Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile XI: Location, Location, Location

The penultimate week of the first season of the Wednesday-Quiz-in-Exile is a game of photo-identification. Below are 12 sets of three photos, all taken in or of one of Australia's World Heritage Areas. All you have to do is name the location (or the World Heritage Area, where it has a different name (two ways to win!)) to score the points.

Name that place.
Please leave your answers in 300x200px format in the comments.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Council Elections 2010

I had intended to make this a big long post about the relative merits of all the candidates in my local council election, another satisfying brick in the wall of my blog of things that nobody actually cares about, but a few things stopped me:

1. They're all so darn similar that it would make for mighty boring reading. They all say they want steady council rates, the garbage collected, etc. etc. (Considering the "trenchant" nature of my Senate posts, when I say boring, you can believe that I really mean it).

2. Finding any even moderately interesting information is incredibly difficult due to the new restrictions in place this council election on online information. Mail-outs are better, but I've got post from only a few candidates, so I can hardly give a fair picture.

3. Turns I that I don't care either.

I find this all terribly depressing given my usual rabid enthusiasm for elections, and especially considering that this is the last one I'll get to be a part of for a few years unless I join my local bowls club or the Federal Labor government collapses, but there you are. I really wanted to get excited about this election too, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my local council (City of Burnside) has been in the news over the last few years for all the wrong reasons, and the community is crying out for change.

More importantly, though, local Council elections are the only ones in our three-tier government system in which you don't have to vote. I can exercise my faith in the democratic system with enthusiasm and freedom, not just because I have to if I don't want to be fined. It makes me feel lke a real voter, not just one of the sheep.

So I've collected my junk mail, scoped out my candidates, put down all my preferences and sent my little cards in by mail, but I really don't care enough to blog about it. I do care enough to blog about not blogging about it, which I am tempted to call zen but suspect is really just insomnia.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Vignette: Marriage

A young couple are walking back to their car after dinner in town, pleasantly ignorant of the world moving around them as only young couples can be, when arising out of the dark comes a hulking figure, gaunt and unshaven and smelling never-so-slightly of alcohol.
"Arg, why don't you two just get married?"
The lonely figure disappears into the darkness again, no doubt in search of other people to accost, leaving our two young heroes to their thoughts. After a short moment, the gentleman turns to his partner:
"Laura, hang on a sec...ah..."

The look on her face was just priceless.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Filk Fiction

As I was reading through the archives of the newly-discovered blog of a dear friend of mine recently, I stumbled across a meme that she'd filled out. Ever keen to learn more about a friend, and partial to a little meme myself, I perused her answers, until I found that she'd refused to put an answer down for "Favourite Fan-Fic".

Now not being much of a fan-fic man myself, I can sympathise, but I wondered if her lack of response was down to not having a good answer, or just being too embarrassed to share it with the rest of the world. Well, just in case the second option happens to be true, but mostly because I'm feeling inordinately punny at the moment, here's a snippet of one of my favourite fan-fics for you all.

I'm not a big fan of fandom in general, the fascination with sex and sexuality is something that I just don't understand or approve of (and this particular peice is no exception, so look away now if you're particularly easily offended), but occasionally you run across a little gem, as I did when I was listening to "Death Sheep Radio" the other night.

So without further ado, here's an excerpt Tom "The World's Fastest Filker" Smith's seminal musical work "Hey, It's Can(n)on":

Ye've read the Harry Potter books, ye think ye know 'em through
But there's something that ye may not know, and here's a little clue:
The female of the Trio has her birthday on
Talk Like A Pirate Day. So heads up, Harry and Ron!

When she found out, her eyes she rolled, she went on knittin' socks,
But Harry said, "I've got the gold, let's head down to the docks,"
They traded lots o' Galleons for a lovely brigantine,
And now they're her young scallions and she's a pirate queen!


Now here's the part we talk about: with whom she's lockin' lips,
'Cause after all, a pirate queen has got to have her 'ships.
Some say Harry's her true love, or Ron she will betroth,
She finally cried, "I can't decide, I'll have to have 'em both!"

Who's the sassy bossy witch that all the boys pursue?
Grander than the Golden Snitch and more elusive too.
One may Seek'er, one may Keep'er, both know how to score, with
Hermione Granger, the Pirate Queen, the pride of Gryffindor!

Sorry about that. Sometimes I can't resist.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


I know I should be focusing or reading Limits and Renewals and thoroughly getting my Kipple on, but I slipped last night in a fit of bad judgement brought on by my perpetual insomnia and picked up one of my favourite books, Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8). This was a bad idea, because it means that my head is now constantly swimming with cryptic crosswords clues and terrible wordplay, so you can probably expect either a tidal wave of punnage or the production of a cryptic or two in the coming couple of weeks.

Those of you were unfortunate enough to know me during my brief stint at university will remember that my on-again-off-again obsession with cryptic crosswords was the defining feature of my life at the time, and combined with my fondness for card games caused my premature and unceremonious departure from academia after just one year. We can only hope, for the sake of my employment and the sanity of anyone in a 100m radius, that this phase is not as disruptive or enduring as it was last time around.

The main point here, though, is that you should totally read it. If you're an Adelaidean, I have a copy I can lend you, just drop me a line sometime. If you're not, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Sandy Balfour's clever, quirky and someway eccentric little book, it's fun times.

Just don't get too involved.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile X: Once Upon a Time...

