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Friday, May 16, 2008


It’s that special time of year once more. I am of course speaking about the annual Rugby League State of Origin series between New South Wales and Queensland.

Now as a ‘good’ expatriate Victorian, I have virtually no interest in rugby league, or thugby as we followers of Aussie Rules refer to it. However equally as a ‘good’ expatriate Vic from the right side of the Murray River, I love to see NSW get beaten. At anything. J Consequently I do pay some attention to the State of Origin, always in the hope of seeing Queensland beating those upstart New South Welshman.

I vividly recall having a rather furious debate one time with two rabid followers of Rugby League. “Aussie Rules,” they insisted, “is nothing more than Gaelic Football played with a different type of ball. League however is a uniquely Australian game, invented here.”

Sadly these people, while passionate in their belief, were in fact quite mistaken. While Australian Rules does have distinct similarities with Gaelic Football, it also has some genesis in Rugby Union.

They were also mistaken about Rugby League’s origins. Once upon a time, there was only what we call Rugby Union. However this was considered more of a gentleman’s game, coming as it did as a product of the English public school system, ‘public’ of course meaning ‘private.’ Consequently, common or working class individuals were not especially welcomed to the game, despite whatever skill they may have otherwise brought to the game. A revolution however developed in the Yorkshire dales. Whilst much of Yorkshire was still very much gentrified, with estates and farmlands, there was a highly industrialised belt. It was players from that industrialised belt that eventually rebelled, broke away from the ‘Union’ to form a League. Hence the creation of Rugby League.

Historically, Rugby Union continued to be dominent in the UK, particularly England. However the migrations to Australia in the nineteenth century, especially during the gold rushes, brought many of those working class devotees of ‘the League’ to Australia, finding a home in the colony of New South Wales.

For reasons I am not yet aware of, the miners on the Central Victorian goldfields experimented with developing a new code of football that became Australian Rules, and the first Aussie Rules club, Sandhurst, is still in existence today in the Bendigo Football League. Even that club’s derogative nickname, the ‘slagheads’ is a reference to its mining origins referring to the piles of discarded rock etc disgorged by the smelters and crushers processing the output of the deep mine shafts around Sandhurst (Bendigo). In Sydney however, the locals favoured the working man’s game of League.

In time, Australian Rugby League officialdom, based of course in Sydney, NSW, came to dominate the game including rule changes etc. Nonetheless, Rugby League was not an Australian invention as such but was a product of social revolt against the English upper class.

Go the Maroons. Here’s to hoping that the Cane Toads will stomp on those godless Sydnerian philistines.

Here endeth the rant.

Indian spin bowler, Harbijan Singh, was reported for racial abuse in the Second Test. He was suspended for either of two Test matches or four one-day internationals. On appeal, the charge was downgraded as the judge found insufficient evidence to support a Level Three charge as was originally laid.

The day after the appeal hearing, the judge claimed that if he had known that this was the fifth time that Singh had been reported, he would have imposed a much stiffer sentence.

This matter raises a matter of legal procedure. During a hearing, it is natural justice for the matter to be heard on its merits, and not tainted on the basis of prior events. However once a verdict guilty has been found, then it is only quite appropriate to consider past behaviour when deliberating on the penalty. The judge only found out afterwards that on a previous charge, Singh was fined 75% of his match fee and given a suspended sentence. Because this vital information was not provided to him, Singh gets away with a paltry fine of 50% of his match fee. Human error is the reason cited for the omission. Pathetic, simply pathetic.

How much longer is Harbijan Singh going to be allowed to continue to get away with such unacceptable behaviour? Opposing teams are complaining about him on a regular basis. At the club level, someone would have long ago taken the clown out behind the rooms and administered a much needed wake up call.

This is an individual who has even been known to be shouting at the batter in his native tongue while coming in to bowl! But nothing is ever done. A bowler is not allowed to so much as unbuttoned shirt sleeves as it may distract the batter from the ball being delivered from the bowler’s hand. Fielders are to be totally silent during the bowler’s approach in order not to disturb the batter’s concentration. But Singh is allowed to shout at the batter during his approach? The fact that this was not immediately jumped by the officials as it happened is a disgrace. If the striker can hear it loudly enough to bring it to the umpire’s attention, then there was absolutely no excuse for the umpires not stepping in immediately.

Five charges of misconduct in the modern game is to the best of my knowledge, a record. And yet it is the Australian team’s conduct and attitude that is being criticised by the media, the Prime Minister and certain respected but long-retired players. Am I the only one who can see something wrong here? The ICC has accepted blame for the failure to provide details of all four previous charges against

When is officialdom going to take real steps to curb this behaviour? Was Australia innocent in the past? Hardly. But who have been the aggressors? There can be little doubt that it was the behaviour of Singh and one or two of his team mates, particularly Sreesanth, that contributed so greatly to trouble between the teams on the last tour of the sub-continent. And Singh brings this with him on this tour once more. Sreesanth has publicly stated that he is not going to back down now that he has joined the Indian team for the upcoming one-day series.

Unfortunately officialdom at the highest levels of the game has a long history of simply ducking issues by taking the course of least resistance and bowing down to whoever is making the greatest amount of noise at the time.

Go back a few decades to when Ian Meckiff was hounded out of the game for having an illegal bowling action. And who was complaining? The visiting English team after Meckiff had caused quite a bit of havoc among their batters. Yet at the same time, England was fielding one Tony Locke – a left-arm spinner who threw pretty much every damn ball he ever bowled, and he was allowed to continue playing first class cricket into the 1970s. Meckiff’s real crime was that he had a double-jointed elbow which naturally bent and straightened during delivery. It was technically a throw, but not a deliberate cocking and releasing of the elbow a la Locke and others.

