Friday, December 30, 2011

Albums of the Year 2011

Happy New Years from Vegas! Here are my favorite albums of the year-

1. Wasting Light- Foo Fighters
2. Age Of Hell- Chimaira
3. Unto The Locust- Machine Head
4. Blunt Force Trauma- Cavalera Conspiracy
6. 13- Megadeth
7. The Hunter- Mastodon
8. Watch The Throne- Jay Z & Kanye West
9. Worship Music- Anthrax
10. Making Mirrors- Gotye

Honorable mentions:
21- Adele
Beast- Devildriver
King Of Limbs- Radiohead
The End Is Just The Beginning Repeating- Living End
Kosiosko- Jebediah

Forget About-
Lulu- Lou Reed & Metallica
Kaos Legions- Arch Enemy

Wasting Light is just a ripper and I listed to it again and again. These Days and I Should Have Known are the best songs Dave Grohl has written since Everlong (think about that- that included Best Of You, The Pretender and All My Life).

Chimaira's album was one that pushed their sound forward again. They even brought in saxophone (Clockwork) and slowed it down to Sabbath like grooves (Beyond The Grave). Year of The Snake and Trigger Finger are crowd pleasers. An awesome album . Unto The Locust was MH pushing everything they could to the limit. Epic arrangements and Robb Flynn singing his arse off. Not sure where they go with the long song format, I think they've done all they can. Maybe this explains the shorter more focused songs on Mastodon's album. It featured some great riffs too. Megadeth and Anthrax returned with really solid albums with excellent musicianship and great choruses.

Let me know what you think! What did you spend 2011 listening to?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Change shapes my reality

Someone requested that I sum up the year. So here goes...

The move to the new school is been good for me in every sense. Whatever staleness or cynicism I had about teaching last year has been swept away. Reinvigorated like a butterfly from a cocoon. (OK fuck this. I am not doing the cliche thing again. I've heard way too many graduation speeches full of the bloody things. And I won't swear again.)

So they year began with an oath. I wouldn't swear. See the best thing about changing school, the invigorating thing, was that I could start again. With much of the old reputation left behind I could forge a new way of doing things. Not that I would want to be anything but myself, and yet, I felt liberated by the chance to forge new relationships with people and choose how I would maintain the old ones. Evolution was the name of the game and I was hungry for the opportunity. So I didn't say a swear word in the office.

For about a week.

I lasted about two weeks in Year 12.

So The D'Aprano was unleashed in all his glory for all to see. Unashamed and brutally honest. Having been a chest beater in my time at RSC I was a little more humble this year. Perhaps the rejections of last year wised me up a little. And it helped. A sign of growth if you will. The staff accepted me too, though for a minute there, I thought it was a case of the Emperor wearing new clothes.

The staff here are, in a word, brilliant. They have, against all odds, been completely welcoming and up for anything I've presented. They have been unafraid to challenge me too. They are a diverse group, at very different stages of their life and careers. It makes for a great environment of opinions and talents. And talented they are! I'm lucky enough to have a number of leading teachers in my team, the timetabler, a god sent assistant coordinator and who knows how many future leaders. Specific people for ESL and English Language. People who ride bikes and people end up on Millionaire Hot Seat. I reckon I've met some of the best graduates since, well, us. It was been interesting and I've learned a lot from working with them. Amanda said this was the idea - work with people you can learn from. And I am. It helps that we have one kick arse trivia team and plenty of laughs in plenty of pubs. Celebrating our birthdays and successes is nice too. Their impact on me was such that it meant a lot that they came to watch Mel and I say our vowels.

The school itself is interesting and eye opening. The timetabling is a nightmare. Different rooms every period. It took me a week to get used to the shorter length. My first double finished twenty minutes early. My first single had barely got out of first gear when the bell went to end the day. There were plenty of these mis-steps. One Year 8, in an extra, called me a prick. TO MY FACE. So the kids are different too, or at least my reputation is. The year ended today with a Year 9 calling me a douchebag. That was a different too.

I don't want to talk about my Year 12s. I met some brilliant kids who worked really hard. I met some others. It was the biggest challenge I've had in five years. I'll be better prepared next year.

In many ways being in other school has improved some of my old relationships - both as a teaching peer and a friend.

And I guess that is the idea. The change has been a breath of fresh air (FUCK there I go!). I've had the privilege of working closely with some brilliant teachers and professional instructors. It has been a tremendous experience and one that I look forward to tackling again next year. There are a whole range of challenges we will face in 2012 and I really can't wait!

We are going to do some amazing things together.

My memoir "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME (and other stories about bulls on parade) will probably never come out. But if it does, this story will be in it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sentimental Bullshit

The bowels of Rod Laver Arena aren't the most intimate setting for a rock show. For a large percentage of the concert going audience this is where they see their favorite bands. Why they would subject themselves to the merchandise, beer and toilet ques is beyond me. A typical event is going to cost you in excess of a hundred dollars, often to sit in the upper and watch stick figures prance and preen on stage. The sound isn't bad most of the time I suppose though most people who come here for gigs don't go anywhere else so aren't going to be the harshest critics.

Actually it is their version of criticism that is the target of this blog. Friday night saw Cold Chisel play the last of three shows at the Arena as part of their latest reunion. I knew I was in for 'a night' when the guys with mullets out numbered the girls with long hair. Yes, this was Bogan-ville at its finest. A quick visual survey of the T-shirts being sported by punters revealed an eclectic and, somewhat, strange crowd. There was the usual AC/DC shirts (2010 tour) and a spattering of Metallica (2010 tour) but the odd Judas Priest helped lift my spirits. Maybe this would be a the day that Chisel would ascend the radio friendly fair that had plagued my previous experience.

