you’re a regular reader of this page this might not be the kind of thing that interests you and you may wish to skip it.

I’ve been remarkably lucky with my time at Sydney University. My first year was spent solidly concerned with not fitting in. I was a Greater Western Sydney kid on the train four hours a day. Before long, as many people have done before me, I got involved in University life and had some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Perhaps the most integral part of that first year, though, was deciding not to skip an 8am maths lecture during election time.

Anyone who has sat through lecture-bash after lecture-bash during Union / SRC election time knows it’s a harrowing and boring experience. I’ve been on both sides of the microphone and I couldn’t hate it more. This particular lecture bash was different. It came in two parts. A few weeks before a young, smiley man asked us if we’d learned about matrices yet. We said we hadn’t and he said he’d be back when we had and he’d tell us a joke. The weeks passed and he was back. The lecture bash when on as standard, promises that I can’t even remember, and then he stopped and said that he had promised us a joke about matrices. What follows is that joke:

If I were a matrix you would be my inverse because without you I have no identity.

This was my first meeting with Scott Brownless.

Scott had a reputation of being the nicest person in the University but about 2,000 people have this reputation so I didn’t think much on it. Time went on and we became quite good friends. Scott has the wonderful combination of being incredibly smart and also incredibly eager to teach and share his knowledge with others. A good many afternoons were spent just asking Scott questions about how candles work and the most efficient way to blow up the world.

University got harder, as it is meant to. I was entering into intermediate and senior physics and I was struggling. I had entered a recursive cycle where I would hate being in lectures because I couldn’t understand anything which meant I would miss even more. Then came the physics labs.

Given the option, I’m not entirely sure I would choose returning to physics labs over entering solitary confinement. Solitary confinement doesn’t come with an incomplete list of notes for a task you’re require to complete without so much as a label saying which piece of equipment is which. My first intermediate lab was spent collating results for four hours straight only to have a lab tutor declare the results ‘total crap’, delete them and leave without saying what was wrong with them.

I started to stare down the prospect of not finishing my degree.

As often happens in these situations I was more scared of breaking the news to my parents than I was for my own future. I’m one of those fun first-child-at-university stories combine with a first-child-in-the-big-city stories. My parents are incredibly, irresponsibly supportive of my frankly stupid life choices and disappointing them was something I never wanted to do. I started slowly dropping into conversation how hard physics is and how I might not be able to continue with it if I fail.

I called Scott from the lab and had a good ol’ whinge about how much I hated it and wanted to quit. This happened approximately three times a week for two or so years.

But Scott wouldn’t let me quit. He wasn’t forceful, in fact the opposite. The more reservation I had the more helpful and open he became.

Perhaps the most pertinent example of this is the week before my fourth year exams. It was pouring with rain and I had sat in my room for hours on end trying to make Schrodinger’s Wave Equation make any kind of sense. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the concepts, it was worse than that. I didn’t understand the explanation of what the concepts meant. I didn’t know what a Hamiltonian was so how was I supposed to understand what applying a Hamiltonian did?

As I had with every assignment for the previous year I gave Scott a call and asked if I could meet him in his office. As I approached his office, the rain pounding down either side, I noticed the campus was strangely empty. Embarrassingly, it dawned on me that this was a Saturday and Scott wouldn’t be at the University.

Then from the other end of the street I saw Scott waving from under an umbrella.

He had come from his home, on a rainy Saturday morning, where he had been watching the third season of Breaking Bad in bed with his lovely girlfriend, to come into the University and teach me physics.

He sat patiently for hours taking me step by step through the course until I understood each aspect.

This wasn’t an unusual event. Scott would regularly give up huge chunks of his time, no matter his situation, to coach me through the hardest thing I’ve had to do.

I’ve just received my final results.

A year and a half ago I was certain I’d break down, drop out of University, and spiral out of control.

Today I’ve completed two degrees.

There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to finish my physics degree without the kind, constant friendship of Scott. I called him when I got the results and promised him a jug of beer but it didn’t seem substantial enough. So this is essentially a big, public thank you note.

