I don't really follow footy. I come from Melbourne and therefore am congenitally obliged to barack for a team. That team, for me, is Carlton. If pressed, however, I'll admit that I barack for the 1982 Carlton team, which was the last time Bruce Doull played and won a premiership.
When Doull retired at the end of the 1986 season, my enjoyment of football began to wane. Doull was then as old as I am now.
I'm involved in a footy tipping competition with one of my clients. This client is footy mad, and yes, I mean the entire organisation. It's a family-run business and their offices are filled with St Kilda memorabilia.
I can't compete in a footy tipping competition in any real sense. I don't know enough about the league now. I don't care either. One year my interest came so close to zero that it was virtually indistinguishable when drawing the graph. Who knew that interest could be asymptotic?
That being said, I want to participate because there are fun prizes like Gold Class passes to be won.
So I do the only thing that makes sense to me. I leave it up to the dice.
I roll two 20-sided dice. Anything less is just too likely to result in a draw. One die is assigned as the home team and the other is the away team. Whichever is greater is the winner of that match.
The tie-breaker is decided with a single roll of a d100.
With that nerdy display, I present you my tips for round 1 of the AFL's 2011 home and away season.
Carlton to beat Richmond by 83 points
Geelong to beat St. Kilda
Collingwood to beat Port Adel.
Adelaide to lose to Hawthorn
Brisbane to lose to Fremantle
Essendon to beat W. Bulldogs
Melbourne to beat Sydney
West Coast to lose to North Melb.
Gold Coast Bye
I'll keep posting my tips for as long as I can be bothered for any stats freaks who are interested.
Today I'll help clients make their businesses a little better. That's what I do for a living. I do it through my knowledge of computer technology, the Internet and the web.
When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them that I make websites. It's a simple answer but it's not the answer I want to give. I want people to understand that I'm passionate about what I do and how I do it. I want them to understand not what I do but why I do it.
This time last year I was in Austin, Texas, for the SxSW Interactive festival. I wish I was there now, but Austin is a long way from St Kilda.
The thing about SxSW is that everybody there already understands. They're doing it for the same reasons and there's an instant kinship. SxSW is as much about learning from other people's experiences and knowledge as it is about just realizing that we're not alone. For five days we share a space where no explanations are needed and that clearly frees us up and gives us the strength to drink like we've just discovered alcohol and eat barbecue until we are more brisket than human.
My friend, Dr Patrick, introduced me to this challenge / mindfulness system he has. Every year he picks 100 songs that have had some impact on him. No two songs can be by the same artists.
The way he does it is to just drag a song into a playlist for that year when he hears it and it strikes something in him. It sounds simple enough.
I'm often driving when listening to music and I found myself repeating the name of the song I wanted to add to my list until I got to traffic lights and then scribbling it into my Moleskine to be added later.
I have the added problem of having different sets of music on my desktop at home and my laptop. So I started just placing the songs in Evernote and tagging them for the list.
I've just finished putting it all together. I didn't get to 100. I only got as far as 20. Each to their own, I suppose. The list is in no particular order, or maybe it's in chronological order. Who can remember?
"Academy Fight Song"
Mission Of Burma
Signals, Calls, And Marches
"Keep the Streets Empty For Me"
"Must Be Bobby"
"The Whistling Song"
"Lights in the Sky"
Nine Inch Nails
"Kim & Jessie"
Saturdays = Youth
"Fall Of Night"
SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artists
SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artists
The Good The Bad
SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artists
SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
"Time Is Tight"
Booker T. & The MG's
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
The Ferocious Few
The Ferocious Few
"I Am Hip Hop (Move The Crowd)"
Deep Puddle Dynamics
The Taste Of Rain... Why Kneel
"Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe"
The Stage Names
"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Punch The Clock
Fountain And Fairfax
The Afghan Whigs
The Eternal (Bonus Track Version)
You'll Miss Me
They Might Be Giants
If you're wondering about the SXSW Showcasing Artists albums, every years the South by Southwest festival releases a sampler of hundreds of songs from artists appearing at that year's festival. It's a great and free way to get a whole bunch of new music. It's all released as torrents so you can usually find it around months after the festival.