But alas, the number of morons in Chisel singlets (2011 tour) and cheap (but being sold for $20) headbands outweighed any sense of musical diversity. They were here to hear the hits. I could smell it in the air. (If you're wondering, the average Chisel punter smells like they showered and sprayed Brut For Men just for this night.) For myself, I wore my Zappa t-shirt, perhaps my most snobbish act in sometime. Without realizing it I was making a statement about my musical knowledge- that I was in to something that was A) classic, and B) not played on the radio. Like the brilliant two-set tour Ringside (2005 I think) that occupied Festival Hall I wanted to hear some of the lesser known masterpieces from Don Walker. Home and Broken Hearted. Hound Dog. Fallen Angel. Yakuza Girls. Maybe even Last Wave Of Summer.

Of course the power of Chisel is in its singles and these would be welcomed too. The importance of hearing Chisel on the radio can't really be understated. Keep in mind that Khe Sahn was banned soon after it debuted on radio for being too explicit in its description of the post-Vet mentality. What other band has ensured that abortion is a subject of mainstream radio? Or prison life? Don Walker's best songs have a meatiness to them. Their subject matter forces the listener to consider his contention and feel something for his protagonists. Other songs capture the working class mentality, and for the majority, this is where their love of Chisel was born. I won't begrudge them their moment with these songs.

But I'm cynical. The Arena is full of people who only see shows here. This for them is a gig, despite it having all the hall marks of a show, rather than a smaller, more immediate experience. I remark to my wife that it would be awesome to see Chisel at Byron Bay Bluesfest at Easter. Most would never see the charm of standing on the edge of big top in the driving rain with 20,000 people singing along. There is magic in the Autumn dampness. A magic rarely found in the Tennis Center. My cynisim is well justified as thousands scream during Standing On The Outside, Cheap Wine and Choir Girl, but then head for the bar and loo when they break out Things I Love In You (which was their friggin' COMEBACK single for pete's sake!) I remark this to my wife who nods approvingly. I sing along anyway, one of only a few nearby. (Actually there is one guy I admire. Despite his poor choice of the Nitro Tour black singlet he rocks out to EVERYTHING all night. His unbridled joy at everything the band do isn't contagious enough for the people around him unfortunately.) The same thing happened at Meat Load in October. The crowd was welcoming and forgiving of the poor vocals when they new the Triple M approved songs but fled, leading to rumours they had walked out, when he played newer or more obscure stuff (if you call Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through obscure- its off his second highest selling album!) The crowd here wants their radio songs and Chisel gives it to them. The mother's club shrieks when they finally recognise the beat to Forever Now. Never mind that the band had been jamming on the bass line for a couple of minutes prior. So feeling smug about my judgements I bask in the knowledge that I am better than these average punters. My dad shares a similar sentiment- at the Ringside shows he lamented the fact that the crowd stood and sang along for Forever Now and My Baby but not Shipping Steel or Star Hotel.

Then something happens. The occasion gets to me. Even though I loved that they played Hound Dog and appreciated the acoustic interpretation of Yakuza Girls there was only one moment that a I lost myself. When Jimmy croons, "Who needs that sentimental bullshit anyway?" I close my eyes and sing with him. The moment of magic arrives. Forget the irony of me enjoying that line but my shield drops to the size and I embrace the light. I'm not embarrassed. I'm not ashamed. In that instant I am one of the Triple M punters. There is a power to that band to transcend class, gender and, indeed, time and trends themselves. That's why we give up the intimacy to share the music with thousands of strangers. The radio song got me. It does every time.

They rip through Khe Sahn and the crowd sits down again for Bow River. I don't retreat to my shielded, superior, elitist views. I enjoy the encore of Saturday Night, Don't Let Go and Four Walls (my favourite song). By the time they rip through Goodbye and we've headed out I'm reminded of why I bothered. This was my wife's first time seeing THE real band play When The War Is Over and, of course, Khe Sahn. There was probably several thousand of them tonight who had only ever heard crap cover bands play these Australian classics. These were songs they grew up hearing and singing about trains heading to Vietnam. They deserve their chance to see it live and in-person.

Even if half those morons paid $20 for a plain white headband.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A sample for Whose Reality - using Michael Leunig's THE LOT

'Our environment shapes our reality'

The family holidays of my youth have largely molded together in my head. Despite remembering nothing else about it, a clear memory of a trip to Joanna is the birth of a new born calf. As most holidays are a mental montage of theme parks, resort pools, or beach side caravans, baring witness to such a wonderful moment is entirely unique. There it was; defenseless, damp and incapable; the calf lied next to its mother as excited farm hands simultaneously kept us away and ensured we could see. Despite their familiarity with the lifestyle it was clearly a special moment for them.

Why then do I remember the moment but not the year? Hell, it took me two goes to remember the exact place! I remember it because of its wonder, its uniqueness, its natural beauty. I am distant from the calf's rural and raw lifestyle, even on holiday. Michael Leunig would no doubt knock my lack of authentic experience, though perhaps he could acknowledge my appreciation for this moment. He detests the rampant commercialism of modern society. Indeed he celebrates being entranced by the "widely peculiar" sight of foal born during the recent drought. He is right to knock me. Most of my holidays are common, the result of commercial bookings rather than a chance encounter with ugliness in an uncomfortable environment. But in this wiz bang society the package tour is easier than a chance encounter with God's work.