It's that time of the week again, time for the Wednesday Quiz in Exile in it's tenth week of its first, and hopefully last, 12-week season, which this week is focused on the short, bloody and generally tragic history of Australia since European occupation. Below are the names of 12 actual events in Australia's history, all of which changed Australia dramatically in some way, all you have to do is let us know which of these descriptions are true and accurate representations of events as passed down by the history books, and which are fallacies and misdirection designed to fool you into looking woefully and immeasurably ignorant, or worse, American. Looking up answers in any way will be judged harshly by history.

Did these historic events go down like this?

1. The Dismissal, 1975
The Whitlam Labor government was elected in 1972 without a senate majority, and in 1975 the Coalition began blocking appropriations bills until a House of Representatives election could be called. When Whitlam refused to call the election, the Governor-General removed him from office and appointed the leader of the opposition, Malcolm Fraser, as PM. Fraser passed the appropriation bills (taking advantage of the confusion in the Labor ranks) and the parliament was dissolved in a double dissolution. Though little constitutional reform resulted from the incident, the nature of Australian politics was changed forever.

2. Australian Antarctic Expedition, 1911
In November 1911, Robert Scott and his team set out to travel to where no other man had ever been, the South Pole. After a two month trek , the 5 of them reached the Pole, only to discover that Roald Amundsen had beaten them by two weeks. Defeated, they set off back north, but they would never make it home. One died falling down an ice shelf, an the other four were running out of supplies, despite the selfless sacrifice of Oates with the famous words “I am just going outside and may be some time”, the remaining three died in March and would not be recovered for another 8 months. Scott and his men would become national heroes and inspiration.

3. SA-VIC Border Dispute, 1868
Due to an error in calculation, the South Australian and Victorian governments both laid claim to a 3.6km wide stretch of land on their border. Although the land was officially to the west of the agreed border, Victorian squatters had settled the area and refused to move out. Matters came to a head in April 1868, when a party of Victorian soldiers fired on and killed 4 South Australian farmers for trespass near the town of Serviceton. South Australia began mobilising troops, but to avoid conflict the Victorian government paid 215,000 pounds in reparations and the disputed territory has been considered Victorian ever since. The incident is considered Australia's first and only 'civil war', and is one of the major reasons for the deep-seated and bitter SA-VIC rivalry.

4. Gallipoli Campaign, 1915-1916
The Australia and New Zealand Army Corps was formed to serve as part of the attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula by Allied forces in April 1915. On April 25th, a day NOW celebrated as ANZAC day, Allied troops landed on the beaches, and they would remain there for 9 months, ultimately making few gains. When the Allies finally retreated in January 1916, 500,000 of the 9,000,000 men who served there on either side were casualties. This is widely considered to be the true birth of the Australian conscience independent from Britain, and French and British contributions in the theatre are often ignored in Australia, though the Turkish forces are acknowledged.

5. Egon Kisch Visit, 1934
When famed Jewish Communist Egon Kisch reached Sydney to speak at anti-Nazi events in 1934, he was denied entry. Australian law at the time dictated that any visitor to Australia could be turned back if they could not demonstrate fluency in a European language. Kisch was asked to write the Lord's Prayer in Scotch Gaelic, and when he was unsuprisingly unable to do so, he was taken into custody. The language test remained part of Australian Immigration policy until 1958, but the Kisch case was critical in its eventual removal.

6. Ash Wednesday, 1983
On the 16th of February 1983, numerous bushfires caused the deadliest bushfires in Australia (up to that point, we've since recently passed the terrible record), killing 75 people, 340,000 sheep, 18,000 head of cattle and destroying 7000 buildings across South Australia and Victoria, at an estimated cost of 1.7 billion dollars. This became known as Ash Wednesday across the country, except in South Australia, where another fire had claimed that name just 3 years earlier, and resulted in Australia developing one of the world’s most effective and modern regional fire services.

7. America's Cup, 1983
After 132 years of successive victories, the New York Yacht Club was challenged by the Perth Yacht club for the oldest continuous sporting prize in the world, the America's cup. After being 1-3 down after 4 races, the patriotically named Australia II equalled the scorecard, and in a nationally telecast final race won the Cup for Australia. Inspired by the victory, PM Bob Hawke informed the media that morning in his usual larrikin fashion that "Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum". Australian sporting smugness has never again known such lofty heights.

8. WA Referendum, 1933
In 1933, Western Australia, fed up with the focus of the federal government of the Easter states, held a state referendum in which 65% voted to secede from Australia and return to being a governed British colony, they even made a flag up and everything. It was sent to London, where the British government decided after 18 months that it was a federal matter for the Australian government to decide. Needless to say it never came to a vote at a Federal level. Thus, short of declaring war, no state can successfully secede from Australia without the agreement of the other states and the federal government.

9. Batman's Treaty, 1835
On the 6th of June 1835, John Batman signed an agreement with aboriginal elders in the area around modern-day Melbourne, buying 2,000 square kilometres of land for a years supply of red shirts, jackets and scissors. Most probably the elders (if they even were elders) didn’t know what they were signing, but it was the first recognition of Aboriginal ownership of the land by the European settlers, and would be an important part of the native title debate. When the Governor found out about Batman’s treaty and it’s implications for the British claim on the rest of the country he immediately absolved the treaty.

10. Mabo Vs Queensland (II), 1992 (Earlier typo has been removed, thanks John)
On behalf of the Meriam people of the Murray Islands, in 1992 Eddie Mabo (and other, but frankly their names weren’t as cool) contended that the Meriam people were the owners of the Murray Islands. The exact proceedings are somewhat complicated to describe here, but the general vibe is that the High Court ultimately ruled that the idea of Terra Nullius, or unoccupied land, did not apply, and that Australia’s indigenous people had native title rights to Australian territory.