I spent this evening, after finally getting home from work — all day hungover and trying to deal with the reality of running a small business, chasing the tiny goals of human existence — watching the film Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
I've long been a fan of Dr Thompson. For pure sentence structure, the essence of writing, there were very few as good as him. For that reason alone he was an inspiration for a young would-be writer. I devoured and relished his work. I wanted so much to be Hunter Thompson but never would be. I didn't have his courage. Thompson was Thompson and the mere fact that I wanted to be him and not Joshua Kinal meant that I would never come close to being anything like him.
Nevertheless, I've spent a lot of time trying to see what it was that made Thompson's work so good, so powerful and so engaging. For all his gun-toting, drug-taking lunacy, at the heart of all his writing is a passion, a belief and a search for truth about his own country and the potential it held.
The temptation gripped me during the documentary that the next day, Australia Day, I should get into my 1996 Corolla and drive. I should search for the truth about my own country.
My whole life I've looked to the United States of America as a country that held answers for me. I believed their bullshit. I believed what I was told through television and movies and comic books: The propaganda that filled my understanding that there was such a thing as "the American way", "the American dream" or even "the great American novel".
No other country has the arrogance to lay claim to a dream. It is, of course, ridiculous that a country and its people should declare itself unified in striving for a single dream but to never specify it in case it becomes unobtainable.
It was through Hunter Thompson and J.D. Salinger and, more recently, Steinbeck, that I discovered the sadness, despair and futility that goes with fooling a nation into believing in an unobtainable dream. But I never sought to find the truth about my own country.
Australia is my home. I live here. I work here. I was born here. But I never felt like I belonged here and I could not work out why. I felt like a foreigner in my own home and I thought it was maybe because I didn't care about footy. I played it in primary school, along with cricket, to be a part of the group. Growing up in Melbourne and not enjoying Australian Rules Football, before reaching the rebelliousness of adolescence, is social suicide. I liked television and film and, to a lesser extent, music.
So my plan was to take my car, made in Victoria but with foreign heritage (and what could be more Australian than that), and discover the people who make up my home to try to find a connection. Who are we? We call ourselves the lucky country: Not the hard-working country and not the sensible country. We are lucky. We are gamblers.
When I read Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook I was overwhelmed to discover that somebody else managed to capture the feeling of both being Australian and being an outsider at the same time. As a nation our identity is tied to have a good time, have a laugh, she'll be right, no worries, have another beer, take it easy. That's the bullshit that we swallow. That's our version of the American dream. We believe in the myth of Crocodile Dundee, that our true-nature is a well-meaning larrikin.
Our reality, though, is more like Mad Max. We fear that our hopes, future and security will be destroyed by an almost anarchic disregard for consequences. Somehow in our history we've skipped the part where we strive to be our own success story. We went from clinging to Britain's apron and striving for the respect of a mother country — that most of us never came from and that never wanted us anyway — to desperately seeking the approval of whichever government led the world popularity polls that week. In doing so we're constantly concerned for what will bring about our own destruction. When will our luck finally run out?
Yet the last couple of years brought another reality home. As a nation we're still in our early years. The floods and bush fires show us that we're still more Dorothea Mackellar's Australia than we'd like to think. Our identity is bound to the land itself and its inherent contradictions and irrationality.
I will not escape on Australia Day in my Australian by creation — Japanese by descent — car and search for a true Australia, because I am not Hunter S. Thompson (who would most likely shoot my '96 Corolla just for the sport of it rather than ever own it). The date itself has no relevance for me other than a name.
I will do some work that I need to get done to deal with the reality of running a small business. I will make my small contributions to society in the only way I know how. I will refuse the notion of being a lucky country because the people I know, the families who made their lives here, did so through hard work rather than luck. They overcame the odds to survive and did not rely on dreams or any other nonsense, rather, on their own convictions.
A Nazi is someone who was a member of the Nazi party in Germany in the lead up to and during the second World War. A Nazi can also be someone who supports the ideals of the Nazi party in the modern age. These people may be white supremacists, Arianists, nationalists and xenophobes in all senses. These people will blame somebody else's skin colour, religion, sexuality or disability for their own perceived misfortune.