Come forward a few decades to the Muralitharan affair when his action first came under scrutiny. Firstly, I do not blame Darryl Hair for initially calling Murili – that action looks dubious to say the least at the first glance. There is a furphy going around the Murili was entirely exonerated under testing of his action. That is not quite accurate. Murili was found that he was able to bowl with his arm in a brace and still turn the ball including his big weapon, the doosera – the off-spinning equivalent of a leg spinner’s wrong ‘un. But, it was also found without question that without the brace, his elbow does hyper-extend. When that happens, especially with delivery of the doosera, his action can descend into illegality. I have no doubt in my mind that Murili does not intend this any more than Ian Meckiff could be considered deliberately having a double-jointed elbow. But Murili’s action was allowed to remain. Officialdom conveniently bowed to pressure and simply changed the rules.

Today, a bowler is allowed to bend the elbow provided it does not exceed fifteen degrees. What a cop-out. Change the rules and remove the problem in order to keep the Sri Lankan hierarchy happy – shoving a bit of grease on the squeakiest wheel. I notice that umpires have not been issued with the necessary equipment required to measure the degree of bend in each delivery. The situation is simply ludicrous, and was nothing more than officialdom ducking the real issue.

The situation with certain members of the current Indian cricket team is absolutely no different. Blatantly unacceptable behaviour is being allowed to continue with nothing more than a token slap on the wrist. Offenders such as Sreesanth do not appear to have even received that much.

Next we come to the actions of the Indian authorities. Their reaction to not liking the decision against Singh? Threaten to call off the entire tour. Those authorities need to bear much of the blame for things getting so out of control by not jumping on top of some of their players for their quite open abusing and taunting of opposition players, and not just the Australians. Instead, it is everyone else’s fault and we should all do what they want or they are going to take their ball and go home. What is this – international sport or the school ground sandbox?

Come the Fourth Test, one would have hoped that cooler heads had prevailed and all players cooled down. Mr Singh was noticeably on his best behaviour for the first couple of days. But things eventually began to get out of control once more. Umpire Billy Bowden turned down an appeal for a bat-pad. Watching it on the television, my immediate reaction was that the bat missed the ball by an appreciable amount. Video replay showed the bat missing by a country mile. Mr Singh was fairly quiet, but he was giving Bowden looks that should have killed. However some of his team mates remonstrated long and loudly. At the end of the over, one of the Indian players was right up in Bowden’s face, waving the finger and arguing in a most animated manner.

In the past, batters have been charged with misconduct for showing dissent about an umpire’s decision. It is possible to be charged with that for too animated a display whilst walking off. Such incidences pale into insignificance compared to the display by some of the Indian players on this occasion. Did officialdom act? No. However the actions of these individuals was captured for posterity on film, and viewed by who knows how many viewers in Australia and around the world. Yet once more, nothing is done.

Now before the bleeding hearts start screaming and accusing me of just being a racist, something that certain Indian persons have already seen fit to do merely because I am Australian, I wish to establish that I am nothing of the sort. One of my best friends is a Moslem from Iraq (although forced to leave her country of birth because she dared oppose and work against the Saddam regime), I was engaged to a Native American, and I have friends of all manner of colour and creed. I judge a person by their actions rather than their place of origin, religion or skin colour. As far as Indian cricket goes, I adored watching the great Bishin Bedi bowl; watching him tie batters up in knots helped influence me to take up bowling spin in later years myself. Sachin Tendulkar is one of the greatest batters I have ever seen and I love to watch him bat. I admire the heck out of Harbijan Singh for his bowling ability – watch how beautifully the ball comes out of his hand in what is often as close to a perfect release as you are going to get.

The overall summary and reality of this situation is that Singh received nothing more than a token slap on the wrist for yet another charge of misconduct; the Indian management attempted to hold the ACB and ICC to ransom over the affair by very loud threats to cancel the remainder of the tour; another Indian player has publicly announced that he is not going to back off his approach to the game, despite being condemned for his behaviour in the past; the ICC’s own procedures in supporting due process proved to be woefully inadequate; and Indian players were permitted to engage in open, hostile, animated and recorded displays of dissent towards an umpire, with nothing done about it.

Enough is e-bloody-nough. It is high time that some tough stances were taken. The trouble makers need to be brought into line EVERYWHERE in all cricketing nations. The challenge is with the ICC. Take action! Show some cojones for a bloody change!

Postscript - Singh was turfed out of the 2008 inaugral 20-20 international cricket competition in India, after he slapped one of his teamates in the face.

One law for all?

Just what the hell does the former judge Marcus Einfeld think he is doing? Does he think the rest of the world came down in the last shower? That he is somehow above the law that applies to the rest of us? And all over a $77 speeding ticket.

To quickly review, Einfeld was charged with speeding in January 2006 after his vehicle was photographed in Sydney by a speed camera, exceeding the speed limit. Einfeld immediately contested the fine, claiming that he was not in charge of the vehicle at the time. Fair enough if that was true. But it clearly was not the truth. First up, Einfeld claimed that another party was driving the vehicle, overlooking the slight difficulty that the person in question was in fact dead. Obviously our mate the judge is in the habit of lending his vehicle to so many people so often, that he looses track of who has it and when. Even so, the thought of an animated corpse being the recipient of his largesse is a little hard to swallow! It is so often the little things that have been known to bring down the criminal mastermind.

Einfeld made a statement to the police that he was not even in Sydney at the time of the offence, but was dining in the town of Foster. Journalist Vivian Shenker supported the judge’s story, claiming that not only were they together in the town of Foster, but the pair had travelled there in a vehicle belonging to the judge’s mother.

Things began to badly unravel for His Honour, when police obtained video footage that clearly showed mater’s vehicle didn’t leave her property all day. Whoops! Ms Shenker was offered immunity from prosecution for her rather obvious lie, and her story now changed to that they were in Sydney at the time, but could not have been in the vehicle at the time of the offence.

As matters have rolled along, the public prosecution has indicated that it in fact has rather strong evidence showing that Ms Shenker and His Honour were not where she claimed they were. This evidence apparently includes things such as verified credit card transactions by Ms Shenker and even CCTV footage. Through it all, His Honour, or should it be His Dishonour, has continued to stick by his general story that he wasn’t driving the vehicle, even though his various alibis apparently keep crumbling, seemingly as fast as he puts them together.