11. Rum Rebellion, 1808
Governor William Bligh was not a happy man. He’d suffered the infamous mutiny of the Bounty, and now the New South Wales Corps were mutinying over a little thing like putting their leader up on trumped-up charges and stopping their alcohol allowance and production of the early currency of the colony, rum. The Corps (the only armed men in the area) simply marched up to Government house and arrested him, and thus ended the tenure of the 4th governor of New South Wales. This led directly to the appointment of Governor Macquarie, who would loom large amongst those building the future of the Australian colonies.

12. Burke and Wills 1860-61
In the most expensive and spectacularly mismanaged exploratory expedition in Australia's history, the Victorian government funded an expedition commanded by Robert Burke, in an attempt to make the first overland passage from the South to the North of the continent. Burke was not an experienced bushman, and though the party eventually travelled 3250 kilometers north they were forced to turn back just 5km from the coast, and came at a terrible cost. When Burke and Wills returned to their base camp in Copper Creek 9 months after they began the expedition, they found that their support team had left for home just that morning having waiting for 5 weeks more than they were directed, and short of supplies, they both died there. The expedition left Burke and Wills as Australia's most famous explorers, much to the chagrign of South Australians.

Leave your answers, with citation where appropriate, in the comments.

Read: Songs of the Dying Earth

When I was at primary school, in one of the earlier aeons of this earth, I always felt myself intractably drawn to the school library, berth of knowledge and wisdom in an academy which was generally unencumbered with these dual virtues, situated as it was in the more uncivilised quarter of Adelaide's suburban sprawl. Being a young gentleman of not inconsiderable intellect, and not being at all recalcitrant in broadcasting the fact, I was ever attracted to the most massive tomes and took great pleasure in loudly announcing these intellectual tendencies to all and sundry.

As you, dear reader - steeped in wisdom and possessed of a certain presence of mind as you undoubtedly are - can probably see, due to these and other egotisital tendencies unrecognised by my juvenile self at the time, I was a somewhat unpopular and lonely child. Thus I took an unsurpassed comfort in the fantastic world summoned to mind by the most weighty of the tomes of that establishment, J.R.R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring and its sequels*. From this beginning was born my enduring love of fantasy, a love far in excess of my love of the mundane world for many years, much to the dismay of my parents and anyone who had the misfortune to attempt to engage me in conversation.

Even after I came once again, under the dual influence of the regular companionship of like-minded individuals and my 'getting religion', to appreciate the delights of this present Earth - around about the time I began my secondary education -, my love of fiction's fantastic worlds continued unabated. I discovered the works of G.R.R. Martin in a book of short stories entitled Legends, which I checked out of my local library to read the Terry Pratchett story contained within, and within a few months I'd collected - through various back-room deals and association with a number of shady characters possessed of a dubious aroma - the first three volumes of his A Song of Ice and Fire, undoubtedly the most engrossing fantasy epic I've had the privilege to partake of since Tolkien.

So I began to frequent the mainstream bookstores, waiting impatiently for more Martin to become available, and consumed it whole as soon as in became avaiable here in Australia, sadly still Terra Incognita where fiction is concerned. I became the proud owner of the next in the series in 2005 and his Rretrospective in 2006, and since then I have haunted my local bookstores, searching unceasingly and impatiently for the next book, a book I know does not yet exist. So I wear holes in the carpets of the fantasy/science fiction sections of my local Angus & Robertson, prowling the Martin shelves in vain hope.

We come, finally, to the entrance into our tale of Songs of the Dying Earth, which sent my heart soaring when I noticed it on the shelf, then plummeting when I realised it wasn't pure Martin, but a dreaded anthology. Visit after visit I was stopped by its dark, forbidding countenance, but I passed it over in favour of other volumes. Finally, though, on the visit that inspired my current new book drought, I succumbed to its unfailing desire and purchased it, fooled by warm memories of Legends into persuading myself for a moment that anthologies have done more good for me than harm.

I had purchased a volume of short stories in homage to and set in the world of Jack Vance's The Dying Earth series. A ridiculous thing to do, having not read The Dying Earth, but the promise of G.R.R. Martin - with an the added Neil Gaiman carrot in this case, too - drives one to ridiculous extremes on a seemingly daily basis. I own and have read Vance's Lyonesse series, which I enjoyed, but not enough to look into finding more of his work. Thus it was with great trepidation that I opened the massive tome, began to peruse...

...and fell in love. With an unceasing parade of paramours, each lovlier and more beautful than the last, none of them what they seem. With countless magicians, warlocks, mages, enchanters and wizards, distant, proud, jealous, cruel and unservingly petty, shaping the earth and its inhabitants to their every whim. With cunning heroes and terrifying beasts, all doomed to die, either by the hand of another or by the inevitable death of the world when the red sun ceases its burning. I fell in love with the imitation of Jack Vance, the homages of 22 authors who fell just as sorely for him many years before my birth.

I fell in love with the uncompromisingly lavicious style of prose, ever expansive and generous, suddenly brutal and always leaving as much to the the reader's imagination as anything I've read yet -I hope you noticed my unsubtle and inferior attempt to replicate it here-, soaring, intimately detailed, but somehow leaving so much unsaid. I fell in love with this Dying Earth, its sweet sorrow and cruel justice, without even reading the original. The 22 selected authors built around Vance's core, further colouring and impressing their own personalities on the Dying Earth, yet very few times did anything feel forced or out of place. Somehow this broad, emcompassing world, an Earth in its inevitable decline from enlightenment even as its solar system collapses around it, seems to have room for all these authors, al these dreams, and so much more. Quite the acheivement for four books written almost 50 years ago, when fantasy was a much younger genre than it is today.

