Thursday, 23 August 2012

Des Hasler is Good. So was pre-Waterloo Napoleon.

Here is an astute and insightful observation: The Raiders must beat the Bulldogs tonight. The Raiders must succeed. I refer here to Gore Vidal’s version of success: It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.

Des is good. This is a fundamental truth. Napoleon was good too. Remember what happened to him? Despite his knowledge of the harsh Russian winter, Napoleon attacked during the cold months and his troops were decimated. Just something for Des to bear in mind.  
Other key points for us the viewers to bear in mind: 
-One of the Bulldogs looks like a Sasquatch. Which I understand are offensively hairy, ogre-like creatures. His name eludes me but whoever it is he has totally disproved the evolution theory.
-One of the Bulldogs looks like this guy who came to look at the Tarago I was selling and took a noisy dump in my toilet.
- One of the Bulldogs is Josh Reynolds: excitement machine. He has a motley mongrel vibe and a sociopathic glint to the eye. I like how he is making a name as the game’s new, up-and-coming super-grub under the aggressive tutelage of Michael Ennis. I like it how he is always at pains to point out that he’s “not the most naturally gifted player” and that he has had to work very hard, none of this teenage prodigy* shit for him. If you listened to him without seeing him play you would naturally conclude that he is some kind of genetically feeble loser with a club-foot and a harelip. And, not, you know, extravagantly awesome.  See also: Matty Johns dishing out the high praise and calling him “a real hound-dog”.  

*(A teenage Scrabble prodigy was last week ejected from the US Scrabble Championship after he was caught stealing the two blank tiles before a game. Also, 41% of Americans think that preparing for doomsday is more important than saving for retirement. These are two totally unrelated points from which I encourage you to configure your own baseless conclusions. You sick fucks!!)

So. The Raiders must win.
If they don’t I won’t be mad at them though.
I say I’m on my last nerve with them all the time but never really am. I have an endless supply of fresh nerves specially bred to be shredded.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Raiders are a Polite & Dignified Team Who Know Their Place in the League

Round 24 – Raiders vs Roosters.

As that strident and evocative text from G-Spaz on the frontlines in Canberra demonstrates, this was a must win game.
Brandy did his bit to build a mood before kickoff. He went as far as to orally punctuate his own sentences “They’ve gotta win. They’ve just got to win this one. Full stop. (pause) It’s a must win. Full stop.” I was tightly wound and can’t quite remember what I muttered, I think it was “alright prick, comma, we get it – dot dot dot shut up already.”

Brandy struggled to disguise his weary contempt for both teams as the game progressed. The subtext of his entire call was “ever imagined what it would be like having an orbital sander pressed to your brain? That’s what watching and having to call this game feels like. Kill me. Exclamation point. ”

I understood. But, Brandy, not all games can be pretty. Also, your stinking Panthers are engaged in a gripping  and high-stakes wooden-spoon off right now so, you know, shut the fuck up.
In the event, both teams were shabby but the Raiders a little less so.
Furner fooled them into thinking they were playing an away game again this week. Whatever. It worked.
I can see how this is going to go, though. You do something or you wear something and you win a few games and then it sticks and several years later you’re still wearing the same sagging, elastic-less support undergarments and they are fetid and rank BUT YOU HAVE TO KEEP WEARING THEM. In the Raiders case, this means that they will be bussed to some suburban hotel for home games forevermore.  
There is already a precedent for this type of superstitious behavior at the Raiders. See: Josh McCrone not taking his mouth guard out until he’s in the shower. This means that he spits and sprays his way through post-match interviews, mangling words and sounding like you do when you fit one of those voice distorters over the mouthpiece of your phone to allow you to make menacing phone calls undetected.
In any case, it is only partly to do with luck. Mostly it is an enduring legacy of him being shit-scared of his mother’s towering wrath as a child. And there is no reason more valid than this, for anything, ever.
When he was very small he played a game in Tumut and left his mouth guard behind. “I got in a lot of trouble with mum. She said ‘next time, just leave it in ‘til you’re all finished’ – and I did it ever since!” There’s something very sweet about this and I still feel vague traces of guilt from 2010 when I hated McCrone very hard so I am just going to leave this as the lovely story that it is. Bless.