Things have continued to crumble for His Dishonour, as Ms Shenker, his former alibi provider, has now claimed in court that her recollections are entirely faulty. The prosecution has launched its attack in the courtroom by detailing a number of previous speeding offences that this Judiciary Jackass claimed were due to others at the wheel of his vehicle. Believe it or not, according to the prosecution, his attempted defence of this latest one by using the name of a dead person wasn’t the first time that he had pulled that stunt or at least attempted to!

This man was on the senior judicial bench, making serious judgements against people appearing before him? Apart from the fact that all the appearances are that he is far from honest, even his general judgement would have to be called into question. If he managed his judicial business as he has his personal life, one cannot help but wonder how many simple lousy and outright wrong calls he has made from the bench. So far the media attention doesn’t appear to have gotten around to it. Nonetheless, I would not be surprised to see some appeals being launched in the not too distant future.

One of the truly astounding aspects of this case that rapidly turned from a speeding offence to a full blown fraud case with some 14 charges of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice, is the sheer arrogance with which Einfeld has conducted himself. As things crumbled around him, rather than put his hands up and cop to it all, Einfeld has continued to push his increasingly ludicrous claims. Based just on what the public has seen to date, it would appear that a trained monkey would probably be able to win the case.

The arrogance of persons such as politicians and senior members of the judiciary is legendary. In my admittedly limited experience with the senior judiciary, I have found that this reputation stands up to scrutiny. One former Federal Justice springs to mind who was a notorious boozer. I have attended functions where the organisers have admitted that they had to get the Justice up to make his speech ASAP before he got into too many carafes of red. I have also seen the outcome of failing to do so – long, rambling speeches of little more than gibberish at his worst. This individual was infamous for doing that during a case and appearing on the bench the day after, chronically hung over, and seeing nothing wrong with his behaviour. And nobody in the profession ever saw fit to do anything about it. The rest of us would have gotten the sack for acting like that.

As for politicians, allow me to share this little true tale with you. I know a particular member of the constabulary who once made a confession to me. On the day in question, the constable was in a perfectly foul mood and eventually vented his frustration. A local member of parliament, who held a position of some significance with the Federal branch of the Liberal Party at the time, flatly refused to wear a seatbelt. If you or I were to be caught not wearing ours, we are in trouble with virtually no comeback. Police booked this pollie time and time again. Every single time, it was all made to go away. And the Rt Hon Dickwad kept on flouting the law every damned time he got behind the wheel. When making this confession to me, the frustrated copper had just had yet another attempt to apply the law equally, quashed. Boy was he looking forward to the day that this clown lost his seat in parliament!

I am told that this sort of thing is far from uncommon. Indeed, we only have to look as far as the politically unlamented Peter Reith. Mr Reith’s downfall came after he gave his parliamentary phone card, which provided free telephone calls, to his son. Reith Jnr ran up something like $50,000 worth of calls. Reith Jnr also gave the card to friends and the final bill ran to something like $400,000 from memory.

I was a public servant at the time of these events, and used a corporate credit card to pay for various things like staff attendance at external training courses. My use of that card was subject to monthly audit. I had to account for every cent spent on it. If I misused it, I was committing a Federal offence and there went my job, pretty much no questions asked. Reith on the other hand, first tried to claim that he had done nothing wrong. Then he admitted that it was wrong to have given his card to his son, but stated with some conviction that he was not responsible for the bill run up by his son’s friends. Someone must have eventually pointed out to Reith that he was very much responsible for it. But here’s the clinker. Did it directly cost him his job? Was he sacked? Was he indicted for offences against the Commonwealth as would happen to public servants guilty of similar behaviour? The answer to all was ‘No.’ The Prime Minister, John Howard, even refused to publicly criticise Reith for his delinquent behaviour.

Eventually Reith was allowed to fall on his political sword, resign, and repaid the monies after taking out another mortgage. Personally, I believe that anyone who thinks that he wasn’t eventually ‘looked after’ by some party hack or other for having done the ‘right thing’ by the party is kidding themselves.

These sorts of stories are legion, not widely separated and isolated incidents. What indicate is that the reputation of arrogance of such persons is well deserved indeed. As is the belief of ‘one law for them, one for the rest of us.’ It is for this reason that it is essential that the case against Einfeld be allowed to take its full course, free from any technicalities letting him off. For once at least, these strata of society must be seen to be subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

How about some justice for the rest of us who don’t have much choice about toeing the line?

Now we come to my real concern. Apparently the prosecution made their opening statements or similar available to the press as a press release. The defence is claiming, with some justification, that a ‘fair’ trial is no longer possible. The case is so attention capturing that naturally the media are all over it.

Could it be that judicial bungling is going to let Einfeld off on a technicality such as the corruption of the pool of potential jurors?

For some futher idea of the character of Einfeld, check this article from the Sydney Morning Herald!
* * *

Low, base politics

Note – this column was written about a month before the 2007 Australia election, at a time when the Liberals were still claiming that their polls showed that they would retain the seat of Eden Monaro, despite every single other poll showing the opposite.

Australian politics has reached a new low in my opinion.

It is now a matter of public record that the Australian Labour Party candidate for the seat of Eden-Monaro, just on the borders of the ACT, has been compared to a Nazi concentration camp guard. And who made this documented and public accusation? None other than the Chief of Staff for the Special Minister of State, Garry Nairn.

Specifically, that Chief of Staff, one Dr Phelps, first compared the candidate, Mike Kelly, former Colonel in the Australian Army, and his service in Iraq with that of a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. He then suggested that Kelly was taking the Nazi Nurembourg defence i.e. just following orders.