There is still room for the pure moment though. No travel agent could guarantee being able to witness a natural birth. I am glad that I have been reminded of this moment. I have traveled the Great Ocean Road many times but have never been to back to Joanna. Would I appreciate the moment if I saw it every year? Probably not. It has made me realise that these singular moments, often left in my unconscious, are precisely the best kind of memories. They are chance encounters that remind me how wonderful the world is. One trip to Skeene's Creek on the Great Ocean Road was rudely interrupted when a gale swept through the caravan park sending kids, adults and tents flying down the dirt road. While most braved the night, one simply scooped up the tattered remains of his tent and began the two hour drive back to Melbourne. It has become an iconic camping story in-spite of the plush toilets and availability of electricity. Whenever I stare up at another ridiculous roller coaster, smell chlorine in the pool or notice the trees that have been trimmed to ensure I see the Opera House, I am reminded of these distinctive moments. The natural juxtaposed with the forced reality of a commercial holiday. My favourite moment on the Gold Coast was being caught walking home in what can only be described as a Monsoon (and people say Melbourne's weather is unpredictable!) So soaked were we that no cab would pick is up, making for a long, damp walk back to the apartment. I could only laugh at the mess as we collapsed when we arrived.

Leunig can be cynical of society's obsession with artificial appearance, false wit and faux personality. He has every reason to smirk at Occupy Melbourne protestors who use iPhones and Twitter to spread their message. But the purity of nature can still be appreciated. As the recent drought and floods have shown, we can wear whatever mask we want, but our environment will always frame our perception. I choose to remember great moments of my holidays, the moments when, like the new born calf, the place allowed me to experience something new and utterly unforgettable.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dead Cats, Puckdefenders and Buying Ponies

Now that I'm 30 I'd like to think I have the maturity to reflect on my youth with some degree of objectivity. 1997 was, undoubtedly for all who experienced it, a wonderful year. Bill Clinton was sworn in for a second term (arguably his best and most honest work), Jordan led the Bulls to greatness again, Versace was shot, Stuart Diver survived Threadbo. Colonel Tom Parker, Notorious BIG, Jeff Buckley, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana all died. Rebecca Black was born. OK, so maybe some people had a shit time and indeed one of these tragic events is intrinsically linked to my fondest memories of 1997.

A group of us braved the late spring heat and headed to Shed 14 to see a host of local Aussie music. It's a restaurant and function center now and, without Etihad Stadium giving it a boutique stadium shadow, it felt dangerous to be down that close to the docks. It felt, at 16 anyway, like the perfect place to see rock n roll. The day started with a local north-west band called Delirium. (Personal connection time- the guitarist was my best mate Rob's cousin.) They were great and were one of the few bands who brought a prop. Despite the occasionally aggressive lyric ("THAT GUY AT WORK IS FUCKED!") they wore singlets and bounced on a trampoline during solos. They were from our neck of the woods and were playing on the biggest small stage we'd ever seen. They weren't going anywhere (see the above lyric) but brought an enthusiasm that you just don't see anymore.

The day flew by with out incident. We say Dylan Lewis front Brown Hornet and discovered The Living End. This was before Prisoner of Society blew them up all over Triple M. So minor were they that they played early and didn't even headline the small stage. That was left to up-and-comers Grinspoon, who pre-'Chemical Heart', really just had this killer riff about a cat. (DEAD CAT! THREE TIMES!- how they got so big may remain a mystery.) Actually this was pre-'Just Ace.' What we saw was the best Aussie Hard Rock band since the original AC/DC. Big fat riffs and a front man with a bit of swagger. But they weren't the headliners either. That was left to ARIA winners Regurgitator and Finley's finest Spiderbait. They were at the peak of their powers in 1997- all 'Kong Foo Sing' and 'Calypso'. They were wonderful. A packed, sweaty shed on the docks with what felt like several thousand teens.I crowd surfed for the first time during Spiderbait and hit the ground with a wonderfully hard thump. It was everything I thought it would be.

The afternoon though remains the defining memory. Around 2pm, or maybe earlier, I passed the Triple J tent on my way to see Jebediah. Now later that year we would form our own band and play our first show in 1999, with mostly Jebediah covers. Clearly me seeing this band for the first time was a significant moment in my musical evolution but it is the trip to the stage that is burned into my head. As we passed the Triple J tent we noticed a sign with crudely, quickly written texta. That was the moment I first heard that Michael Hutchence had died. There it was, literally, in black and white. I was not the world's biggest INXS fan but I remembered the hoopla over their Wembley performance and, in the middle of a national tour, there seemed to be a rebirth in Australia's love for the band. It seemed strange that on the day I was discovering more about Aussie rock, somewhere a significant piece of its history had died. I liked their 80s hits, the song they did with Ray Charles and even their newer song 'Elegantly Wasted' made me tap my toe in between Martin-Molloy sketches.

Sometimes you immediately recognise the significance of an event. Pushover 1997 represented the best and worst of that year. It was, quite simply, the best Aussie music I had ever been exposed to. Soon after I was clamoring for CDs by the 'gurge, the 'bait and the 'spoon (Guide To Better Living is one of the better debut albums you'll ever here- even now.) This extended to discovering Powderfinger, Superjesus, Silverchair, You Am I, Tumbleweed, Magic Dirt, Frenzal Rhomb, Something For Kate and Shihad. These were one hell of a collection of rock bands. Raw. Honest. Not like that shit the kids listen to now.

And maybe that's how some people felt about INXS that day in November.

Maybe I can't take off the rose coloured glasses after all.

From my memoir "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME (and other stories about me getting my way)"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bomber 2011 review

Great year from beloved Essendon Football Club. With Knights removed immediately after the 2010 season the Hird/Thompson regime swooped to power and preceded to do absolutely nothing. No major trades or delistings to start the new era. Well except one. Jay Neagle was given his marching orders and told to get in shape. The message was loud and clear though. The expectations on players were high and they were pushed to the limit throughout the summer.