Blake Ferguson is lovely too, huge fucking amphibious thing that he is. His habit of ending his post-game interviews by abruptly looming up into the camera like some kind of terrifying frogman and politely requesting whether he can “just say a quick gidday to Nan and Pop back in Welly – gidday!!” and accompanying this with a goofy wave and a stupid-sweet grin is awesome. He has had one or both eyes blacked out and a repeatedly broken nose for most of the season and his busted, broke-down visage has made this little routine all the more arresting. So bless him too.

So the game went on, it was pretty pedestrian, 4 all, 10 all, 16 all, blah blah butthole clenched blah, until **cue crashing cymbals** Minichello that fucking statesman hit Dugan with a high shot and busted his face right open above the eye with only a few minutes to go. I think he hit him twice, I think he cleaned him up again when Dugan, because he is wiry and strong and filled with young virile blood, bounced away from the first hit only to get cleaned up by a second, but I can’t be sure because I was yelping NOT THE FACE NOT THE PRETTY and anyway, a brawl had erupted, which was nice. The Raiders are a polite and dignified team who know their place in the league. As such, they rarely seem to fight, and pick their brawls carefully and sparingly. Yesterday they knew en masse and instinctively that Dugan’s face NOT THE FACE being burst open like a watermelon was cause for brawl. If not that then what? Things happened quickly from here. Mini got binned. The crowd boiled and foamed and mimed uppercuts. Dugan’s face was taped back together. I think the Roosters scored a try? Or did we? I can’t remember, such was my state, but we won and it took a good ten minutes for the tremors to pass. Twenty for the twitches! Heady times.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Cameron Frye. I am him.

Having a birthday in a few weeks. Turning thirty.
Birthdays aren’t just ‘birthdays’, of course. Not for adults. They are corrosive mental ordeals; brutal philosophical examinations of the self, annual opportunities for taking inventory of all the time you waste on menial but terribly taxing tasks like standing in line at the post office collecting parcels containing things you don’t remember buying on eBay probably because you make many of your purchases in the dark pre-dawn gloom during dark nights of the soul of which there are evidently many.
This turning thirty business is a bitch any way you look at it. Collapsed youth and raw adult reality collide. A mess is made, a silent soul-stink that rises.   
I feel like a vacant block that’s been burned and left empty. I feel like Cameron Frye.

Here’s something that’s never really made very clear: there is a lot of maintenance work involved with mental health, a lot of up-keep. There’s no end point. It’s ongoing, eternal. It can be overwhelming. Insight is encouraged. You are supposed to closely monitor the way you feel, keeping on top of mood changes and paying close attention to fluctuations and such. This can be difficult if part of your problem is that you don’t much like to feel things, and what you do feel is based on control and denial.  
It can also be exhausting, boring, tedious, circular.  You get a grip, but then you have to maintain.
And you don’t want to talk to anyone about it because you know it will only unnerve them and make you feel even more misunderstood and awkward and neither of these outcomes hold any appeal whatsoever so you say “Oh, I’m alright, I’m okay” and hope you’re holding the soul-stink down. And hope that you don’t have to hear people’s voices shrink and go small with sympathy.
Cameron Frye understood this. It is why he wanted to remain in bed. He was lying in bed on his back genuinely mourning the fact that he was not dead.

Even when Ferris got Cameron out of bed and into the streets and he relaxed some and appeared to enjoy the fact that he was not dead it was clear that his emotional constitution and complex, fragile psyche may have been altogether too delicate to withstand the rigours and ravages of life beyond high school graduation.
He was a teenager but he already reeked of oblivion.  

 My favourite scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:
Ferris: “I’m so disappointed in Cameron! Twenty bucks says he’s in his car right now debating on whether or not to go out.”
Cameron: [Cameron is in his car] “He’ll keep calling me; he’ll keep calling me until I come over. He’ll make me feel guilty. This is uh…This is ridiculous, ok I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go. I’ll go. What – I’LL GO. Shit.” [Turns the engine on then turns it off and hits the passenger seat.]
Cameron: “God Damnit!” [Turns the car on and revs it up.]
Cameron: “Ahhhhhhh! Shit!” [Gets out of the car.]
Cameron: “That’s it!” [Paces behind the car and jumps up and down in frustration.]