In conclusion, I've put the omnibus edition of Tales of the Dying Earth, which includes all four Dying Earth books, onto my list of books to acquire by foul means or fair for my library, and I have a number of science fiction and fantasy authors with whom I have previously been unaquainted whose original work I will have to investigate if I ever manage to fight my way through this ridiculous backlog.

Oh, and G.R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman's contributions were my least favourite of the lot.

Favourite Quote:
I didn't have any one section really jump out at me, as the whole was so overpowering, but this gives an idea of the tone, methinks:
Once a mighty city rose beside the head of a deep gulf in the Sea of Sighs, its ships plied their trade, and the magnificence of its buildings proved its wealth...but in these latter days, only a dusty town remained, buldings shabby, patched with stones from its earlier grandeur. A minor port, a stop on the caravan route across the land, Uskvosk had shrunk and faded in the bleak millenia of the sun's decay.
Page 456 (123 is an introduction):
"The Crimson Messuage is gravely suspicious of me, as you well know, but that's never stopped them from wanting me to join their retinue as Court Incendiary. In addition, I have a toruous history with this particular Paeolina. He made disagreeable suggestions to me many years ago, and, when rebuffed, gre surly and resentful. I am certain that his invitation will lead me into a trap."
Reading Project Status

Read: 2/74
Australian Ratio: 1.045:0.955 (1 out of 22 counts, alright?)
Next Up: Limits and Renewals, Rudyard Kipling.

*actually in these particular volumes, The Two Towers was slightly more massive, but what are such schemantics amongst friends and in the face of poetic license?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Double Date™

When I was committing the horrible crime of book-buying, as described in the last post, I also picked up a 2011 pocket diary, in the vain hope of becoming the kind of organised and dependable person I've always secretly wanted to be.

Unfortunately, I left it in my shirt pocket, where it was discovered and from where it was subsequently 'liberated' by a 'friend'. The long and short of the story is that my nice crisp clean sensible pocket diary now includes the useful entries 'AN ENGLISHMAN, AN IRISHMAN AND A SCOTSMAN WALK INTO A BAR' on November the 12th and 'DON'T FORGET THIS DAY!' on May the 21st.

Thus, we get to your bit. You, as my favourite readers of my blog, may enter something in my 2011 diary, and provided this thing is not illegal or morally questionable I will endeavour to carry out this action on the date proscribed. The catch, to prevent me having to do the absurdest things your diseased minds can come up with, is that you must do it with me. For those of you in Adelaide, this means getting together, and for those of you in other places, this means performing a similar or equivalent diary entry for yourself and informing me about it in a manner that will amuse me.

Do you have a special holiday that you celebrate and wish you could propagate? A zany act of bravado you've never wanted to do alone? A dish you need a fellow culinary master to aid you with*? A wedding you actually want me to attend? This is the place to let me know, whereupon it will be entered in...the Diary**.

I'm not exactly expecting to fill up the book in this manner, but the more things in there the more likely I am to actually continue to use it. Thus, if you are an enemy of entropy or simply a fan of people turning up to things they said they would, it's your duty to open up the comments and take me on a Double Date™.

*Actual culinary mastery is not guaranteed.
**No, that was not a deliberate Pratchett reference, but good work for picking up on it anyway.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Mission: Failed

That's right, just one book into my attempt to read all the books in my library, I've fallen and I can't get up. Walking past the newsagent yesterday I saw a book, a beautiful book, with a good weight to it and the promise of more beauty inside, and made an impulse buy. I was out the door before I realised that I wasn't supposed to be buying books any more.
The book in question was called "A Historical Atlas of the World", and features many thousands of maps of various places at various times. I'm not utterly convinced that it's well executed, but it's an idea that's always fascinated me. I won't add it to the reading list (it's a reference book, reading it throuhg would take a while), but I will probably post on it some time, because I just can't resist a good map.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile IX: Pin the Tail on the Country

While Michael5000, is still pretending that he's not writing quizzes, but is instead concentrating on dorkfest, this antipodean blog is providing an antipodean alternative.

Sorry for the interruption to our regular service, the internet is not always our friend. This weeks quiz is not a happy camper, thus we bring you what was to be next week’s quiz. This quiz will test your geographical knowledge and also how much you’ve been paying attention for the last few months. All you have to do is accurately position each of these Australian locations according to the grid. Each point correctly placed will earn you 5 points up to a maximum of 120, and odd numbers of correct answers will be rounded up the nearest 10 points, thus you need only 23 out of 25 to score full points in this admittedly difficult challenge.

In which location on the grid are these national landmarks?