The Bombers that showed up in the NAB Cup were fitter. Hungrier. You could see it in the way they moved and challenged their opponents. They weren't going to be swept aside and weren't going to be blown out. Their systematic demolition of the Bulldogs in Round 1 showed that Hird knew a thing or two and between he and his staff had figured out a few things about the list.

Dyson Heppell was a player. A natural who commanded immediate respect for his poise. He played every game and, for most of them, played well. Heath Hocking looked fitter and continued his improvement from 2010. There were changes though. Crameri lined up alongside Hurley and dominated both in the air and on the ground. He ended up the leading goal kicker and was sorely missed late in the season. Introduced late by Knights, Hird had found another avenue to goal. Hardingham had been Knights' answer to this problem though this year he proved a revelation down back. His huge leap and Fletcher-like arms disrupted contests across the defense. He improved remarkably across the season and for me was one of the real finds. Everyone knew David Zaharakis had something special and the increased time in the midfield allowed him to show it. After interrupted seasons in 2009 and 2010 he played every game this year and did enough in each become an automatic selection and win the best and fairest. Leeroy Jetta's start to the season deserves a mention as he out performed Alwyn Davey who was forced in the VFL for extended periods. Tom Bellchambers proved himself capable when he got a run. He rucks well and was able to go forward and stretch smaller defenses. Lovely mark of the ball too. The likes of Melksham and Howlett continued to improve in the midfield late in the year as the injury toll mounted. Howlett in particular seems to have learned a thing or two from his captain and is made of strong stuff.

Unfortunately the injury toll mounted and the lists lack of depth was exposed. While the Geelong win came from a side that missed Jobe Watson, the midfield was largely lost without him. Hocking continued to assert himself and really showed he is an integral part of the side. With limited opportunities as a small forward, Sam Lonergan went on the ball and fit in well as a back up for Jobe and Hocking. He certainly improved as the year went on and was missed in the final. Courtney Dempsey looked good in the first few rounds and his pace was sorely missed out of half back when he did his knee. Winderlich too brought pace to the half forward line- certainly Davey could match him for speed but not for smarts and accountability. The loss of these players, and holes created by a rolling stream of injuries to Hooker, Pears, Hurley, Watson, Welsh and Hocking, left the team exposed. McVeigh looked slow but his commitment was solid. Others, such as Remiers, Slattery and Dyson, got games by default and rarely made an impact. Stanton, despite his knockers, was a solid contributor in the midfield and worked hard to get himself into games. Unfortunately he chose inopportune times to kick poorly.

The rucks barely fired all year. The three ruck experiment didn't work, mainly because they didn't contribute enough when they went forward. They often got in Hurley's way or each others and weren't quick enough to pick up the clumsy crumbs. Hille struggles were largely due to a lack of fitness. He didn't have a full preseason due to injury and came in underdone. He was, however, the third most important player behind Jobe and Hurley and could genuinely influence a game when willing. Ryder was so up and down that it was hard to tell where his head was at. Some games he was ace but seemed to lack the athleticism and leap that made him so effective the last few years. If the price was right a new home could do him well in 2012.

The defense struggled under pressure and exposed the lack of defensive work there had been with Knights as coach. They couldn't stick tackles and lacked the skills to help each other at a contest. This is the next step in the path to the premiership. The tall stocks are good which could make Hooker expendable if a decent midfielder was on the table. A fit Pears is a must for next year. Carlise came into the side late and showed further promise. Certainly a keeper who, like Hurley, can play both ends.

Overall, any year that a team returns to the finals is a good one. A number of players put their hands up, and we found out that a few players were done. Williams has already retired without firing a shot and Welsh was let down by his body too often in the last couple of years. Slattery and Dyson did little when picked, which was only when players were missing. Davey and Remiers didn't show the consistency expected of senior players but have no real trade value and will get another year to produce. Colyer did well as a sub and has some speed.

The future is bright Bomber fans! Our best side is very competitive and the new regime are committed to developing this side.

Best 22 2011
B: Fletcher, Pears, Heppell
HB: Hardingham, Hooker, Dempsey
C: Jetta, Stanton, Howlett
HF: Zaharakis, Hurley, Monfries
F: Melksham, Crameri, Winderlich
R: Ryder, Watson, Hocking
I/C: McVeigh, Hille, Lonergan
SUB: Colyer
EMRG: Lovett-Murray (an effect sub early on, but still makes horrible decisions), Reimers, Davey, Bell Chambers.

This side never took the park. If it does watch out!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

AFL - Australia's answer to professional wrestling PART 2

The rise of the AFL over the last two decades has been one of sport's great success stories. It has ballooned from a state-centric league to a national powerhouse. In particular the last ten years has seen record crowd figures and TV numbers culminating in 2011's $1.4 billion dollar TV rights deal. Hell, they even had their own pay-TV channel for a while there (something no other Aussie sport can claim)!

However the AFL finds itself at a tipping point. While growth has been steady, largely due to a series of checks and balances designed to keep the product equitable, it appears that the inevitable plateau is near. The very things that have seen the competition expand and succeed are now at the point of destroying the core product. For all the bells and whistles, AFL is (or should be) a sport. It is about teams competing to win each and every week. The phrase "integrity" of the competition gets thrown around a lot, by media and supporters alike, but the truth is the league's bean counters have slowly stripped the league of its competition. The greed and bonuses of fat cats have ensured that, while the game has numerically grown in size and stature, it has ceased to be a sport. Indeed, it bears more resemblance to the contrived world of WWE than the sporting glory of the world's great sporting leagues. Now they aren't all perfect, the EPL is only likely to be won by one of five teams, but only the AFL buggers up so many of the fundamentals that make for an engaging and truly significant sporting competition.