It was Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julia Guillard, who raised this matter in Parliament. Ms Guillard raised it and Mr Nairn agreed to respond. However his response was frankly pretty weak and entirely dodged the issue. Ms Guillard rose to her feet a second time, this time pointing out that the public debate where this accusation was made by Dr Phelps was recorded. Further that this recording was played on ABC radio, with a transcript now publicly available. Minister Nairn responded a second time. He now made a vague statement about such behaviour being unacceptable from anyone in Australian society and that he would speak to Dr Phelps.

Did Minister Nairn take this opportunity to assure the Australian public that such behaviour by anyone associated with government was unacceptable and would be dealt with? No. Just a vague suggestion to talk to Phelps. Pathetic Minister Nairn. Simply pathetic.

The really silly thing about this situation is the predicament that the Government finds itself in with respect to Nairn’s seat of Eden-Monaro. The Liberal Party claims that its polls show that it will retain the seat of Eden-Monaro. However no details of these alleged polls are ever released. Every other poll that has been conducted and published, shows that the Liberals will definitely not win the seat. The Libs definitely have a problem on their hands in that seat, but should they loose it as they will almost certainly do, it will be everybody else’s fault but their own. This was a gift of an opportunity to be seen to be a strong government, acting in a responsible fashion. Instead, Nairn, with clear support from his parliamentary colleagues, basically ducked the issue.

Say hooroo to Eden-Monaro kids.

Postscript – Eden-Monaro was an early Liberal casualty on election night, with a visibly upset Gary Nairn claming this was solely the fault of opposition campaign in the seat that started long before the election was called. Of course he naturally omitted to mention the significant resources poured into the seat by the Coalition. Yep – everybody else’s fault but their own.

Spoiled sports

Too much money? Too much time on their hands? Too much adulation and temptation?

Much has been made at times of the amount of money paid to elite sportspeople, suggesting that this has been the cause of the downfall of many.

This sort of behaviour has reached a new, horrific low in the person of Michael Vick, a star of the National Football League in the USA. Vick, on a $170 million ten year contract, has just been sentenced to almost two years in gaol for organising dog fights.

Dog fighting – two vicious animals, slavering, baying maniacally at each other, quite literally howling for blood, are thrown into a pit to fight to the death. All for the ‘pleasure’ of excited ‘fans’. Why not throw a few Christians to the lions whilst we’re at it? Or butcher a few babies and pack-rape a couple of women for the crowd?

While a long outlawed practice, Vick organised and hosted this barbarous practice on his own property on an ongoing basis. The court was told that animals which failed to perform sufficiently well were killed by either drowning or hanging. A total of 54 pit bull terriers were removed from Vick’s property and taken into animal care, with Vick wearing a maintenance bill for them of some one million dollars.

One could be forgiven for thinking that with a $170 million dollar contract, many millions more in endorsements and essentially playing sport for a living, Vick would have enough opportunities for reasonable entertainment. With what he had available to him, there was very little that he couldn’t have done if he wanted to. But Vick went for putting together one of the vilest blood sports imaginable. He was hardly short of a quid, so why else would he have done this if not for some sort of sick ‘entertainment’. I think everyone would have been better served if he had instead opted for getting his kicks through something like diving off a deep sea fishing vessel in stormy weather, wearing a cast iron overcoat.

As a kid, my hero was Australian fast bowler, Dennis Lillee. I modelled a lot of my own on-field behaviour on his. Now a lot of years removed, I will admit that I grew my first moustache (long since gone) because Lillee had one. I collected news clippings about him. I worked my guts out practicing in my quest to become a fast bowler just like the great man. The neighbours still remember the maddening and almost never ending sound of a cricket ball crashing into the practice net I put together out of an old iron farm gate. Crash…..crash…..crash. But more importantly, I learned other lessons from Lillee. I learned to play on through pain, injury and hardship; the importance of never giving up on the field; to play it hard but fair, leaving the aggression on the ground; and to have the heart and attitude of a champion even though I sure has heck didn’t have a champion’s ability. My hero was far from perfect, but I learned so much of positive value from him.

What is Vick’s legacy going to be? What has he inspired in his fans? What has he done to inspire youngsters as Dennis Lillee inspired me? How many are going to think, despite Vick’s gaol sentence, that it really is OK to engage in such sickening behaviour? With the publicity that this case received, how many bored louts are going to decide to start dog pits because it is a thrilling, forbidden and dangerous thing to do? Given a choice between the two, I think that my long-suffering neighbours would agree that I made the right one.

The bulk of Lillee’s career was played before cricketer’s received anything like elite sports monies. Even now, the highest paid cricketer in the world only earns a fraction of the likes of Michael Vick. Yet elite sportspeople and the sporting clubs that they may play for, all too often forget one all important thing. If it were not for the fans, their elite sport and elite status would disappear. Elite sportspeople are essentially products that need to be sold to fans. If they don’t sell, then the sponsorship etc disappears. As the money goes, so do the elite players from that body. With the players disappearing, eventually the club goes as well. If there are fewer elite clubs in that particular sporting profession, then there are fewer playing positions leading to even fewer elite players. It is a classic symbiotic relationship. What fans want to see their ‘heroes’ behave like gutter scum?

As much as some of these clowns think that the world revolves around them, it doesn’t. To be a professional, you have a responsibility to act like one. Nobody forced them to be there. Becoming drugged out problem cases like the otherwise supremely gifted Australian Rules footballer Ben Cousins, simply doesn’t cut it. Yet the offences of the Cousins of this world, pale into insignificance when compared to that of Michael Vick. My own hero was far from perfect, but Vick’s vile behaviour overrides any otherwise redeeming qualities he may have, to the point that I am sure many people will join me in objecting to him ever being readmitted to the human race.

It is to be hoped that Michael Vick will never be allowed back into American football at any level ever again, giving him a much more substantive and justified sentence than a maximum gaol term of less than two years. And maybe some other ‘spoiled sports’ will learn from his downfall.