1. Sydney: Capital of New South Wales, largest city in Australia, holder of the 2000 Olympics, and perennial winner of the most famous city award. First landing place of James Cook in 1770.
2. Melbourne: Capital of Victoria, second largest city in Australia, holder of the 1956 Olympics, and perennial coveter of the most famous city award.
3. Canberra: National capital city, a planned city made the capital because Sydney and Melbourne couldn’t decide who was more important.
4. Brisbane: Capital of Queensland. I need to go back there and have a look sometime.
5. Hobart: Capital of Tasmania, Australia’s Apple Isle.
6. Adelaide: An oasis of class and sophistication in the midst of a world gone mad.
7. Perth: Capital of Western Australia. Like Adelaide, but prettier and further away.
8. Mt. Kosciusko: The tallest mountain in Australia, it’s generally pretty cold.
9. Uluru: Monolith and perennial winner of the most recognisable landmark award, to the chagrin of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
10. Lake Eyre: Australia’s largest lake, generally dry, home of the exceedingly optimistic Lake Eyre Sailing Club.
11. Alice Springs: Central city most famous for its Todd River Race, the boat race that was cancelled in 1993 because for the first time in 50 years there was water in the river.
12. Hutt River Principality: Famous micro-nation in regional WA, ruled since 1970 by Prince Leopold, yet unrecognised by the Australian government.
13. Broken Hill: Mining town that should be familiar to returning quiz participants.
14. Ballarat: Victorian mining town that was the centre of Australia’s first gold.
15. Poeppel Corner: Point in the Simpson Desert that marks the boundaries of 3 different states/ territories.
16. Cairns: Tropical tourist city and gateway to Cape York.
17. Town of 1770: Location of Cook’s second mainland landing. Now a tourist town operating cruises on amphibious vehicles.
18. Pt. Hedland: Australia’s largest port, servicing the booming WA iron mining industry.
19. Great Victoria Desert: A great big patch of emptiness. It’s not in Victoria.
20. Big Desert: A small desert, by Australian standards, just north of Little Desert.
21. Hamilton Island: Biggest of the Whitsunday islands in the Great Barrier Reef.
22. Rum Jungle: Australia’s first uranium mine, appropriately named after an alcoholic beverage.
23. Eucla: Little town in the middle of the Great Australian Bight. Famous for being in the middle of the Great Australian Bight
24. Cape Grim: Site of the massacre of as many as 60 aborigines by 4 shepherds after the tribe drove a flock of sheep off a cliff. Locals used to call the area Victory Hill, but the name was changed for some reason.
25. Kakadu National Park: World Heritage site and home of some the most famous rainforest and waterfalls in Australia.

Spin around three times and leave your answers in the comments.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Read: Worth the Wait

I haven't done any writing on a large scale (more than a couple of paragraphs or a bunch of dot points) since high school, and boy-o can you tell. Since the idea of this blog was to get back into the habit, I'm releasing this anyway, after weeks of trying and failing miserably to improve it to some kind of readability. You have been warned. Rest assured that I am suitably embarrassed and am taking any steps I can to return my writing quality to its former glory.


Inspired by a terrifying list of books to read and the South Australian Redbacks participation in the Champions League Twenty20 last month, I sat down to read Worth the Wait, an autobiography by much-loved former redbacks captain and all-round nice guy, Darren Lehmann.

Before we get started, it's worth mentioning that Darren Lehmann was a childhood hero of mine, the implacable rock in a South Australian team that, more often than not, much more often than not, turned out to be full of nothing else but sand. I'm also a big fan of autobiographies, having had my thirst for the first-person narrative inspired by the wonderful Harpo Speaks, so I knew what I was getting myself in for.

Like the Redbacks Champions League campaign, though it looked a bit rough around the edges, it was off to a promising start. The depiction of a young Lehmann and his sudden rise from local, to grade, to state cricket had just as much promise as the Redbacks downing of the local favourite Highveld Lions by 11 runs. The writing certainly let a few go through to the keeper, and there were a few false starts, but it was a good solid victory and something to build on for the rest of the competition.

Anecdotes from his early life in the South Australian team, his double life as a hot-shot middle-order batsmen by weekend and a factory worker in Adelaide's disreputable Northern suburbs during the week were all top notch and blended together to give the book a flying start, like the Redback's excellent opening partnership in their second game against the high-profile Mumbai Indians. But I had the sinking feeling that the enthusiasm being put into this part of the competition meant that it couldn't possibly last.

Then came the crescendo, the fight with the Bangalore Challengers for the top spot in the group, the 1994/95 South Australian Sheffield Shield and Lehmann's One Day International career. Sure, we won, but it could have definitely been portrayed...better. The way it was all glossed felt like it was just a prologue to something more, something just around the corner where all the actual meat in the book was going to come, where we could really let our batsmen off the leash to play all the big shots and score a massive victory.

Only, it never came. For Lehmann, the focus of the book was his playing for Australia in Tests and the tragic death of David Hookes, his mentor and the undisputed King of South Australian cricket, in a bar-room brawl. Like South Australia's game against Guyana in the Twenty20, there was a lot of build up and a lot of excitement, but unlike the earlier sections it didn't get the audience involved, and generally involved some pretty sad cricket. There were some fun little anecdotes about the other members of the Australian team at the time, but nothing worth reading the whole book for.

The aftermath, of course, is tragic. For South Australia, they were knocked out of the competition in the semi-final by the Warriors, who went on to lose to Chennai in the final. For Lehmann, this book was written during the tour of Sri Lanka in 2005-06and ends with a little note of hope for his career in the future and prospects as a leader in the Australian team he'd fought for so long to get into. Little did he know, but he had just 6 tests left in his career before he was unceremoniously dropped, never again to wear the Baggy Green.

So, Worth the Wait wasn't, but it was probably worth the $8 I paid for it in a buy two, get one free deal. I'm glad it wasn't ghost-written, since it was at least genuine and heart-felt, but when you wade through a book like this you can see why ghost-writing is such an important part of the industry.

If anyone is interested in owning it, perhaps in the vain hope of finding out a little about one of your favourite cricketers through the eyes of one of mine, I'd be happy to post it to you, as I don't feel any particular need to keep it in my collection.