I like it ‘cos it’s me most days.
Phillip K Dick was this tweaked out science fiction author who wrote the stories that Blade Runner and Total Recall were based on and lived an astonishing ramshackle life and claimed, among other things (‘other things’ being that he was alive and everyone else was dead) that his car would only run between home and his psychiatrist’s office. Take it anywhere else, he said, and it would steer itself right into an accident.
Cameron: [Intoning] “When Cameron was in Egypt land LET MY CAMERON GO”.
Fade to black. Or beige, depending on your personal preference and the intensity level of your perpetual discomfort that annihilates all other thoughts and ambitions.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Round 23 - The Thinning of the Herd

Hello reader!

Has the endlessly optimistic drip drip drip talk of the top eight so unstabilised your judgement that you actually began to believe those poxy teams who have played poorly all year would burst through the ladder’s log jam and assume their rightful spot in the eight?
Ho! I suppose you thought Mark Latham could be prime minister back in 2004, too, DIDN’T YOU? I don’t blame you. I can’t. I believed in Latham too. What can I say; it’s easy to get caught up.
You get caught up, you get let down. This is the way the world works. It’s physics, or such is my understanding of physics. Of course, getting caught up inevitably leads to heartbreak. Oh well. What doesn’t? You follow a team. You feel their struggle. Know their pain. Invest in their future. Watch them fall. Tough shit to you.            
Life is a series of vile disappointments and injustices. Supporters of middling to terrible teams understand this instinctively. Raider fans, for example, do not need explained to them the annual slow dawning of disappointment that descends with a slow blackness and makes you feel hollow, bereft.
Well reader, perhaps this weekend has cleared up any questions you may have had, snuffed out any lingering, candle-in-the-wind hopes you may have held? Let’s hope so.
For the Roosters, the Warriors and the Dragons, certain rude truths have become crashingly apparent. The Panthers and the Eels are engaged in a titillating ‘avoid the wooden spoon’ dance down in the bottom-of-the-ladder bin-juice. The Titans and the Tigers and the Raiders and the Knights are tussling for the top eight. It feels futile, but the same futility must scratch at the heart of every malcontent every morning and more on Mondays the world over, what can you do? You go on. You go on, you beat on, boats against the current.
I don’t know what Jay Gatsby would have made of rugby league but he believed in that green light at the end of Daisy’s dock and so must we all.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

My Mum's Life Philosophies Distilled into Several Key Points

Here are some photos of my mum. No reason, aside from her being generally rad.

“I was just on Radio National!”
“On what basis?”
“What’s my favourite topic?”
“No – the other one”

She called in because the topic of conversation was toileting and toilet habits and she thought the conversation was too stifled and stuffy and not nearly as base as she would have liked and decided, as a great fan of emulsions and emissions of the bodily variety, to liven things up with a contribution.
Oh my god I moaned. What the fuck did you say? Oh, she said airily, I just said I’m utterly shameless when it comes to toileting matters – much to the chagrin of my husband and children – I said I don’t know where I went wrong with my adult children, they don’t go in for it at all.
Her whole life’s philosophy is based on one of her father’s key saying – “Rules are for fools - wise men follow guidelines.” He used to use this when confronted with petty bureaucrats, groundskeepers, highway patrolmen and the like.
More broadly, you could say her whole life’s philosophy swivels intermittently between ‘who gives a shit’, ‘don’t fuck with me’ and ‘get out of my way’, depending on who is wasting her space at the time.
We are walking around Parsely Bay and Neilsons Park, following a small track through bits of bush. We round a corner. There is a footbridge. It is taped off, festooned with crime scene type tape. I see the tape. I turn, say ‘we’ll have to go back.’ ‘Go back?’ she says, indignant, ‘what for?’ She commands me to step aside, she strides through the tape. I follow, meek as a mouse, envisaging the footbridge collapsing under us, imagining twisted limbs and bones protruding through broken skin, hearing the angry, stop-right-there! shout of a hidden ranger.  
A few weeks later I speak to her, she is in Vaucluse and she is triumphant. She says “you know that tape –I’ve just torn it all down!  – what?  Well it was all still there, they hadn’t done a thing! Can you believe it?"