Let's break down some of the causes-

The recent expansion has watered down the teams. There is no doubt. With the lure to basketball in the 1990s and soccer in the 2000s the number of good players being produced is down. Bringing in more teams only increases the number of substandard players who pull on a jumper. One could argue that Fremantle have never one a meaningful game of football since their admission to the league in 1996. Port Adelaide do have a premiership, but currently have few players on the list that would attract attention elsewhere. Both Brisbane and Gold Coast have young sides that were routinely belted during 2011. The introduction of GWS Giants in 2012 will only see this record broken next year. At a league level, the competition is worse off when fewer teams have access to good players and have to fill lists with young kids or VFL rejects. (Not that I am disparaging the VFL warriors who eventually make the top league. The stories of Podsiadly and Barlow are brilliant and an inspiration to others to keep working hard. What this shows however is that the league now needs more players and needs to draw on lower comps to get players on their lists. This didn't happen as often 15 years ago.)

At a club level the effect is far worse. The majority of teams do not have depth to their lists. The Bombers best 22 looked great early in the season but take out a couple of players (Dempsey, Watson, Winderlich) and the reserve players couldn't make up for it. They lost five straight to teams that would finish below them. The Bulldogs were minus Lake and usually a midfielder (Cooney for instance) and they ceased to be competitive against teams they dominated just twelve months before. Carlton missed a couples of guys and had to dip into their list only to lose to teams beneath them (ironically including the Bulldogs). At face value this would make for a more interesting competition where anyone can beat anyone. But this isn't entirely the case when the talent on display is woeful. Jason Tutt looked brilliant for the Dogs when he debuted - against Port Power, who had lost back-to-back 100 point games, and a Freo side that had to request AFL assistance just to field a team. He'd probably look great against the suburban teams too.

Of course these weaker teams have little chance of becoming good again when the draft is so ridiculously compromised to set up the new teams. Between priority picks, which can't be removed until after 2012, (since Gold Coast have made it part of their initial strategy!) and the compensation picks the AFL has created a system that will stop clubs climbing back up the ladder. The introduction of free agency will only make this worse as teams with big cash reserves, facilities and sponsorship opportunities get the better players. Few players will want to hang out in Casey or Seaford. The Westpac Centre? Melbourne Airport? That's a little more like it! With a smaller percentage of good players in the league, spread inequitably amongst more teams, the quality of competition suffers. The AFL often quotes the high number of teams appearing in preliminary finals as proof the draft creates a balanced and fair competition. Whilst the statistic is true, the measure is inaccurate. If you examine the number of grand finalists in this period (2001-2011) the following patterns emerges:
  • Brisbane defeat Essendon
  • Brisbane defeat Collingwood
  • Brisbane defeat Collingwood
  • Port Power defeat Brisbane
  • Sydney defeat West Coast
  • West Coast defeat Sydney
  • Geelong defeat Port Power
  • Hawthorn defeat Geelong
  • Geelong defeat St Kilda
  • Collingwood draw with St Kilda and then defeat St Kilda in the replay.
  • Collingwood vs Geelong
Of the ten teams that played off for a premiership in the last decade only two appeared once (and Essendon actually won the 2000 premiership). Teams stay dominate for extended periods of time. Look at the last five years and the numbers become EPL-like. Just five teams have contested the title in the last five years. Of these St Kilda complied top picks in the first half of the decade, Geelong recruited well, and Collingwood has a mix of top picks and players bought from other teams. The NBA has a similar pattern over the same time frame. The draft should be retained, but with a lottery system to prevent tanking. The salary cap should be strictly enforced (no more Judd rules) with a limit on payments. The trade period should be opened to facilitate movement. What we don't want is teams stock piling good players and we want bottom teams to be able to get access to good players to improve their chances of winning.

The distribution of players isn't the only cause for concern. The number of wins over 100 went up astronomically this year as top sides try to eek out every last bit of percentage from an opponent. In other sports, likebasketball, large victories are usually cooled off as the victor rests players and takes the foot off the accelerator in the last quarter. With the emphasis on percentage as a separator for teams, this is unrealistic to assume teams would ever go easy to finish a game off. The league itself is stopping games being competitive. The introduction of the substitute should be applauded for helping teams continue when players are injured. However teams with multiple injuries are effectively dead in the water anyway. The high impact nature of the sport means injury is inevitable, especially with the recent emphasis on quick bursts of speed over the endurance athletes of the old days. This need for percentage and loss of players mid-game only exacerbates the blow out potential in games. Perhaps the league could look at alternate scheduling arrangements to make head-to-head results of greater significance than percentage?

The percentage problem isn't one that can be easily fixed without addressing the fixture. And nothing in the AFL is more fixed than this. The AFL can never, and will never, be a competition while it presents this charade of a schedule. There is no formula for scheduling (like the NBA or NFL) nor is there scope for a simple home & away draw. The focus for the AFL is on big crowds and therefore big revenue. The teams themselves aren't relied on to be a draw, rather it is the history of the clubs and the number of supporters. The 22 round season is unworkable with 18 teams. Well actually that's not true. It is unworkable when Essendon, Carlton and Collingwood have to play each other twice for historical reasons. And Essendon and Richmond, and the respective interstate derbies. And some teams sell games to other clubs. This use of a deliberately planned fixture ensures the competition isn't competitive. As long as some teams get to play the last team twice, and others don't, the AFL isn't a competition. It is a deliberately manipulated form of entertainment. Like wrestling.

What could work is the use of a conference system. Splitting the league in two conferences of nine would enable teams to have a clear rationale for when and where they play. You would play the other eight teams in your conference twice (home and away) and the other conference once (rotating who is home and away on a yearly basis).