Favourite Quote:
Glenn McGrath is a pest...You will be sitting there minding your own business and suddenly a sugar sachet will be emptied in your hair or a feather will be tickling you behind the ear and you think it's a fly. He basically gets bored very quickly and takes it out on everyone else. It must be a fast bowler thing because Merv hughes used to do exactly the same thing.

Page 123:
Gone are the times when you would start enjoying the first beer five minutes after the last ball was bowled. Now there are ice baths, warm-down sessions, all stuff I have to say I don't enjoy because the ice baths are too bloody cold!

Reading Project Status
Read: 1/74
Australian Ratio: 1:0
Next Up: Songs of the Dying Earth, G.R.R. Martin et al.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz VIII: Ministers Prime

Michael5000, internationally renowned for his famous Monday, Wednesday and Thursday quizzes, is taking a well-earned break from quizmastery, so I’ve taken up the reigns to provide a season of one-eyed quizzes from a flawed Australian perspective.

You have been provided with the portraits and brief biographies of twelve famous men. All you have to do is identify which of the twelve have been Prime Ministers of Australia and which have not. The bios are all accurate, except that titles have been changed in some of those that have not been Prime Minister to make it look like they have. Identify the furphies to score points towards winning the grand prize, and please avoid collaborating with others or researching the topic, as parliamentary censure and penalties for high treason will apply.

Was this man an Australian Prime Minister?

1. No list of Australian politicans would be complete without Harold Holt, the Liberal most famous for his disappearance while swimming in 1967 after just 22 months in the top job after more than twenty years of experience as a government minister. Whether abducted by Chinese submariners or simply swept into the Pacific, Holt's (alleged) death left an impact on the minds of all Australians, which is more than can be said for his government, which increased Australia's involvement in Vietnam, following the infamous "All the way with LBJ" policy.

2. Despite his republican leanings, an unpopular position during and immediately following the first world war, Warren Harding, former teacher and newspaper baron began his ill-fated Prime Ministership in 1920 with 61% of the vote, which was at the time the largest ever margin in a national election, on the back of policies of isolationism and nationalism (and helped by an insider’s knowledge of the press). His government reduced post-war unemployment by 10% and established good relationships with many countries (with a distinct pro-American stance), but Harding died suddenly in 1923, and in the wake of his death came allegations of corruption and bribery amongst his cabinet that shook the establishment and resulted in his lasting unpopularity even into the present day.

3. Universally loved in the North and universally infamous in the rest of the country, Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier of Queensland from 1968 to 1987 before his incredible “Joh for Canberra” campaign in 1987. His government promoted huge industrial growth, particularly in Bjelke-Petersen’s home state, and was later found to have accepted large bribes in return for government contracts for a number of projects. When Bjelke-Petersen was prosecuted for perjury in 1993, the jury was deadlocked, though allegations of jury tampering were rife. When Joh was knighted, his wife (a sitting federal Senator famous for her pumpkin scone recipe) became the Senator Lady Bjelke-Petersen, which I find inherently funny. (What do you think, Aviatrix? Would “Senatrix” be appropriate in that situation just to prevent the horrible dual title “Senator Lady”?)

4. In a life straight out of a Broadway musical, John Gorton was born the illegitimate son of 'Alice Sinn' in 1911, travelled to England an graduated from Oxford in 1932, was shot down over Singapore at had his face crushed when he crash-landed upside-down in 1942, became a Liberal Minister in 1958, resigned in 1968 to contest Harold Holt's newly vacant seat, and became Prime Minister 20 days later. He was PM for less than a year before losing an election, being sacked by his own party and replaced by Malcolm Fraser. He remained an MP until 1975, and reportedly detesting being in the same room as Fraser until he died in 2002.

5. The first Prime Minister to be born in Australia, Isaac Isaacs sat in the first parliament in 1901 as a minister in the Barton government, but his perceived aloofness and unpopularity amongst his fellow politicians meant it would be a long time before he took over as Prime Minister thanks to the support of Labor heavyweight James Scullin in 1930, when Isaacs was already 75 years old. After leaving office in 1936 after a wave of support for Joseph Lyons’ United Australia party, he continued public life as a prominent constitutional law expert and a leader of the Jewish community in Australia. Isaacs was an outspoken opponent of Zionism until he died in 1949, and never saw Israel become a sovereign nation.

6. After studying at Cambridge and practicing law in London, Stanley Bruce joined the British Army and won the Military Cross and Crois de Guerre for his actions in France during WWI. After being injured in 1917 he travelled to Australia and was elected to parliament in 1918 and appointed Treasurer in 1921. He became Prime Minister of a coalition government with the Country Party in 1923, the first PM not to have been a member of the first parliament in 1901. A strong advocate of the White Australia policy and monarchist, he led the Nationalist Party until his defeat and loss of his parliamentary seat in 1929, a feat not to be repeated until John Howard also lost his seat of Bennelong in 2007. He helped found the United Australia party in 1931 (rumour has it that it would have been the ‘Bruce Party’ but Joseph Lyons switched the name at the last minute).

7. Born in England in 1865, George Windsor served in the Royal Navy before travelling to Australia in 1901, and rose quickly to preside over the first majority government in 1910. Despite his high popularity his leadership was marked by his declining health and Joseph Cook rose to PM after just over two years, but his tenure included many reforms of parliamentary process, international relations and vast restrictions of the power of the European aristocracy. A strong and outspoken monarchist, he played an essential role in the establishment of the Statute of Westminster (he would later be played by David Troughton in the award-winning Australian TV series, All the Kings Men) and he retained a strong political influence behind the scenes during WWI and right up until his death in 1936.