Cult of the thin

Just what is it driving this cult that only this is 'beautiful'? I have never understood it. Naturally slim - no problems. Athletically slim - fine. But what tends to pass as model this? No thanks. Yet the pages of the glossy mags keep screaming at their readers 'this is what you must aspire to; this is what is BEAUTIFUL.'

Some people are naturally slender and beautiful. Twiggy looked just like one during her modelling days – a twig. And she was gorgeous (and still looks pretty damn good) but this was a natural, slim beauty. Kate Moss often looks like a stiff breeze would blow her away. But despite whatever recreational pharmaceutical products Ms Moss may have ingested, she is apparently naturally slim.

Allow me to run a few more names by you. Tyra Banks (oh be still my beating heart!), Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson. All stunningly beautiful women and all have curves just as nature intended them to have. The gorgeous Twiggy was also pretty much as nature intended her to be.

Media attention has increasingly turned towards combating this frankly damned health preoccupation with being skinny, yet during the 2007 Australian Fashion Week, the comments by an industry spokesman absolutely stunned me. A reporter asked him about the body shape of the models on show, and he commented that they tended to be heavier than the girls on the catwalks in Europe.

Huh? The footage from the Australian Fashion Week displayed stick-thin figures tottering around on their high heels. So what do they have in Europe? Animated matchsticks? Shoelaces given a quick dip in a tub of starch? Despite the gross tragedy of girls literally starving themselves to death get that ‘model’ look, at least some elements in the fashion industry are still pushing this uber-skinny look.

Observe the animal kingdom for a moment. Behavioral displays are put on to attract a mate. Look at me – my gorgeous plumage and strutting little dance mean that I’m the best! Other species resort to purely aggressive displays – the tattered ears of a large and rather stroppy male kangaroo who is the alpha male of a herd that lives near me, is testimony to how many fights he has been in and won to keep his harem intact.

So why do humans want to dress up and put on displays? As the most basic level it is about attracting a mate. Sure we like to feel and look good, with a squirt of smelly stuff under the arms to keep the BO monster away, but it is still essentially about attraction. For those of the heterosexual persuasion, it is about attracting a mate of the opposite gender.

Reality check – not a lot of men find Uber-skinny much of a turn-on. Personally I think that it would be like sharing a bed with a bundle of sticks with sharp knobbly bits just waiting to take one of my eyes out if I roll over the wrong way in my sleep.

At this point I should note that I am not what I have heard referred to as a ‘chubby chaser’. Obesity doesn’t turn me on any more than Uber-skinny. That said, I have a female friend that I have a very big soft spot for. She is a larger girl but has the prettiest face and sweetest personality you could wish for. That is what makes her desirable in my book.

The eternal unanswered question for men is what do woman want? The male of the species is basically a bit dumb about this one, and I’m no different. Mrs Drivel may as well be a different species altogether or from another planet for all that I can understand her at times, love her as I do. But what I can do is point towards what men generally find attractive at the most basic level. There is a simple test – walk by a magazine rack. Glance at the covers of magazines designed to attract male attention. What’s on them? Skinny bundles of knobby knees and elbows? Not often. Almost inevitably those cover models have some curves. Some even emphasise their curves by surgical enhancement.

Please do not think for a moment that I am some sort of patriarchal relic who believes women should only dress and act for the benefits of their men – far from it. But the reality is that hormonally at least, the male animal is looking for the ‘best’ receptacle for their genes – as are women. That is what drives the most basic of the animal attractions.

Switch genders for a moment and look at male models. I made a point of looking at a few before writing this column – otherwise I’m not at all into checking guys out! The only thing that they have in common with female models is the beauty of the face. Physically, they tend to be athletic and somewhat muscular – certainly better than time’s ravages on my aging body. While nothing short of radical plastic surgery is going to change what my dial is like, a tight and toned body is achievable with some proper exercise etc. It is a relatively natural look. So why the insistence on trying to force female models into the Uber-skinny mould?

I am reminded of the wonderful actress Lauren Bacall. When she was first contracted to a movie studio, they immediately set out about trying to change her – cut, style and colour her hair differently, do her teeth to give her a flawless smile etc. Fortunately someone saw sense and Ms Bacall was largely left alone. The end result – what became known as the Bacall Look, with woman around the world wanting to look like her. And that men just wanted. A wonderful example that you don’t have to be forced into a specific, copycat mould.

Now for another reality check. These runway models are out there to display a designer’s creations. They are effectively walking billboards, helping to sell product. But why are these designers still so intent on creations suited to a body type that is not only unrealistic for a lot of the population but one that can be downright unhealthy?

So the woman out there like Tyra Banks who campaign for a more realistic approach to body type, and the greater self-esteem that will accompany it, I say more power to ya! Now if you will excuse me, I have to rush. I have a stylist’s appointment to un-grey the hair, a bit of liposuction, butt enhancement (removing the excess and firming up the sag), manicure, pedicure, facial and teeth whitening. Thank goodness I’m able to naturally retain my physical perfection.


Recently I became a pet owner. After being pet-less for years, a recent series of events made me re-evaluate that absence.

I used to live in very close proximity to my landlords. No – I don’t own my own place – that’s another story. The landlords own a terrier, Blackie. Initially Blackie treated me as he does all strangers – furious, fearsome barking. That continued for a short time after I moved in, as we share some common space.

As Blackie came to accept me, the barking became less of ‘who the hell are you?’ to more ‘just reminding you whose boss around here.’ After Mr and Mrs Landlord went away for a weekend and I looked after Blackie, he came to associate me with food – always a bonus when you’re trying to get on the right side of a dog!

The clincher in my friendship with Blackie came when I started taking him on walks to the local shops. He already has a long walk of a morning with Mrs Landlord, but what dog could knock back the chance of peeing on some more trees?