I had said before, unsure if I’d ever get my degree, that if my name was in Size 10 font Scott’s deserved to be there in size 8.

I’m certain these kind of friendships are incredibly common and acknowledged every day privately but they seem to rarely be widely celebrated. I believe I know a person who deserves celebration.

Thank you, Scott.

I hope this made you as uncomfortable to read as it made me to write.

Also, I know that this doesn’t get me out of owing you a beer.

A Tiny Problem With Sydney Trains That I’m Going To Blow Way Out Of Proportion

[Originally performed live at Things I Saw From My High Horse #2 available here.]

1-millenium-train

There’s nothing particularly clever about complaining about Sydney Trains. It feels like kicking a dog if that dog routinely ruined your day and was reviled by the general public to the point that it had to change its name from CityDog to Sydney Dog to avoid the hashtag #ShittyDog.

That’s not to say Sydney Trains should be beyond criticism. The public transport infrastructure of a metropolis routinely shitting its dacks at the slightest sign of rain suggests that perhaps its designers weren’t aware that sometimes it rains. Sydney Transport could be greatly improved by really studying the lyrics to a Dolly Parton album.

The problem I wish to blow entirely out of proportion doesn’t depend on train delays or schedules. I understand that in a city of millions where one delay  can shut down a network these things are inevitable. What I wish to talk about it a piece of not so inevitable policy that’s come into effect as a not so cheery part of the biggest timetable change in a generation.

If you’ve caught a train recently you would have noticed both the typical hanging feeling of the inevitability of death and an increase in rail security at the entrances and exits of major stations. These trained not-police are particularly targeting the crime of fare evasion. They are often joined by actual police on the theory that once fare evasion has been completely eradicated crime is probably  done and we can all go home.

It makes good economic sense to target fare evaders too. You know who rides trains? Fat cats. The super rich. The 1%. So it makes sense to punish people who violate the rules of rail travel with two hundred to five hundred dollar fines because they can afford it.

It’s hard not to read a class aspect into this increase in security as they are particularly targeting a perceived misuse of concession cards. I’ve been asked to present mine dozens of times this month alone in a manner befitting an Eastern European border patrol asking for my papers. This is despite the fact that concession tickets can only be purchased during office hours from the front window suggesting there is a mole in the ranks of Sydney Trains Departed-style dealing out discounted tickets to the mafia.

The financial aspect is important to consider because people often misjudge this. What you might think is that the reason someone buys a Concession ticket if they’re not entitled to a concession discount might be that they can’t afford a full price ticket. That they’re doing it tough. That perhaps the extra three or four dollars may not seem like a big deal to someone better off but it certainly adds up. But you’re wrong. It’s because they love crime. Fare evaders, or as they like to be called ‘people’, love committing crime so much that they will often catch trains even when they have nowhere to go. Just for the thrill of being on a Sydney Train.

So, here’s where we get to the problem. Yes, fare evasion is a crime. Yes, people should buy their correct tickets. If someone doesn’t though, and is caught, we should probably take a moment to consider why they would have done it and maybe that we have bigger fish to fry. God knows if every ticket inspector left their post at the gate and instead went inside the train with, say, a broom and the ability to tell school children to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up Sydney trains might just be that little bit better.

And this is the crux, if we have a population in a sprawling city expected to continue growing at the rate ours is currently growing we need a culture of cheap, effective public transport. Sydney Trains is not and has never been paid for by ticket sales. Fines and Prosecution of those using the rail system in a perfectly acceptable way but with the wrong ticket does nothing to help the transport system and does everything to ruin the culture in which we can think of trains as a viable alternative form of transport.