8. Joe Clark, who also began his professional life as a journalist, was prime minister for only 9 months in 1979-1980. Sandwiched between two extended Liberal party terms, his government was defeated in a no-confidence motion in early 1980, ending the leadership of Clark, still the youngest-ever PM in any Commonwealth country. A repeat-offending politician, Clark returned to politics running for and winning the seat of Kings-Hants as a “Progressive Conservative” candidate in 1998 and holding it until as recently as 2003. He currently lives in Canada since being assaulted in the street after admitting to being a former prime-minister.

9. A keen debater with a vicious sense of humour, George Reid was a Scottish immigrant who became the first opposition leader and eventually prime minister as head of the ill-fated "Free Trade" party, and practiced privately as a lawyer the whole time to supplement his income. In between, he resigned his seat in Sydney, then won in back in the subsequent by-election as a kind of private referendum on his system of equal voting electorates. After the free-trade party lost power (they instituted trade tarriffs, which gave them little support from their voting base) in 1905 he re-named it the "Anti-socialist party", and remained at its head until the formation of the Commonwealth Liberals. He resigned again in 1909, and his seat was left empty until the 1910 election (possibly to prevent him standing and winning at a by-election yet again).

10. A consummate politician, Andrew Peacock became president of the young liberals in 1962 and president of the Liberal Party of Victoria in 1965 before inheriting the seat of Kooyong from Sir Robert Menzies in 1966. As Minister for Territories in 1972 he played a crucial role in the establishment of Papua New Guinea as an independent nation, but he became infamous for his affairs (particularly his relationship with Shirley MacLaine) as Minister of Foreign Affairs (hurr hurr) under Malcolm Fraser, which may well have contributed to his surprisingly high vote in the 1984 election against Bob Hawke. His government was unable to pass much legislation due to an opposition Senate. It couldn’t last, and after a long series of in-fights leading up to and following Hawke’s 1987 landslide the Liberal leadership would change from Peacock, to John Howard, back to Peacock, to John Hewson, to Alexander Downer and finally back to John Howard in 1995. Peacock retired from politics in 1994 and became Ambassador to the US in 1996.

11. One of only two state Premiers to become PM, Joseph Lyons left state politics to enter the federal arena, then quit the sitting Labor government in 1931 and joined with the nationalist party to form the United Australia party and become leader of the opposition. He became PM in 1932 (the 3rd ex-Labor MP to become PM in another party). His government supported the League of Nations and was extremely pro-British interest, and Lyons was a successful leader, leading the UAP to three election victories. However, as the situation in Europe worsened in the late 20's, Lyons, a pacifist, died of a heart attack (the two may not have been related, who knows?). His widow, Dame Enid Lyons, became Australia's first woman MP in 1943 and served in the Menzies ministry, and both his sons would go on to serve as ministers in Tasmanian parliaments.

12. Last but certainly not least, when Gough Whitlam became leader of the Labor party in 1967, Labor hadn't been in power since Ben Chifley's popular wartime government was voted out in 1949. Labor finally returned to power in 1972, in an election campaign in which Whitlam was told to stop humiliating his opponents, as the population was feeling sorry for them, but they, fatefully, failed to secure a majority in the Senate. In the first few weeks of his government, Whitlam used the power of the Defence Minister to exempt people from conscription to exempt all Australians, opened diplomatic relations with China (and close them with Taiwan), removed tax on contraceptives, placed sanctions on South Africa and Rhodesia and recalled all troops from Vietnam. He was famously removed from office in 1975 by the Governor-General and replaced by Malcolm Fraser when the Senate failed to support his supply bills, causing a constitutional crisis unparalleled in Commonwealth history.

Please leave your answers and domestic policy recommendations in the comments.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile VII: Information is Beautiful

It should come as no suprise to you that this week's Wednesday quiz is about Australia. This week we're looking at a range of different Aussie information through a medium very dear to my dorky little heart. Graphs. All you have to do is identify what the graphs represent to score points for your team and the admiration of the nation. Whoa! Whoa! (sorry, Football joke) If you could refrain from skewing the data collected by introducing factors outside of my control such as google, friends and family or other people's answers that would be better for all involved and for the scientific method in general.

Indentify the graph.

1. What's this map stolen from our friends at wikipedia show?
2. What does this graph represent?
3. What does this graph represent?
4. What does this graph represent?
5. What does this graph represent?
6. If Australia is the blue one, what does this graph represent?
7. If Australia is the blue one, what does this graph represent?
8. What does this graph represent? (And for bonus points, what specifically does the blue bar represent?)
9. What does this graph represent? (And for bonus points, where does Adelaide fit on this graphic?)
10.What does this graph represent?

Leave your answers in the comments. Remember to label appropriately and include margins of error.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

In my usual fashion of taking credit for things I had very little or nothing to do with, I think it's probably worth mentioning that two of my friends announced their engagement last night. This would not normally be remarkable, after all it seems that half the people I know are suddenly getting married at the moment, except that it turns out that I introduced these two back in the deep dark depths of time when we were all back in university. Truly, I had no idea that introducing pancake girl and the blob would lead to marriage, but I can't help feeling more than a little bit proud.
So here's to you, blob, and to you, pancake girl, and to an exciting future.
My ego stirs me to point out that my record is pretty good so far, and that I have my little bottle of sulphur and some woodchips ready, and that all you single friends of mine are more than welcome to turn up to my place for my weekly dinners. You never can tell, and at least you'll be fed.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile VI: Wealth for Toil

Some good things come out of the ground, and Australia has more than its fair share. This week's quiz celebrates the mineral wealth of Australia, all you have to do is use your problem solving skills and geographical knowledge to identify the mineral described in each question without looking them up or talking to others, offences punishable by being left in one of my many local abandoned mine shafts overnight.