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Short History of Corn, via Rooty Hill

Say what you will about Furner (god knows I have), the man is a fucking innovator extraordinaire. Who knew the hamster wheel spun so sensationally inside his boof head? Fed up and frustrated with losing at home (eight from ten this year), he put the team up in a hotel and treated their game against Brisbane as an away game. He bussed them to a “modest four star” hotel on Saturday afternoon. They spent the night “playing cards”, and then caught the team bus to their own home ground. This cost the club $5000, and was, in short, a masterstroke. CheckMATE Furner you wily fuck. The Raiders beat the Broncos and….well, let’s not get excited. We know how this goes. Win in flamboyant fashion one week, lose spectacularly the next. You could set your watch to it.

Brian Smith orchestrated something similar (sort of) a few weeks ago when the Roosters had an away game at Penrith. He organised a Roosters camp. IN ROOTY HILL. They lost the game. Obviously. Everything Brian Smith does is an exercise in industrial scale pointlessness. See also: Brian Smith hiring a crane from which to loom over training sessions like some kind of scrawny-necked omnipotent chicken-God. What he saw from his lofty position is not important. It was a pointless undertaking. It’s like how Doritos are always trying to come up with new flavours. They’re forever maniacally adding new elements to what is essentially mechanically-masticated corn fashioned into triangular shapes and doused with cheese-flavoured emulsifiers. This too is pointless. The fundamental components are unchangeable. One or two top notes may be tweaked to make Mexican Fiesta over into Spicy Nacho Chilli or whatever, but a Dorito is a Dorito is a motherfucking Dorito. By the same token, or maybe by a different token, I don’t know much about tokens per say, Doritos are delicious. Making corn into a chip. That is innovation. Those Incas and Aztecs, Mexicans, whoever, they knew what was up.

In light of this I’m pausing here a moment to give corn some consideration. I think it’s warranted. Corn is amazing.
Corn is the world’s first fully engineered plant. Those Central and Southern Americans, they did amazing things with food. They were the greatest cultivators in history and manipulated corn so comprehensively that it is wholly dependent on humans for its survival.
Consider this: Corn kernels do not spontaneously disengage from their cobs, so unless they are deliberately stripped and planted CORN WILL NOT GROW AND THERE WOULD BE NO CORN.
People, good people, using their bare worker hands, have been tending it continuously for thousands of years. This was before everyone was immersed in the erotic publishing phenomenon, obviously. Also, nothing in the wild even remotely resembles corn. What did they breed corn from? It has no counterparts! I’m not the only person to ask this question. In 1969 food scientists from all over the world hoped to settle the matter once and for all and convened at ‘An Origin of Corn Conference’ at the University of Illinois, “but the debates grew so vituperative and bitter, and at times personal, that the conference broke up in confusion, and no papers from it were ever published.”* So basically, corn’s origins remain as much of a mystery as ever. As mysterious, say, as the giant squids of the deep, with eyes as big as dinner plates. 

And you know how the fourth season of Jersey Shore was filmed in Florence Italy? Of course you do. Here is a bit of an interview with The Situation:  
Q. Was there anything you didn’t like about Florence?
A. I missed a lot of the things I took for granted in America – like Doritos. They’re impossible to find in Italy.

That was in case anyone needed further confirmation of the good work that those toiling South and Central Americans did. Horticultural innovations aren’t what they used to be. Coaching innovations aren’t either. Square watermelons? Tricking pliant and partially-concussed minds into believing they are playing away games at home? Please.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Coaches - Who Cuts the Mustard, & Who Does Not

Coaching, Christ.