A Nazi is not someone who is merely strict, pedantic or doing a job involving traffic management of any variety that is not in any way facilitating attempted genocide.
Similarly there is a difference between someone who criticises a person undergoing gender reassignment for their actions in relation to those around them and a transophobe. There is a difference between someone who criticises the actions of a victim of sexual assault for continuing behaviour they know is hurting those around them and a rape apologist. Also, there is a difference between someone who calls out a homosexual for acting in a manner that is harmful to the people who love him or her and a homophobe.
As a culture it's possible that we've been so isolated from actual hatred that we can't recognise it when we see it. Or maybe it's that we actually require some kind of drama. Whatever it is, there has been a trend recently to either overstate a situation for comic or melodramatic effect.
Accusing someone of hating an entire group of people based on their sexual identity is serious. To do so as a knee-jerk response to any piece of criticism one disagrees with then undermines or lessons the charge when placed against someone with a true hatred.
Tolerance not only needs to allow for differences in sexual, religious, or cultural orientation but also in differences of opinion.
I go through this, not to tell people off or even to get people to change their behaviour. While I'd like that to happen, not even I am arrogant enough to assume I can do that through a blog post. Really, I just want to make it clear where I stand on the issue.
Criticism is healthy. For those who are unaware, Dan Savage has a sex and relationship advice column and an associated podcast. People write to him or call him for his advice. He gives his advice. By going through this process the people with issues are choosing to make their issues public. This results in not only getting advice from Savage but also potentially being criticised by his entire audience. Savage also puts himself in a situation where he can be criticised for the advice he gives.
I've listened to a lot of the Savage Lovecast and there's one thing I can definitely say about Dan Savage: He assumes that adults should take responsibility for their own actions. This means that he sometimes criticises adults for acting like selfish or spoilt children. Sometimes the people he criticises are bisexual or undergoing gender reassignment procedures or victims of sexual assault. He has been asked for his opinion and has given it. To label him with terms of hatred is offensive and, in itself, intolerant and ignorant.
That's one way to look at it. Another way is that, to use these terms to define someone who has done as much for the openness and tolerance of sexuality and identification as Dan Savage is to reduce the charge against those who are guilty of true hatred. By extension it undermines the severity of oppression, persecution, violence and abuse that people have experienced at their hands.
Similarly, to call the people who refuse you entry into a nightclub or search your bags at the airport "Nazis" is to weaken the charge of the atrocities performed by the Nazis during the second world war or those who have done so, in their name, since that time.
A little thought, common sense and sensitivity never goes astray.
I love Melbourne with a deep understanding that we usually reserve for friendships. That understanding is sometimes more hindsight than it is of the moment. We see what we once had when a friendship finally dissolves and simultaneously mourn its loss while also remembering fondly all of the wonderful times that strengthened the bond.
Melbourne is my home but I live with a powerful compulsion to reside elsewhere. Not just anywhere but New York City.
A lot has been written about New York City. Really. A lot. Too much. Having spent so much of my life deriding the mainstream and seeking out the eclectic, extreme and commonplace, it somewhat pains me to admit that the city I love most and most wish to reside in is the topic of so many other people's love letters.
New York is a popular choice, there's no doubting that. Worse still is the writer who describes the city as if no one else has ever experienced it.
Like a 19th century missionary discovering an African tribe, the writer describes a place where an everyday action can be interpreted as a ritual to be explained to the outsider. That temptation is ever-present because it's the cliché we've come to expect from somebody detailing a new experience.
When I was in university, London was the popular destination for Australian students to call their temporary home. They lived there and travelled to Spain for weekends, went to parties with lots of other Australians and, for as long as their visas lasted, pretended like they had shaken off the stink of their suburban middle-class upbringing.
They were experiencing the world and their experiences were "unique".
For those of us who stayed at home during those years, we knew their experiences were not, in any way, unique. We knew this because every sad-sack who returned home, broke and unemployed, told us the same stories. Their experiences were almost identical and we were bored by their pretension.
The fashion of answer-seeking, temporary expatriation seems to be skewing towards New York at the moment. The lower east side (uninspiringly dubbed LES by its tedious hipster population) is full of Australians trying to experience "something real" while simultaneously escaping the reality of their lives back home.