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Gonski Not Quite Gonski

[Originally performed for A Rational Fear on FBi Radio. Free for download here]

The Federal Government has backflipped on its backflip so Gonski may not be completely Gonski. This has been a topsy-turvy story all week culminating today in Abbott backing down as if the Gonski Reforms were the Indonesian Military. So, let’s go through what’s happened so far…

During a press-conference that actually contained information because it wasn’t about boats,

Education Minister and cackling muppet from Return of the Jedi Chris Pyne announced he would be “going back to the drawing board” on the Gonski reforms, provided he can find one of those really rich schools that can still afford drawing boards.

The Government had initially said they’d support the reforms but then Abbott claimed he was misheard and that the funding would be the same across all schools but not necessarily individual schools. proving once and for all that some of the children are our future.

Before the election Pyne himself had said “you can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school” though at this point it seemed that same amount was zero dollars.

This was exactly the kind of backflip that Chris Pyne used to crucify Labor for. I’d say it was heaps ironic but my school’s funding was cut so I don’t know what irony is.

Gonski’s report was so controversial you’d have assumed it was indisputable evidence of climate change. Members from both State and Federal Parliament went out of their way to give their two cents over which schools should get two cents.

Barry O’Farrell slammed Pyne for continuing to behave like the opposition which is probably fair because in opposition the Liberal Party didn’t support Gonski then all of a sudden did, which is exactly how they’re behaving. So what makes Gonski so controversial?

The Gonski reforms were designed so that schools would receive a base amount of funding for each child with extra money for children with disabilities, children with indigenous backgrounds and children from low socio-economic areas. Obviously the reforms were controversial as, to quote from Government’s previous policy, “fuck those guys.” Short of ‘Giving a Gonski’ it seemed that Chris Pyne wasn’t even capable of giving a shit, having assured education ministers that only public schools are facing cuts. Meaning funding would still be going to the schools that don’t need it most. This was bad for poorer schools but luckily no one there was able to read the news.

The Left’s response to this was typically annoying, as they evoked the same satirical brilliance which labelled Former Prime Minister Gillard ‘Juliar’ to call Chris Pyne ‘Pyneoccio’.

It was exactly the kind of pointless hashtag-oriented response that hits the double-whammy of doing nothing to win over those who disagree with you while causing such a large collective sigh from those that do agree with you that a little bit of ozone dies right above your caucus.

And it wasn’t just the left. Nicknames like Electricity Bill and Short-Change Shorten make Pyne the perfect model for a fifth grade bully except that this bully doesn’t take your lunch money he just takes your textbooks, computers, desks, chalk, chairs, lights, and hope for a better future.

But then this afternoon deliverance came through the well known Angel-Of-Mercy Tony Abbott.

Seemingly unable to resist the temptation of being the latest in a long line of people to tell Chris Pyne to shut the fuck up, Abbott announced today that Gonski will be going ahead and added 1.2 Billion Dollars to the program.

It’s still a bit too soon to tell but currently the reaction to this news has been cautiously optimistic. It’s hard to imagine anything more telling of just how bad of a state our national discourse is in that we are dumbfounded when someone seems to listen to us.

We treat our politicians like lonely people treat housecats, just saying words with the vague hope that maybe they’ll understand us and stop crapping in the garden.

So currently it looks like we’re back to no child being left behind, or at least if they are left behind they’re in Western Australia and they were already three hours behind.

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The casual fan’s guide to the NFL playoffs

[Originally posted to The Roar. Available here.]

As Thanksgiving Week wraps up we’re two-thirds of the way through the NFL Season.

This is the perfect time for the casual fan to jump on a bandwagon and pretend you’ve been following the league all year.

To help you on the way we’ve provided a guide to who has already made it, who is still in the hunt, and which towns are hastily camouflaging a stadium as they try and pretend they’ve never heard of football.

The Sure Things

Denver Broncos
Lead by America’s older brother Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos recorded their second win over divisional rivals Kansas City this week setting them up for an easy playoffs berth.

Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have dominated this year on the back of skittle-fueled running back Marshawn Lynch. Perhaps the real deciding factor in the Seahawks’ season has been its defensive secondary, the self-proclaimed ‘Legion of Boom’ made up entirely of massive nerds who love Pokemon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

New England Patriots
Heading up a division featuring ButtFumblers and (alleged) massive racists, the Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady, have done their utmost to still be the most unlikable team in the NFL.