Blackie became my great little mate. He was there by the back gate when I arrived home, tail wagging and glad to see me. If his ‘mum’, Mrs Landlord, is home, he makes a furious barking fuss. But if he’s alone, it is a much quieter but still enthusiastic welcome. Often of an evening, I let him sneak into the flat for a visit, where he has learned what mat he is supposed to curl up on. Mrs Landlord told me at one point that if I were late coming home, Blackie wouldn’t leave the gate until I had returned.

I even managed to teach Blackie a couple of things. He now usually sits without being told to before crossing the road. The command ‘Wait’ generally achieves the same result. Mrs Landlord had already taught him do a routine before he was allowed a chewy doggy treat. On seeing the titbit, Blackie sits, shakes hands (although he sometimes gets confused about which paw to hold out), and then lies down. I managed to extend that repertoire by one – “Scratchy Tums” and over he rolls for a tummy rub.

I’ve never had much luck with teaching dogs things before. Something usually manages to go wrong. Like the time I was trying to teach one of Mum’s corgis to fetch – with an old cricket ball for some reason. I’d lob the ball up and Midget would charge after it. On one particularly high lob though, Midget’s sister, Muffet, walked out from the garden bed that she’d been sniffing around in, only to suddenly find her head occupying the same space that gravity insisted the ball should be in.



Off sped Muffet, scared out of her wits. Midget tore off and joined her, cowering in the kennel. After that, Muffet wanted nothing to do with balls and fetch. As a result, Midget soon lost interest as well, and that was that.

But back to Blackie. In a short time, he had become an almost indispensable part of my life. I could even forgive him those mornings when he decided to camp beneath my bedroom window and give me an early morning wake up call. Then Disaster hove into view.

Mr and Mrs Landlord moved interstate to pursue new opportunities. Naturally Blackie went with them.

Shock. Horror. Having become an almost-owner of a pet (all the benefits but none of the cons like buying the dog food or picking up the fragrant little presents on the back lawn), I became pet-less once more. What to do?

I decided that I had to get a pet of my own once more. But what sort of pet?

A dog? No – not practical for me at the moment.

A cat? I have fond memories of family cats as a kid, especially the one that would sneak between the blankets around my feet on a cold night. But I don’t like the damage that they can do to the bird life etc.

A bird? I had budgerigars, canaries and finches in aviaries as a kid. But I can’t put up an aviary here, and I don’t like seeing birds in tiny cages.

What about fish? I’ve had fish before – easy to look after. But I can’t really pat them or play with them. I can’t see a goldfish curling up on the mat beside my easy chair. Hmmm

Well one thing lead to another, and I soon had an aquarium on the edge of my desk, complete with two goldfish and water plants.

“What have you named them?” Mrs L asked one day. “I don’t name fish!” I replied, a little indignant for some reason. That evening, seated at my desk, I noticed that one of the fish had a patch of white on its tailfin. So I found myself thinking of that one as Whitey. The other one is still just plain old ‘Fish’.

So I’m became all equipped to adjust to life without Blackie. I even find myself talking to Whitey and Fish. Just little things like “Morning boys” or “Grub’s up.” Fortunately nobody is around to hear me doing that.

Not long afterwards, I found out that my little mate Blackie had passed away. The fish then came to assume an even bigger part of my life.

I wonder how I go about teaching a fish to fetch? Now where did I leave that old cricket ball…

Six degrees of separation

They say that there are no more than six degrees of separation between any two people. The immediate question that begs to be asked, is just exactly who are ‘they?’ Is there a mysterious group of people somewhere who spends their time devising clever things to say and do? Could there be a think tank somewhere charged with anonymously doing these witty things? Or am I just weird for wondering this in the first place? Anyway, back to degrees of separation.

I always considered this six degrees of separation idea to be a load of twaddle, until I had reason to consider my relationship with a particular notable person. Consider the following…

My ‘other’ job used to be working in a government department where…I worked in a particular area with a Mr A…whose father, Mr A Snr, worked in advertising, including the successful 1972 Labour Party election campaign…and was preceded in that account by author Bryce Courtenay, before Courtenay left the advertising game.

Forget about six degrees of separation – there’s only four between Bruce Courtenay and myself. Damn me – we’re practically family!

Hey Bryce maaaate – can I borrow the car on the weekend to cart some stuff to the tip? And Mrs Rant could use a hand unclogging the septic tank if you have a few minutes spare. Thanks mate.

There are some obvious flaws with this six degrees of separation theory. For example, it is a little difficult to see how say an Arctic Eskimo could have only six degrees of separation from say a King’s Cross pole dancer. Nonetheless, it is possible to draw some rather startling associations by examining some historical facts. Take for example, the following…

King Phillip II of Spain sent a great Armada against England…consisting of a great fleet of sailing ships expected to give the Poms a hiding…and was lead by a reticent nobleman from a quiet part of Spain…that sounds a bit like a warmer version of Tasmania which…was the original home of Ricky Ponting, who lead a cricketing armada which also inexplicably failed to beat the Poms.

Hmmmm the mind boggles a little at the possibilities that this presents. I better be careful lest I start finding some unpleasant or startling revelations about myself.

Wrestling at the bowser

There are times when life under the current Australian government seems a bit like a professional wrestling match – but with poorer scripting and much harder hitting. Take the time they announced the intention to impose a new tax on petrol prices. Talk about the bad guy knocking us off our feet with a wild blow from behind!

It was proposed last year that a new tax be created on petrol prices at the pump, with the proceeds being passed to the oil companies. Whammo – a Flying Frog Leap off the top rope just flattened us once more.

In retrospect, it probably shouldn’t have come as any surprise that this government is happy to play kissing cousins with the oil companies. It was a then Treasurer by the name of John Howard who introduced us all to the joys of petrol pricing parity back in the late 1970s. Australia was even less reliant on international oil supplies back then than it is now. Domestic petroleum could be pumped and processed cheaper than purchasing on the international market. With international prices higher than domestic ones, it made good business sense to sell offshore in pursuit of the Holy Dollar.

