Thursday, November 24, 2011


So today, it would seem, is White Ribbon Day. Which I think is probably a good thing to get behind. But doesn't it seem strange?

This is the White Ribbon oath that we're asked to swear:

I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence to women.

And I do. My life is filled with marvellous, beautiful women - my wife, my sisters, my friends, and the tiny women-in-waiting who I helped to create - and it makes me sick, brings me to tears, to think of hurting them.

So I swear. But it feels so weird, to think that it is even necessary. Just saying those words in my head, it feels surreal. Because if we have to actually affirm that in an oath, it means that there are people out there who wouldn't swear it. There are people out there who are quite happy to commit, excuse and remain silent about violence to women.

Isn't that weird?

Of course I know it's true - there are hundreds, thousands, millions, of men - and women - who think violence against women is fine - you know, under the right circumstances. When she's really asking for it. When it's well-deserved. Everyone knows that this horror is really rather common.

But still, isn't it weird? Isn't it weird that people do this? Isn't it weird that people condone it? Isn't it weird, especially, that it's not just a matter of people losing their heads and lashing out, that there are actual human beings out there who do this systematically, who can justify it to themselves and consider a normal part of life?

Isn't it weird that White Ribbon Day needed to be created?

Let's not look on women as a protected species here, as delicate flowers that need defending by the big strong men. Let's not split our species in two, positioning the male half as the burly warriors nobly striving to keep the women folk safe, and the female half as fragile doe-eyed innocents, helpless if not for the efforts of their guardians. Let's not throw around silly lines like "Imagine if it was your mother, or your sister".

Let's look on men and women as people, sharing their world, sharing their lives. Let's look on the experience of being human as a duty for us all, to look out for each other, for men and women collectively to be each other's protectors. Let's imagine not that it was a woman you know - let's imagine it was you. Or even better, let's imagine it was a complete stranger suffering, and you stood up anyway, because that's what people do for other people.

I know we all get angry, and frustrated, and we want to strike out sometimes at the people who frustrate us, even when those people are smaller or weaker or less able to defend themselves. Even when those people are women. It's pretty human to want to punch someone in the face.

But we don't. Why don't we? Because we don't want to be that sort of person.

I am a bad person to lecture others on morality. I have done bad things in my life. I have treated other people, even people I love, poorly. I have failed so often to live up to my own standards. But no, I don't hit women. Because I don't want to look in the mirror and see a bully staring back at me. I don't want to lie in bed at night, gazing into the dark, and have to keep company with my own cowardice and cruelty. I don't want my beautiful children to have to look up to a brute, and be set to follow the example of a man who let violence overwhelm his humanity. I don't want the legacy I leave the world to be fear and hatred. I don't want to join the ranks of those who have so abandoned compassion, who have so detached themselves from empathy, who have been so hollowed out by anger and crushed by frustration, and who have found themselves so devoid of hope and imagination, that they can only deal with their own demons by inflicting pain on another human being.

I don't want to be that person. Nobody has to be that person. I hope that I, and you, and all of us, can make the effort to be better. I hope that violence against women can become as bizarre and alien a concept as it deserves to be. Let's all join this human race, shall we?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If you would care to peruse my CV...

So, in the wake of Kyle Sandilands's latest courageous stand against tall poppy syndrome and fat chicks, many people have been asking, why?

Why does Kyle Sandilands have a job, these people (not me of course) have been asking. Why does he continue to be granted opportunities to enrich himself and raise his public profile on radio and television, even though he is, according to scientific testing, the worst person in the world? Why does he occupy a position of power and influence in the entertainment industry even though his only marketable skill is putting gel in his hair and he possesses all the charm and personal magnetism of a Gestapo officer masturbating on a dead rabbit? How has he managed to keep his job in the face of the fairly well-known fact that he is a puffy-faced dead-eyed misogynistic little blobfish of a man whose appearances on radio and television are the audio-visual equivalent of being urinated on by a camel? And how is it fair that due to his inexplicable success, he has also created a long-lasting media career for Jackie O, a woman who, if she one day lost the ability to giggle inanely, would be immediately reclassified as a species of moss by the botanical community?

These are the questions that apparently, so I hear, people are asking.

But of course these are harsh questions. I do understand why Austereo and Channel Seven continue to employ and promote and pay Kyle Sandilands - it is because they have literally been unable to find anyone more talented than him. They've scoured the world, hoping to find someone with more talent than Kyle - which is to say, someone with some talent - but have come up short.

But don't worry, showbiz bigwigs - I am here.

I am here to solve all your problems, I am here to soothe all your doubts, I am here to rescue you from the chubby bearded quagmire you find yourself in.

I am here to replace Kyle Sandilands. Yes, I hereby launch the Replace Kyle With Ben campaign, or if you're on Twitter, #replaceKylewithBen (pronounced "hashtag replace Kyle with Ben" if you need to say it out loud)

What will you get from replacing Kyle with Ben?

1. I am much taller than Kyle. This means that fellow employees will no longer be called away from important tasks to assist Kyle in getting the Milo down from the top shelf.

2. I have a wide and varied assortment of female friends and acquaintances to choose from for the the purposes of sidekickery. Not only are they smoking hot (because duh, as if I have ugly friends), but they can all speak in words of more than one syllable, thereby out-qualifying Jackie O by some margin.