It could work like this:
  • Conference 1: Collingwood, Richmond, St Kilda, Hawthorn, Melbourne, GWS, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane
  • Conference 2: Carlton, Essendon, North, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Adelaide, Port, West Coast, Fremantle.
The derbies are all still two games. ANZAC day would be the only Essendon-Collingwood clash.

That's a 25 game season where who is playing who is clear. The number of games is probably too high but in order to fix the first problem (dilution of the player pool) actually cutting two teams would solve this problem. The top four would play three weeks of finals before the top teams from each conference playing in the grand final. The competition, at least in terms of scheduling, is equal. Teams play finals at the ground of their choice (so their ACTUAL home ground- Geelong can play in Geelong). Surely a high finishing team earns this right.

Now none of this is likely to happen. (Actually we may have a chance on the draft rules). The AFL isn't interested in a fair competition that is an actual sport. They want 'more than a game', one that is an entertainment spectacle that attracts top corporate dollars and keeps their pay checks fat.

But the tipping point is close. How much longer will fans put up with lopsided matches with poor skills? How long will Bulldog, Saint, Demon and Richmond fans tolerate decades of disappointment when they realize they have no hope of winning a premiership in a competition that is designed to keep big draws in top?

Who knows? But we know crowd numbers were down this year and average margin was up. And the last two premiers are in another grand final... Hopefully someone realises there is greater worth in having a true competition than being Australia's answer to the WCW.

Friday, August 12, 2011

AFL - Australia's answer to professional wrestling. PART 1

There seems to be a lot of commotion lately about the current "state of the AFL" (referred to as if it were a nation of some sort- if it were a nation it would be Italy). The truth is the 'sport' has been sick for a while. Indeed, the primary function of the AFL is not to provide competition or sport, but rather the goal of the AFL commission is growth of the game. Part of the problem is that being such a unique (and basically nonsensical) game means that the guys running the league are also in charge of promoting the game. This doesn't exist in other sports. FIFA runs soccer, not EPL and FIBA promotes basketball worldwide, not the NBA. Now in both these cases it could be quite successfully argued that the competitions are more popular than the bodies and (outside of World Cup time) I would tend to agree. These are two of the most popular leagues in the world and they do so by having a healthy respect for the game and ensuring that there is actual competition. The AFL is the game and it is a game that only exists in Australia. There are a large number of factors that stop it growing beyond our borders and, in fact, may actually see it collapse on itself if they don't start to take a more global view. Part of the problem is that the AFL actually seems to be repeating some of the mistakes that we see in EPL (only five teams are ever even threats to the title) and NBA (the team costs have spiraled out of control after way too much expansion).

Before we think about the global aspects, lets examine the local problems. Firstly this is the only sport where missing a goal is rewarded. From an international perspective this makes no sense. You don't get something for nearly scoring a touchdown, you don't get one point for hitting the ring on a two point field goal, you don't get a point for kicking to the left of the goalie (actually you don't even get the ball back if you miss that one). But by no means is this the stupidest rule. The current state of advantage, holding the ball and incorrect disposal means that not even local supporters understand what the hell is going on. So bad are the interpretations of these rules that the PLAYERS (you know, who have grown up playing the game at a high standard and GET PAID to know the rules) don't even seem to know what is going on. As much as soccer players like to shrug their shoulders and plead innocent on illegal tackles, you know that they understand the rules that prevent what they have done. You can't say the same for footballers. The advantage rule actually makes the game worse, since the whistle stops the players unless someone grabs the ball and runs. Complicating this situation is the holding the ball, head high contact and incorrect disposal rules that seem so randomly called that players are lucky if they even know which way the umpire will point when the whistle blows.

This is where the AFL starts to look like WWE. No the match outcomes aren't predetermined (no matter what non-Collingwood supporters say) but the ref seems to apply their own rules to suit the situation. My favourite was a couple of years ago when the Bombers played the Hawks and a Bomber player was pinged for (I shit you not) "spinning 360 degrees". The player in question was grabbed by the waist and swung around before he hand balled. Now at what point has there ever been a rule that dictated being swung around for a full revolution meant you'd held the ball too long- especially when you disposed of it correctly? This the equivelent of some WWE referees suddenly calling a DQ when a wrestler uses the rope illegally. It is not even a rule!

Then there is the head high contact, deliberate out of bounds and deliberate rushed behind. These are applied so inconsistently that fans have little chance of figuring our what constitutes a violation or not. It is frustrating and actually stops new people getting into our game. How can there be 'no head high contact' when a player ducking his head can get smacked and it is called 'play on'? In basketball the basic rule is that there is no contact. Most good refs allow incidental contact and consistently let the same things go. However, no player can complain for being called for a foul when they initiate contact. The AFL doesn't follow this premise as they essentially have sub-rules for their main rules. This only adds to the confusion for all.

Don't even get me started on the rules that require players and umpires to acknowledge distance- the 15m to a mark rule and the 50m penalty rule- that are physically impossible to govern correctly. How can you judge a ball has traveled 15m when there are no markings on the ground to help you out? How can an umpire accurately move a player up the field 50 meters when all the grounds are different sizes (and again don't have regular markings)? Its not like we give them 20 minute quarters and no way of knowing how long is left. (Oh wait...)