My long-term and agonisingly unrequited crush with the city began in December 1992. Until that time, New York was a magical place of fairy tales with muggings and street violence, Sesame Street and the Cosby Show, Woody Allen and Spike Lee, Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, the Ramones and Sonic Youth. The best and worst of humanity called New York their home and I was intrigued. At the very least I wanted to see what this place was like and see how I faired out of my own middle-class suburban comfort zone.
I've been back to New York three more times since my first visit. On days like today, when the Melbourne wind blows heat from the north, I dream of a city I've only ever experienced in winter and wonder when I'll find a way to return.
It's cup day in Melbourne. Actually, I think that should be title case: "Cup Day".
That means a number of things. It's a Tuesday that most people have as a day off. They get the day off because of a horse race known as the [insert sponsor name] Melbourne Cup. It's the only public holiday in the state of Victoria between the erroneously titled Queen's Birthday (in June) and Christmas day (in December).
Because it's a public holiday in a day-off lull there are an unusual number of hung over or still drunk people for a Tuesday morning. Then there are the people who go to the races.
The races are an opportunity for people who don't ordinarily engage in such behavior to play dress-ups. The men will wear suits and their newest $30 hipster hat. The women wear a lovely frock with a brand new fascinator stapled to their head. They look so fresh-faced and excited as they try to finish off their first beer or alcopop of the morning before the tram arrives.
These are the people off to Flemington.
I've never been to Flemington for the Melbourne Cup or any other horse race. I'm from the other Melbourne. I'm from the inner-city, to cool to have fun Melbourne. I take Melbourne Cup Day as an opportunity to get work done in the office when everybody else is out.
My understanding is that a lot of people occupy space in the car park at the race track. My understanding is that a lot of people just drink through the day regardless of the sport that seems to be more about gambling than personal achievement.
Despite my apparent disdain for the day and everything it stands for, I absolutely love it. I think it's probably the most Melbourne thing about Melbourne. It's more Melbourne than the AFL Grand Final. It's more Melbourne than art or coffee or comedy. It's more Melbourne than complaining about the decline of live music venues.
Everybody knows that come 8pm the CBD will be filled with 19 year old women holding shoes in their hands while walking away from their vomiting friend. It's become a cliché. The dress-ups will be dressed down. The suits will be crumpled and mud-stained while the celebrators line up to be rejected from another night-club for being to drunk.
These are our traditions. Like any other march, there are the people who take part and the people who prefer to stand on the side and watch. Either way, everybody finds it enjoyable.
The race itself lasts about 3 minutes. The news coverage in the six o'clock bulletin will last at least 8. We'll see men dressed in tuxedos and board shorts thinking they are the most hilarious humans ever. We'll see whatever low-grade international "celebrity" the organisers could shove in a sack and transport over here for the event. We'll see whatever other famous people came because they could organise some kind of tax break.
We know everything that will happen on the day except who will win. People who, 364 days of the year, don't live in the world of horse racing don't really care who wins the cup. The day is more important than the race.
Wednesday is a work day. Tales will be told. Office sweeps prizes will be handed out and work will continue for another four weeks until the Christmas parties start. That's just how we do it in Melbourne.
I'd really like you to be a part of it which is why you can donate now.
A lot of you know that I've recently begun my new career as an antisocial media expert.
Of course, a lot of you also know that this is a joke. Many of you thought it funny and some of you might even have thought it funny enough to throw $5 my way so that I can buy a new MacBook Pro and get my work done quicker and with less complaining.
$5 will get you my sincere thanks.
For $25 dollars you get a personalised and signed photo of me with the computer.
For $125 you'll receive the photo and also have the honour of being on a list of people mentioned, in laser label maker fashion, on the lid of the computer.
For $625 you can have your name engraved on the lid of the computer where it will remain for all time and for all to see.
Go on. Help me keep making the world a better place with my podcasts, charming humour, interesting blog pieces and unique look at the world by providing me with the ability to purchase a new computer.
Fight the plateau and keep hope alive for this little boy inside a 36 year old man's body.
Here's a pretty (sad) graph:
Thanks to all the very wonderful people who have donated so far. As soon as I have my computer I'll take the photos, sign them and mail them out.