They’ve lost their minds at probably correct calls. They’ve named plays after the coach’s girlfriend.

Oh, and they also pulled off the best comeback of the year to knock off the Denver Broncos.

New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is weirdly loveable and the Saints are a joy to watch.

They’ve got one of the hardest runs to the playoffs taking on the fearsome Panthers twice and the occasionally dangerous Rams but if they’re able to split the difference with the Panthers they should secure their division.

Detroit Lions
The Lions do not deserve to be here.

If it wasn’t for two of their divisional rivals losing franchise quarterbacks (including the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers for a month and proceeding to shit themselves every single game) they would probably be in the middle of the pack with no real hope of advancing.

As it stands, sometimes luck shines on Tim Allen’s team of choice.

The highlight of their season was far and away the fantastic comeback against the Cowboys but there hasn’t been much else to inspire fans.

Their next two games are tough, facing off against the actually good Eagles and the sometimes-not-awful Ravens but even picking up just one of these two should see them clinch the division.

The No Hopers

Washington Redskins
Carrying the weight of the most needlessly controversial team name and stubborn piece-of-shit general manager who refuses to change the name, Washington wasn’t exactly swimming in good vibes this season.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3) wasn’t exactly up to the challenge of carrying the team but he did get kicked in the dick against the 49ers hard enough to make RG4 an unlikelihood, so I guess that’s something.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers give up leads like a child in a dog park.

Perhaps the most telling of these was the 21-0 lead they had over the Seahawks only to lose 24-27 in overtime.

Actually being enjoyable to watch, for good or bad, puts the Bucs ahead of the Jaguars but they’re still comparable to banging your head against a fence, it’s just a nice fence.

Houston Texans
The Texans were as disappointing as their name is uncreative.

They spent the season as the team everyone was certain would turn it around and go on a massive winning run but it never came.

The most telling moment of their season came when new, fun quarterback Case Keenum was subbed out for former quarterback and expert at giving the other team the ball Matt Schaub, a move that made the home crowd boo and heckle so loudly that the team had to switch to a hard count to run their plays.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Unfortunately due to a large collection of very bad teams the NFL often finds a lot of teams deserving to lose every single game by a huge amount but accidentally winning one or two by the law of averages.

The Jacksonville Jaguars base their entire franchise around these unfortunate accidents.

They beat the Texans, sure, but the Texans have beaten themselves every week so it can’t be that hard.

Cleveland Browns
Believing in the Cleveland Browns is like believing you will be the first person in the world to never die.

Everyone likes to do it but it’s ultimately futile. The factory of sadness kept churning all year but will close for the playoffs.

St Louis Rams
The Rams have had an impressive few weeks and a powerful running game but in the overpowered NFC West they look a bit like Hawkeye in The Avengers.

Sure, they’re there and technically part of the team but really who gives a shit?

Buffalo Bills
Like the ice cream gumball combo that shares their name the Bills looked tempting at first but ended up melting in the sun and becoming a weird disappointing splodge on the concrete that you wish you hadn’t wasted your hard-earned $2.50 on.

Oakland Raiders
This week’s game against the Cowboys was a solid microcosm of the Raiders season. They perform just well enough to make you believe in them before folding faster than Superman on laundry day.

If the Raiders defence had realise it’s technically legal for the other team to sometimes run with the ball they might have been able to salvage their season but alas that wasn’t the case.

Atlanta Falcons
A personified yawn. Do not resuscitate.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are one of those teams that wait until their season is over then step up a gear ruining everyone else’s playoff hopes.

They pulled off a draw with Green Bay and took out the Bears in overtime teaching everyone to never bet on football, ever.

The Contenders

Carolina Panthers
Headed up by Riverboat Ron Rivera, the coach who treats every fourth down as a challenge to his manhood, the Panthers have powered through an impressive run this season knocking over the 49ers, Patriots and Dolphins in successive weeks.