It is an unrelenting, nerve-shredding occupation. Coping with a whole range of players’ behavioural abnormalities? Jesus Christ. Some of those players reveal a near total ignorance of all known cognitive processes.
Remember when Gus Gould revealed that Trent Barrett was so dense and un-coachable that after much frustration he just had to tell him – repeatedly, and with some force, to JUST RUN STRAIGHT, AT ALL TIMES ?? I don’t either but my brother does because he told me about it when we were discussing who we thought the stupidest players ever were, in a conversation that inevitably originated and ended with Mark Gasnier.
In settler times Aborigines working the cattle stations would put a hat over a cow’s eyes to get it to walk calmly backwards. The farmers had never seen this done and it impressed them. Make of that what you will.
Welcome to the wonderland of first grade coaching.
Bellamy, Craig. I like the way he seethes. I like it how he puffs his cheeks and blows out air as if to say ‘well now…’ in that belligerent way of his. I like the way he occupies the coach’s box like it’s his personal pulpit. I like it how he plays the part of the crazed preacher man ranting and frothing, beneath biblical skies but surrounded by about a dozen Mount Franklin water bottles that he channels his inner seething into and systematically destroys. I like it how you look at him and just cannot imagine him partaking in flabby, human indulgences like sleep. And I love how he looks like he would be lewdly comic away from the cameras, like every anecdote would end with him braying “…AND THAT’S HOW I SPRAINED MY BONER!”

Bennett, Wayne. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Is that from Hamlet? Aren’t all those power-and-paranoia quotes? Everything about him just says ‘let me handle my business’ and as such the twitches around his mouth are more eloquent than anything he can ever actually say. I like the fact that he doesn’t much go in for talking. Neither do I. Although I am clearly not a coach. In any case, when he does speak, you damn well listen. I like that he plays an affectionate and fatherly role in Darius Boyd’s hitherto untethered life. I like this so much that it makes me like Darius Boyd. He follows Papa Wayne from club to club to club! It’s awfully sweet.

Cartwright, John. He is deep in that sink of iniquity that is the Titans. He has heavy frown-lines and an air of burnt out truculence but he seems quite lovely and despite his club’s problems I can’t imagine him indulging in much high-decibel hectoring. Also, he lives on the Gold Coast and has thus far avoided wearing pastel leisure clothes and plastic visors. A good sort.

Cleary, Ivan. If I saw him messily eating a burrito in a food court or something I might be more inclined to believe he is human but I haven’t, so I can’t. Operates with robotic unpleasantness and is already dead where it counts – behind the eyes. 

Flanagan, Shane. He was rushed to hospital with a violently twisted bowel earlier this year. This is really all I can think to say about Shane Flanagan, aside from pointing out that his name is similar to that of True Blood’s Nan Flanagan, who is fierce. Todd Carney seems to think he’s alright. He said he “treats him like a human being” while implying that Brian Smith did not. What else? He has a lovely cashew-coloured skin, and he looks like his favourite movie would be Con Air. Nothing wrong with that. I was watching Con Air at the cinema with my brother the night Princess Diana was killed. 
Furner, David. He just can’t seem to strike the right tone. Sometimes he displays that inane breeziness common to morning TV presenters. Other times he emanates an air of ‘what-can-you-do’ resignation. Sometimes he is waspish and bitchy. Where is the sense of bitter ideological betrayal and urgent anger? I want to see him lapsing into a psychotic episode or two. Something to really frighten those Raiders into some form.