Petrol pricing parity meant that the oil companies could now price their domestic products at the higher international prices, free from censure. Sure – that helped ensure adequate supplies for the local market, but what a gift to the oil companies – an opportunity to really jack up the pump prices. Cynics might have wondered how many campaign contributions this resulted in. Not that I would ever express such a jaundiced view (cough cough).

Now we come to the present day. Petrol prices have been climbing with the international market being cited as the cause. The poor Australian oil companies paint themselves more as powerless victims than anything else. I am yet to hear any of them remind the world that they are not entirely dependant on international supplies. In short, blaming the international market as the sole cause of increasing prices is a crock. Bammo – a Clothesline has just hammered us into the canvas.

In the meantime, Johnny Howard and Pete ‘Non-core’ Costello have had a brilliant revenue windfall. Increasing pump prices have pushed up GST returns from petrol sales, way beyond what was anticipated or budgeted. Are we seeing any of this windfall being directed back to things such as schools or hospitals? Not that I can see. Alternatively, here is a source of funds that could be directed to research making alternative fuel technologies more efficient and a real substitute for fossil fuels. Doesn’t look like that’s happening either. Hmmmm.

“But we must do something,” says the government gestalt. So in recognition of the need to take some sort of action to address long-term concerns about fossil fuel dependency, a whole new petrol tax was proposed. We’ve just been picked up, hurled around the ring in a wild Aeroplane Spin and tossed over the ropes!

This new taxation revenue was to be handed to the oil companies. Supposedly, this was going to promote research into more efficient uses of fossil fuels. Yeah sure – and let’s give the alcoholics the keys to the breweries for safe keeping while we’re about it. And before anyone starts accusing me of being insensitive towards alcoholics, I am one. What about more funding to think tanks and research institutions into alternatives?

Now the astute reader will have noticed that my rant has been mainly written in the past tense. This is because our beloved leaders swiftly retracted the proposal. I suspect that this occurred in response to the immediate public outcry. Maybe some common sense even seeped into Parliament Hill. Maybe.

The question still does beg to be asked – just how silly do you think we are Mssrs Howard and Costello? Did you ever think for a moment that the Australian public was gullible enough to believe that such a tax was justifiable in the current circumstances? Or are you just working up to laying us all out on the canvas for the final count?

One thing is for sure – this government has made it clear that they intend to keep on playing patty cake with the oil companies.

At least the professional wresting gives me the odd giggle.

Mouth of the South

A famous manager and personality in the ranks of professional wresting for many years was one Jimmy ‘The Mouth of the South’ Hart. This colourful character turned getting up people’s noises into almost an art form. But his carrying on was part of the colourful, scripted world of professional wrestling. Nobody, least of all himself, took his nonsense seriously. The title of Mouth of the South instead has a much more fitting aspirant – Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine.

Normally I’m all for getting behind Aussie athletes on the world stage. Mundine is however a major exception. This clown’s behaviour has too often been ridiculous if not outright disgraceful.

After the destruction of the World Trade Centre, for some reason, probably because he is a Muslim, Mundine was asked for his opinion. He then gave a stumbling speech that the US brought it on themselves. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of US interventions in different parts of the world, at the end of the day Mundine was effectively condoning those deliberate acts of terrorism. Disgraceful!

Mundine’s opinion was also sought on the passing of Sir Donald Bradman. Did he take the opportunity to reflect on the passing of that giant of the sporting world? No. Instead this prince of arrogance took the opportunity to boast that his own sporting record will eventually eclipse Bradman’s. Give me a break!

After leaving the rugby league ranks and while first trying to make his name as boxer, Mundine made a big issue of taunting and challenging Lester Ellis, a former world titleholder. Ellis had in fact been fully retired from the ring for six years by that time, and won his world title way back in the mid-1980s. He also fought in a much lower weight class than Mundine to begin with. Ellis accepted the challenge and one look at him as he entered the ring, showed just how out of condition he was. The taller, fitter and much younger Mundine had the best of things from the start and Ellis’s trainer threw in the towel during the first round. Mundine then celebrated this nothing win with back flips and other carrying on as if he had just won a world title! Give me a break!

Mundine also tried hard to get former triple world titleholder, Jeff Fenech, to come out of retirement and face him in the ring. Fenech wisely refused. His rejoinder to Mundine’s attempted taunts was to suggest that instead of expecting Fenech to fight three classes above his own, that Mundine try going up in weight class and taking on someone else such as Fenech’s mate ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Mundine was pretty quiet about that suggestion.

What was going to be next? Challenge the aging, stroke-ridden Johnny Famechon? Dig up Les Darcy’s corpse? Scout the old folks homes for more names from the past to challenge? Fortunately he finally stopped trying to make his name at the expense of other great names from the past.

Mundine also joined the motley collection of people assembled for Australian Celebrity Big Brother. Now to be fair, I wouldn’t have minded changing places with him and being trapped in a house with the likes of the lovely Imogen Bailey!

A viewer favourite from the first Big Brother, Sarah-Marie, was also a member of the cast. On learning that Mundine was following in his father’s footsteps as a boxer, she innocently asked ‘your father was a boxer too?’ Mundine’s response – ‘Yes, Australia’s greatest ever.’

Huh? Mundine Snr was obviously a reasonable pugilist. You don’t get major title shots if you aren’t. Mundine Snr had a shot - and lost. That was it. Let me now run a few other names past you in no particular order: Lionel Rose, Johnny Famechon, Jeff Fenech, and Barry Michaels. Each one of these fighters achieved more than Mundine Snr. What about naturalised Australian fighter Costa Tszu? How many better-credentialed names would you like? And let me be fair – Mundine Jnr has held up a world title belt. Yes Mr Mundine Jnr – your dad could fight and probably still could give me a hiding, but Australia’s greatest ever boxer? Sheesh.

All of Mundine’s supposedly colourful carrying on presumably attempts to emulate the great Muhammad Ali’s behaviour. Ali’s calculated taunts etc did a lot to get inside the heads of truly fearsome opponents such as Sonny Liston and George Foreman, to Ali’s advantage. But as much as Ali got up people’s noses, I don’t recall him being quite as offensive as Mundine. He also was able to string a coherent sentence or five together. And had a helluva of lot of ring savvy and ability to back it all up with.