The solution? Stop changing rules for one.
  • Go back to pure interpretations of incorrect disposal (if it isn't a bloody handball then call it!) A player who is tackled and spills the ball should be pinged every time. It'll will quickly find its way back to the clubs and players will start training under pressure to make sure they know how to get an effective disposal away from a tackle (well except Richmond- it'll take them years to figure it out).
  • Rule that any head high contact will mandate a free. Players will figure it out. However, incidental contact to the head that knocks someone out shouldn't result in suspension. Just a free is enough. The MRP should only rule on deliberate violations of the rule- not accidental. Accidental ones can be paid a free kick against and that is all.
  • Get rid of the distance requirements for marks. Any kick by foot to a player is a mark. Most players play-on now anyway! Just save fans and umpires the stress of having to guess.
  • Get rid of 50m penalties. Instead, when there is a transgression after a free kick has already been paid, the ball should come to the top of the center square closest to the offensive team's goal. If the transgression is already closer than the center square then the ball goes to the goal square (which is what happens in this situation anyway). This means opposition forwards are on notice. You'll give up more than 50 meters if you abuse an umpire or infringe on the mark. As a full forward there is nothing worse than watching the full back kick a goal.
  • Don't let the umpire call advantage after blowing the whistle. If the whistle goes then the game stops. Simple as that.
  • Don't have different time limits on when a player who has marked the ball needs to play on. Whether kicking for goal or field kicking the rule should be the same.
  • Keep the behind rule. It is kind of charming and certainly makes the game unique. It will never make sense but is easily explained.
Fixing some of these rules will make life easier for the umpires and make the game a hell of a lot less frustrating to watch and play. It might even convince more people to play it.

In Part 2 I'll look at the entertainment part of the equation and why the AFL can't call itself a competition...
The recent expansion has watered down the teams.
The league itself is stopping teams being competitive.
The AFL isn't sport at all, but is all about the money.

And I'll suggest how to fix it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Closing...

My 25 Favourite Silverchair songs

With the band going into "indefinite hibernation" its a good chance to reflect on how bloody good this band actually is. Molly has said they are up there with AC/DC and INXS and it is hard to disagree. Actually there is room to argue that, while they might not have quite reached the heights of either, their output is more varied and represents a significant artistic achievement. Who would've thought the shy kids from Newcastle who said "you're gonna wait fat boy" would end up writing the defining Aussie 00s pop arena anthem ('Straight Lines') or having Guy Pierce direct a video ('Across The Night') or work with David Helfgot ('Emotion Sickness')?

Pretty amazing.

25. 'tomorrow'
24. 'young modern'
23. 'untitled'
22. paint pastel princess
21. Ana's song
20. cemetery
19. Mind reader
18. Pure massacre
17. Miss you love
16. Petrol and chlorine
15. If you keep losing sleep
14. Satin sheets
13. Tuna in the brine
12. Luv your life
11. No association
10. Spawn
9. After all these years
8. The greatest view
7. Slave
6. Across the night
5. Freak
4. The door
3. Israel's son
2. Emotion sickness
1. Straight lines

Feel free to disagree!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Term 1 2011

Thought I'd drop in some thoughts on the move and general progress in Term 1.

You can pretty much add "so far" to any of the statements after this. I am perceptive enough to realise I am still in a honeymoon period and that if I ruffle the wrong feathers things might just turn. I have zero intention of doing that, and I've learned enough in the last four years to handle myself better when conflict arises.

Actually, my ability to handle myself has probably been what I am proudest of. Little of my old reputation has followed me and it has been a pleasure to kind of start again and redirect my energies into new things, rather than being dragged into things I stopped believing in long ago. My mind has changed, for instance, about how to treat VCE students. While I was once a crusader for keeping the standard and expectation high, towards the end of last year I began to reconsider my position. Simply put, having a fifth of your students removed from the data (totally within the rules) doesn't help you progress your teaching. My numbers were good, but actually they were great, but reaching the bottom third needs to be the new priority. The culture I'm in now has forced me to confront this problem and reflect on my own practice. This challenge involves changing the system internally to ensure that (to paraphrase) few are left behind. The intervention system we (as a department) are suggesting is large in scale and deliberate in objective and method. Certainly this is exciting to be part of for the rest of the year. Sitting down with the boss and having him support a few of the programs we will start was a nerdy thrill as well.

I have enjoyed not being spread so thin, though as I discussed in a blog late last year, being involved in so many areas helped to broaden my perspective. I would certainly entourage it. That said, not being involved in student leadership, curriculum, school council, etc., has allowed me to focus on the core of my new role and really immerse myself in leading the English department. There are many facets and 29 people to lead. Without a stand alone literacy program I am effectively leading that, though I have focused on it being a team effort, rather than my responsibility. (Having the region coach as our coach helps enormously too). It took me two weeks to work out exactly what I was supposed to be doing but I feel my time is now well spent.

At this point the main priority has been supporting the staff. They are quite simply brilliant. Motivated and dedicated. Their freshness gives them an energy that has helped to revitalize me. I feel pumped to be around them and they are a joy to lead. Most take to tasks with gusto and are receptive to feedback. As I said to someone in the last week- we have an exciting young list that has the capacity to do amazing things in the near future. Hopefully we can hang on to all of them. Designing fac meetings using GANAG and creating time to establish a culture of collaboration has been worthwhile and, I think, challenged a few perceptions of how we will be teaching in the future. They have been receptive since day 1 and their encouragement tells me we have identified a good course to take. The goal for the year is to make life easier and put our fac in a position to lead the school in a number of areas. The competitor in me settles for nothing less. Working in a team with a clear focus, and being able to influence that focus significantly, has been a great experience.