Occasionally, in my more lucid and generous moments, I wonder whether perhaps it is not all Furner. Perhaps the Raiders are just a maddeningly enigmatic and disparate group of individuals who cannot get it the fuck together on a weekly basis. When I am thinking like this I feel desperately sorry for Furner and the good deal of distress they must cause him. He does come across as someone who is just bone tired - psychologically and spiritually weary. Well, what the hell? The NRL is no place for a man who yearns for leisure time allowing him the right to wear salmon-coloured slacks and drink gin before noon. If he requires a rest he should step aside and make way for someone with more stamina. But no. If nothing else the bastard has serious staying power. He is rusted onto the Raiders organisation like a fucking barnacle on a ship. A sinking ship.
In any case, empathising with Furner is an uncomfortable sensation. Thankfully it is also one that occurs rarely and passes rapidly. 
Griffin, Andy. I’m not talking about the Broncos on here. I’m actually officially boycotting them. The stranglehold they have over the Friday night timeslot is the most unfair element of the modern game. Fuck the Broncos.  
Hasler, Des. Oh my god. I love him. Here is a man who is allergic to the saccharine and the insincere. Everything he says is incredible; all flashes of Wildean wit and lacerating, droll humour. My favourite thing he said was about Brett Stewart, after he had come back from his suspension and sexual assault acquittal and was busily marinating in his poisonous misdirected hatred for David Gallop and Dessie defended him by saying “His soul has not been cleansed.” This is straight from the book of Sodom and Gomorrah. Type the words ‘Des Hasler’ into any search engine and you will be treated with ‘Des Hasler dummy spits’ as your first option.
Now he is at the Bulldogs and has every one of those Dogs doing their jobs. This sounds simple but it is not. See: Smith, Brian, and Furner, David.  

Henry, Neil. I don’t know why, but he is of limited to nil interest to me. He’s a very long way away, which may be it. I liked it in 2010 when his Cowboys were playing the Raiders in Canberra and at halftime he forgot himself or had a coaching flashback or whatever and accidentally strolled into the Raiders dressing rooms like he was still coaching them instead of the Cowboys. Awkward.

Kearney, Stephan. He was fired but whatever, I’m still including him. Kearney was like one of those fancy types of honey sold at markets - viscous and dark, with brooding undertones. You just want the Yellow-box though, don’t you, to spread on your crumpets? He was picked up by Parra because he was said to “understand how the Polynesian mind works”. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but either way the process stripped him of about twenty kilos. The ‘steeping in failure’ diet, that’s what it’s called. He looked like some kind of dying Christmas tree.
I’ll miss him. I’ll miss his fine looks. There has never been a coach with such spectacular cheekbones.
Maguire, Michael. Currently being feted as a man of incredible vision and ambition for bringing consistency and structure to John Sutton’s loose and lazy game. I don’t like saying nice things about the Rabbits but my grudging admission is that the improvements in John Sutton typify and reflect the improvement in the entire Souths team. God help me.  
McClellan, Brian. I don’t even know how to spell his name and I don’t care enough to check.
Price, Steve. Both his behavior and his demeanor are cowardly and evasive. He’s hangdog and reactive. Furthermore, he looks like the type who’d always be swabbing at himself with moist towelettes. Not first-grade material, in other words. The rumour that he may have fallen out with Jamie Soward gives him a little bit of cache, but until this is confirmed I will continue to despise him and his tapering face.
Sheens, Tim. Obnoxious. Paranoid. Shrewd and wily. He has an inflated sense of his own relevance, and a smirk that rivals Bruce Willis’. Irritatingly hard to dislike. 

Smith, Brian. Christ, what a crappy coach. Socially and sartorially ill-suited to such a job. Has none of the usual traits of popularity – conventional good looks, smooth manners, an agreeable temperament. As such, he is diabolically unpopular.
The miscreant Roosters have not thrived under him, apart from 2010 when they took matters into their own meaty, scandal-stained hands, administered a self-imposed alcohol ban and played themselves into a grand final. 

Toovey, Geoff.  Geoff Toovey is a revelation. Who knew Toovey was in possession of an hysterical nature? A few weeks ago, after Manly’s loss to the Bulldogs, he displayed a highly likeable lunacy that I had no idea he was capable of. In the press conference he ranted like Mussolini from the balcony. It was unreal. He was pointing and rasping and his eyes were bulging and crazy and I thought ‘now there is a man of passion and conviction.’

In addition to the confiding rasp, he has a creaky, vaguely bow-legged walk and, as I now know, is prone to explosions of paranoia. He is also prone to hyperbole. His manner of speaking is gothic and theatrical. All this is at odds with his bleached out surfer look. He says things like ‘TO FORGE A WIN OUT OF THE JAWS OF DEFEAT’, and makes frequent reference to ‘the football Gods’. What is going on at Manly? First Des with the soul cleansing business and now Toovey preaching hellfire and damnation, like Brother Justin all crazed and enraged in Carnivale?

Business as usual, really.