Cam Newton is a very impressive quarterback for a man who wears a towel on his head but the real strength of the Panthers are their defence, which should see them into at least a wildcard position.

Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs started out on a 9-0 unbeaten streak until unfortunately one week they had to play an actual football team.

Suffering two losses to the Broncos and one to the Chargers the Chiefs have enough in the bank too see them into the playoffs but don’t expect them to go too far.

Baltimore Ravens
Technically defending champions, the Baltimore Ravens conjure philosophical questions regarding identity and what makes a person.

With a quarterback that hates the plays he’s forced to run the Ravens have been on and off like a couple in Home and Away.

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals haven’t set the world on fire but they’ve registered some good wins against bad teams and have a run home that would see them unlucky to be tackled in the next four games. Whether they can make it deep into the playoffs is doubtful.

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had a rough start to the season but with stars coming back for their big divisional matches and the unstoppable running of Frank “The Inconvenient Truth” Gore they have a good shot at picking up the wildcard, particularly with divisional rivals the Cardinals falling further behind this week.

Dallas Cowboys
Backed by polemic quarterback Tony Romo and not much else the Cowboys have pulled wins out of their arse like a clown pulls colourful handkerchiefs. They’ll make the playoffs but no one will enjoy it.

Indianapolis Colts
This is a bad teams that does bad things and hurts you for loving them. Their run home is a mix of very hard and stupidly easy games. Splitting the difference they’ll be in with a sniff of the post-season.

Philadelphia Eagles
Quarterback Nick Foles is actually excellent, throwing 11 touchdown passes in two weeks and holding his own against some of the best teams in the league. Unfortunately they’ve been bitten hard by a bad start and a difficult run home so their season is up in the air.

Technically in the hunt but let’s all be adults about this

Miami Dolphins
In a season that off-field dramas have far outshone anything played on the pitch it seems like the entire world is hoping the Dolphins fall on their face with the speed and accuracy of an olympic diver.

Unfortunately they keep winning – but as a man who believes in a just universe I cannot accept that they might feel happiness ever again.

New York Jets
The Jets, or to use their full name ‘The God Damn Jets’ picked up controversial safety Ed Reed to help with their deep ball problem, though recent weeks have proven the real problem is the Jets deeply balls up any play they run.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers hopes for post-season success broke with Aaron Rodgers’s collarbone.

Running on a third-string quarterback the Packers have suffered loss after loss meaning Rodgers must come back perfect or their season is over. It’s hard to see it happening, which is a shame because they’re actually good at football.

New York Giants
Headed by America’s little brother and Ricky Ponting’s only challenger for saddest sport face, Eli Manning, the Giants went six games before registering their first win this season.

It seemed like an incredible comeback was on the cards but for some reason Manning-The-Younger’s tactic of throwing interception constantly didn’t bring them the wins they’d expected.

Chicago Bears
The Bears also lost their star quarterback but that hasn’t seemed to hurt them that much.

In fact, much like the Raiders, the Bears problem seems to be they forget that people can run the ball.

Their defence leaves holes in the field so large three miners have been lost in their secondary.

Arizona Cardinals
A fortress home field and a solid run gave fans hopes the Cardinals might breakthrough out of nowhere but a loss this week and the ridiculously overpowered nature of NFC West means their season is probably done.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Yes, technically the Steelers could make the playoffs but in the same respect technically I could be named President of the Moon this afternoon. Their run home isn’t terrible but their team is terrible so I guess that doesn’t matter.

San Diego Chargers
Some big wins over the last few weeks, including delivering Kansas City their second loss of the season, gave hope to Chargers fans but it looks too little too late.

Tennessee Titans
The Titans are in the hunt but they’d need to pull off upset wins against the Broncos and the Cardinals and that’s just not going to happen and even if it did happen this is football and it hates belief so they’d probably lose to the Jaguars after a meteor hits the field destroying their endzone.

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