The change has been good. I miss the odd face but the new ones have been welcoming. So far the 360 feedback has been good and I seem to have found a style that works for me. I did manage to go a couple of weeks without swearing, though one of the grads now blames me for her potty mouth. It was strange seeing old work people amongst so many unfamiliar faces. It still feels like I have one foot in the old world, though this will fade with time, since I certainly mention them too much. I have been quite open about my lack of experience (at appropriate times) since there is no point hiding the fact I'm new to the role. I have been able to build on my knowledge though and the professional focus here towards Marzano and Pollock has been of massive assistance. It may appear there are many balls in the air but I am learning to juggle them and my time with people like DT and AM has greatly helped this.

There are challenges ahead but I feel settled. It has been wonderfully exciting to be honest. There are differences in the school- some awesome, some terrible. For my own sanity I am focusing on the positives and working my way on influencing the negatives to protect my staff from burn out. It is hard work, but worthwhile work.

This really is the best job in the world.

Would love to hear your comments and your own progress in the last few months.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

WrestleMania 27 predictions

The undercard-
a few matches here have a potential to be good but forgotten by the end.
But first The Rock comes out and welcomes the millions... and millions of people watching in the arena and at home. He says some funny shit about John Cena and The Miz. Wade Barrett will probably interrupt him.

Random collection of faces (Kane, Big Show, Kofi, Santino) D The Corre (a misspelt collection of heels- Wade Barret is only one who is over). It involves a messy finish where everyone hits their moves and Santino pins Slater with the COBRA.

Shemus D Daniel Bryan to retain the US Title. Should be a decent 10 minute match. Shemus cheats to win.

Rey Mysterio D Cody Rhodes. Rhodes comes out looking good but Rey (dressed at Captain America) gets the win with a 619. Cody will get his back in a mask-v-mask match next month.

Celebrity Match
Snooki's team wins. I'm not even sure who else is in it. I think John Morrison is. So he'll do something cool.

The midcard.
Jerry Lawler D Michael Cole (with Jack Swagger). Stone Cold stomps a mudhole in Cole. Then stuns Swagger. Lawler hits the fist drop for the win. Huge pop if this goes on early enough.

Austin and Lawler have a beer bash which is interrupted by someone. Someone takes a Stunner.

CM Punk D Randy 'The Ram' Orton. CM works the leg and escapes the RKO. Randy looks set for victory before someone runs in and trips him. Maybe Luke Gallows. They take an RKO and Randy gets rolled up. (Randy will bash his brains in next month).

Alberto "Nacho Libre" del Rio D Edge. Christian comes down to chase off the posse. Christian bumps into Edge who gets caught in the arm bar and takes ages to tap. Edge looks strong but del Rio celebrates his first title. Christian "looks" sorry. Edge pushes him away when he tries to console him.

Undertaker D Triple H. Have you seem WMX7? It'll be like that. Only slower. Triple H bleeds a little to make it look like he "died trying." Michaels doesn't get involved. At least I hope not. Lots of kicking out of finishers throughout. Streak continues.

John Cena D The Miz. This is just nuts. I don't know how The Rock gets involved physically and not have the whole thing look stupid. He can't shake Cena's hand because he'd look like a pussy. The Miz could use the rub, but can't be left lying by The Rock. Cena can't really afford that either- so maybe it is the reverse of Raw. Miz jumps Cena who is saved by The Rock. Cena and Rock stare down and they both hit their silly moves on Miz. Rock then rock bottoms Cena and thanks everyone for coming.

Oh, and Cena has already defeated Miz for the title- but the heel turn has begun. Cena turns on the fans the next night and takes out The Rock. Orton and Hunter start chasing (since no one else is over). Miz feuds with someone who ran out earlier.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Blog: Forever Damned

I have started a second blog to document a project I am working on. It is a story about a story, all on a blog.


It makes sense when you read it here


Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Reality: A faux memoir for the context Whose Reality

Wrote my first model Whose Reality piece today in class.

Thought I'd share!

I can’t honestly say I know why I did it. Something raised out of me that moment- a beast unleashing fire from its jaws, biting into anything that was around. Even now, the exact nature of my fury was a mystery, though with repeated episodes I have gone someway to understanding the nature of my rage.

In all likelihood my brother just wanted a turn at being the star. Not content to merely stand beside me, he grabbed at me and bleated that it was his turn. I don’t remember shouting but I do remember just turning and bopping him with the hard, solid wood guitar. This was not one of those plastic imitations; despite its small stature the weapon was well crafted and built to resist damage. It certainly wasn’t a WWF prop guitar (and since I was 6, I can’t imagine this being my inspiration. It was just the fury that caused my attack.)

The top of my brother’s head gushed with blood almost immediately. And then the real pain began.

He emerge from his garage with fire in his belly (amongst other things I would later discover.) How do I slow this down to provide an adequate description? Indeed it was only due to his therapy that I even remember this moment at all. He threw me to the ground and stole the guitar from my fingers. He threw it violently against the garage wall, shattering it. My brother cried, quite possibly at the sight of my father rather than the sight of blood. My father pushed me as I rose and he removed his belt.

It was not the first time I had been belted and, in truth, for years I considered it necessary. Certainly I didn’t clock my brother with a guitar again. His anger would recede and there was some resentment, from my perspective, for the soft way he handled my younger siblings. It was after his diagnosis and through the subsequent therapy that my father formed a more balanced way of dealing with disappointing children. The day he sat me down, I was an adult by then, and explained he was sorry for what I had considered a necessary evil, was a strange day. My brother didn’t acknowledge the abuse, in his mind it had never happened. I didn’t relate to the term either. To me he had been tough and on that day I had hit my brother I had deserved it. A victim’s mentality perhaps but I never saw it as anything more.

Why I hit my brother that day is still a mystery. Where I got my rage from is not.

For the record I did actually belt Mike with a guitar and I can't remember why I did it. The rest is more or less made up or exaggerated. Students were impressed with my skills anyway.