I have to say it. What’s with the wardrobe? Hats and suits like a pimp-gangsta-rapper-wannbe. Oh please!

OK – I have let rip against Mundine, yet to be fair I have to admit that once he started concentrating on doing some of his talking in the ring, he hasn’t done too badly. He goes down in history as a world titleholder – something that very few people ever get to do.

But … please Anthony – stick to working the ring, and enough of the Mouth of the South.

Land of the Free?

Q: When is a freedom, not a freedom?

A: Apparently when it is ‘religious freedom’ in the USA.

I was shocked to learn of an attempt to in the USA to pass a bill that would require all Moslems to have to carry an identity card, identifying them as Moslem. What the hell?

Hmmmm can anyone else see the resemblance here to Nazi Germany requiring Jews to wear prominent yellow stars at all times?

Then again I probably shouldn’t be surprised. This is after all the country with a sizeable and influential lobby pushing for the retention of the far out-dated ‘right’ to bear arms.

Now to some practicalities. How would you go about identifying the Moslems ‘required’ to carry such an identification card?

Ummmm excuse me – could all Moslems please put up your hand so we can give you identity cards to keep track of the potential terrorists. Thank you for your co-operation and have a nice day y’all.

Yeah – that’s really going to address the problem of international terrorism

I am reminded of a scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian that went something like this. A Roman guard is checking people in a line of condemned prisoners.



‘Off to the right please. Next – crucifixion?’

‘Nah – I’m to be set free on a desert island.’

‘Alright – off to the left please.’

‘I was only joking – it’s really crucifixion.’

So what’s going to happen now if the proponents of this movement get their way? I can see spot checks at airports as part of going through customs becoming the way of the future.

‘Moslem terrorist or freedom-loving American?’

’Thank you – off to the left please.’

‘Ha ha – just kidding. I’m really an American-hating Moslem terrorist here to blow up a few national monuments.’

‘Oh thank you – if you’ll just take this identify card, off to the left and have a nice day.’

Here’s something of a reality check:

1. Not all Moslems are terrorists.

2. Not all terrorists are Moslem – does Bader-Meinhoff mean anything to anyone for example?

3. Terrorists can be of any creed or faith and are extremists – they are in the considerable minority.

Next reality check – I don’t recall any moves to have Christians or Caucasians generally carry special identify cards after the right-wing terrorist attacks with the Okalahoma bombing some years back. Terrorism on American soil by American extremists. You can’t have it both ways folks – unless schizophrenic hypocrisy is your thing.

Do these clowns really think that picking on a particular group will eliminate terrorism? Are they really so naïve to think such a move will in any real way help to combat the terrorists? On the contrary it will work to the extremists’ advantage by driving more people into their camp as a result of such victimisation.

The sort of people pushing such a movement will be sure to be to quickly identify themselves as freedom-loving Americans, holding the constitution dear. So why would they support such a short-sighted, intolerant and foolish notion that contradicts one of the basic freedoms, not just of the USA, but of most of the Western world – religious freedom.

Land of the Free indeed.

In praise of coffee

A little historical titbit set the direction of this article. Apparently, in fifteenth century Turkey it was possible for a woman to divorce her husband if he failed to bring home the coffee supplies. I had visions of a scene something like the following.

“Hello luv. Did you get that jar of Nescafé on the way home?”

“Ah well the thing is, you see, it was Achmed’s birthday, and then there was this darts match down at the pub-“

“You forgot the coffee again, didn’t you! Right – that’s it. I’m off home to mum’s you son of mange-ridden camel.”

I’m sure that the coffee drinkers out there could relate to that little scene. We just don’t like our coffee - we need it. We’re just not the same without our brown liquid morning heart-starters. Of course we prefer the proper brewed coffee. Once you become addicted to the freshly ground stuff, all instant coffee frankly tastes like powered donkey dung. Or at least what I imagine donkey dung ‘coffee’ would taste like.

Consider for a moment what goes into that good cup of coffee. The beans grow on the tree, absorbing the sunlight, swelling into ripeness. The beans are lovingly picked (OK – that’s an overstatement as anyone who has done any sort of fruit picking job will gladly tell you). The harvested beans are roasted, perhaps prepared with the help of some other ingredients such as chocolate or a dash of cinnamon and packaged for our delight.

We take our newly purchased beans home, open the pack with trembling fingers and pour some into the coffee grinder. A quick whirrrrr and then take the top off of the grinder - mmmm smell that wonderful aroma of freshly ground beans.

Carefully pour the ground beans into the coffee maker and add the water. A fresh filter paper makes it even better. Plungers are fine, but they are simply not as good as having hot water dripping down over the coffee, drawing out the wonderful flavours and colours as it passes down into the coffee pot.

An even more wonderful aroma now fills the air as the coffee brews. Take a breath – draw it deep down into the lungs. Oh yeah!

Pour out a mug full of the dark-brown, almost black liquid. See the fine tendrils of steam wafting upwards.

Hold on just a mo…I’ll be right back…sorry but I just had to get the coffee maker going for a refill. Now where was I…

Slowly pour in a little milk. See how it merges with the coffee, briefly making two-toned patterns of light and dark. Stir in a little sugar and there – we’re almost ready to drink.

Whoops – coffee’s ready…be right back…ahhhh that’s better.

Lift the coffee mug up to your nose. Inhale. Oh damn that smells good, doesn’t it. Take a sip. Roll it around in your mouth, letting your taste buds explode in a frenzy of delight. Swallow. Feel it slide down your throat into your stomach, producing a lovely warm feeling. All is now right with the world. Excuse me while I have another slurp.

I better shut up now before Mrs Drivel starts getting ideas about what to do next time I forget to bring the coffee beans home.