What mineral is that?

1. Fittingly, considering that Australia produces 97% of the world's supply, this gemstone is the national stone, found primarily in Andamooka and Coober Pedy in South Australia, and Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. Deposits have been discovered on Mars, but the large transport costs for Martian varieties should ensure that Australia continues to be the major source for the discernable future.

2. This map (courtesy of the Department of Mining's snazzy Australian Mine Atlas, which is good for a look after you've finished the quiz) depicts historic mines of this mineral in green and current mines in red.

3. Australia has the third biggest deposits of this valuable gemstone in the world, after Russia and Botswana, and just before the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4. Australia is the biggest exporter of this resource (clocking in at a massive 25%, or 278 million tons in 2009), which is mostly sent to China, the biggest producer, to fuel their energy needs.

5. Again from our friends at the department, this one represents mineral deposits of which metal?

6. One of the earliest resources discovered in Australia, this element was mined extensively in the mid 1800's in the South Australian towns of Burra and Kapunda, but is now found mostly at the Olympic Dam mine and in the Western Queensland city of Mt. Isa.

7. This is NOT a picture of myself and my brother (but it would have been if I could find it in time) that was taken a number of years ago in Ruby Gap, Nothern Territory, where the rivers flow literally red with gemstones. When news of this miraculous occurence got out, it caused the Australian "Ruby Rush" in the latter part of the 19th century, and thousands of people left their homes and travelled north. Too late, it was soon discovered that these were not rubies but are actually which comparitively worthless stone?

8. Australia is the biggest producer of this ore of aluminium, producing more than twice the amount of any other country. Australia's deposits are found mostly in the extreme South-West of Western Australia and in the extreme North of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

9. This is a panorama (courtesty of our friends at wikipedia) of Broken Hill in New South Wales(the Hill itself was mined out of existance almost completely decades ago), the world's largest single desosit of galena. Once home of BHP, the world's biggest mining company, the mine was once open-cut but is now entirely subterranean. Which three minerals are predominately found here?

10. This timeline depicts Australian production of what?

Please leave your answers in a carbon-neutral fashion in the comments.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile V: Sports Teams

It's an Australian tradition to give everthing silly names, and it's an Australian tradition to play, watch, cheer and talk about sports. Thus is should come as no suprise to anyone that it's a great Australian tradition to give our sports teams silly nicknames. All you have to do to be in the running for the prize is tell me what games these various Australian national teams represent the country in internationally. Please don't look up, consult with others or attempt to divine the answers, or you may well find yourself followed by a crowd of sledging Australians forever after.

What sport do these teams play? (Women's teams playing male-dominated sports score double)

1. Wallabies

2. Kookaburras

3. Baggy Greens

4. Steelers/Wheelabies

5. Diamonds

6. Sharks

7. Matildas

8. Jackaroos

9. Outbacks

10. Opals

Place your answers and a lungbusting team chant in the comments. All chants must be able to be approximated after numerous hours of drinking Australian beer.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A little bit of cricket trivia...

Are you sick of cricket yet? If so, I'm afraid it's going to be a LONG summer. My inane ramblings about cricket and other sports fill me with joy.

An interesting thing happened in the game between Chennai and the Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, which does happen occasionally but is still pretty amazing when it does. On the way to losing the game by little enough to knock Victoria out of the finals spot, Warriors captain Davey Jacobs played a defensive shot to a ball which then spun back and hit his stumps at speed. Luckily for him, though the bail was dislodged it fell back into place. According to the MCC Laws of Cricket:
The wicket is put down if a bail is completely removed from the top of the stumps, or a stump is struck out of the ground
Thus Jacobs survived and went on to score an impressive 32 to add to his swag of other tournament runs. More impressive than that freak occurence was the action of Indian captain and wicket-keeper MS Dhoni, who playfully removed the offending bail with his glove and appealed jokingly to the square-leg umpire, if was one of those moments that makes crickt people laugh, and everyone else wonder what the hell is going on, and how they were conned into watching a game of cricket in the first place.

Reading on in the laws of cricket, because I do that sort of thing, I came across this little gem:
The disturbance of a bail, whether temporary or not, shall not constitute its complete removal from the top of the stumps, but if a bail in falling lodges between two of the stumps this shall be regarded as complete removal.
One wonders how many times this incredibly unlikely event had to happen in a game for the rule to be codified in the laws.

South Australia will be playing the Warriors on Saturday night Adelaide time, and with that, the other semi tonight, the final of Sunday night, the SANFL preliminary final on Sunday arfternoon, the endless speculation about the coming commonwealth games and a little thing called the AFL grand final on Saturday afternoon it's going to be a big weekend of sport for South Australians.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile IV: Birds and Beasts

Michael5000 still hasn't caved in, so the Australian cousin of the Wednesday quiz is back for yet another week. I've got plenty more where this one came from, Michael, but I don't want to have to use them.

This week's quiz is on the exotic, glamourous and frequently lethal fauna of Terra Australis, possibly the most recognisable and known thing about the country both at home and abroad, utilising photos cribbed as always from that great hub of creative commons licensing, wikipedia. Avoid the tempation to look up the answers, or there's a chance of winding up stabbed through the heart by vicious sealife next time you go swimming. Not a big chance, but it's been known to happen.

Name that/those creature/s.


Post your answers in the comments, but watch out for drop bears and make sure to check your shoes for spiders first.