3. I can beat Kyle at arm-wrestling.

4. My Sean Connery impression is near-flawless, creating endless opportunities for breakfast radio shenanigans of a hilarious nature.

5. I appeal to a broad demographic, being equally popular with both pre-schoolers and the elderly.

6. I have never been involved with the singing career or Tamara Jaber.

7. I know how to conceive, write, and perform "jokes", as well as possessing the capacity to "discuss" "issues" with "people", thereby obviating the necessity to conceal an inability to do any of these things by abusing women or strapping children to lie detectors.

8. I have bigger tits than Kyle.

9. I would quite like to be rich and famous, so you know I'm committed.

10. I have little to no desire to threaten violence upon people who give me bad reviews - in fact I tend to make friends with them.

And finally,

11. I am able to deal with my own deep-seated sense of personal inadequacy in ways other than hurling obscenities at others, belittling those with more talent than myself, or whining like a sissy little bitch every time someone criticises me for anything.

As you can see, I am the complete package - at least compared to what you've got now - and am available to start RIGHT AWAY. There is no need to thank me - I ask only for a generous salary and an enormous amount of fame. So, Seven, Austereo, and any other major media organisations who'd like to get in on the action, just have your people call my people, and we can have this deal stitched up quicker than you can say "ambushing a child-rape victim is ratings gold!"

No hard feelings Kyle - it's just that I'm a lot better than you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Poem In Honour Of The President's Visit

Barack Obama rhymes with armour
Because he shields us from our fears

Barack Obama rhymes with calmer
Because I am always calmer when he is around

Barack Obama rhymes with farmer
Because he tends his people and raises freedom and democracy from the soil

Barack Obama rhymes with chicken parma
Because he is cloaked in the cheese of nobility and the tomato sauce of joy

Barack Obama rhymes with banana in pyjama
Because he is long and yellow and chases teddy bears

Barack Obama rhymes with Dalai Lama
Because he is an elderly Tibetan man

Yes, Barack Obama rhymes with llama
Because he is surefooted and carrying our dreams up the Andes

And also, the fur.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I Am Not Supporting Movember

Last year I did Movember. I grew a big stupid moustache, and I raised a bit of money, and it was all good.


But this year, when Movember rolled around, I decided I would not be doing it again.

This is not because I have any problem with the aims of Movember, or how they try to achieve them. I haven't, in the last year, decided it's all a bunch of crap and not worth bothering with.

But one of the main beneficiaries of Movember is Beyond Blue, the depression initiative. And while I've been a supporter of Beyond Blue in the past, I cannot continue that support, because they continue to retain Jeff Kennett as the organisation's chairman and public face.

And while one may laud Kennett for his work in establishing Beyond Blue, and what he's done to raise awareness of depression and mental health issues, I believe that he does not have the best interests of depression sufferers at heart. In fact I believe he actively works against the aims of those who attempt to improve life for depression sufferers and lessen the impact of the illness upon society.

Through his support for poker machines and his opposition to reforms aimed at fighting gambling addiction, through his hurtful and bigoted public statements denigrating gay parents, and equating homosexuality to paedophilia, Kennett has aligned himself on the side of those contributing to depression, not fighting it.

This is not to say Beyond Blue does not do good work, or is worthy of no support as an organisation. But I can't take them seriously as a depression initiative while Jeff Kennett is their figurehead, and the only way things will change is if a message is sent that the current situation is unacceptable.

So that's why I'm not supporting Movember, and most importantly why I'm publicly stating my opposition and the reasons for it. Movember is a great idea, and I hope to be able to support it again in future. But I can't in good conscience give support to the raising of funds for an organisation that I believe is militating its own goals by keeping as its most visible public spokesman a man who frankly doesn't seem particularly serious about actually working for the good of depression sufferers.

Having said that, I am not railing against those who do choose to support Movember. That's their decision, and they are motivated by a genuine desire to support the cause of men's health, and I can't criticise that.

But I do believe we would all be better served by diverting our support to other worthy charities that also do good work, without necessarily achieving Beyond Blue's profile.

You can support Fauxvember, an alternative charity set up basically for the same reasons I've outlined here, which is also committed to men's health issues.

You can support the Black Dog Institute, which does really good work in the fields of depression and mental health.

Then there's Lifeline, which is on the frontline of crisis support and suicide prevention, and is literally a lifesaver for a lot of people.

And of course the other side of Movember is its support for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, so why not go donate to them directly?

There's loads of other organisations dedicated to raising awareness of and improving men's health, and if you want to get behind the issue, there's lots of places you can go. I have no interest in preventing support for the people tackling these problems: but I do think a change has to come. Beyond Blue can't be taken seriously with Jeff Kennett at the top - please, give him that gentle nudge.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Captain

One of the first cricket books I ever owned was by Peter Roebuck. It's called Great Innings - I still have it now, more than 20 years after I was given it. It's simply a series of 50 short essays on some of the greatest innings played over the history of cricket, from the 19th century through to the late 1980s. It wasn't the first great innings anthology written - the sort of mind that tends to commit itself to cricket is always the same kind of mind that will incline towards list-making. And Roebuck would not have been alone in including in his own list Bradman's flawless 254 at Lord's in 1930, or Stan McCabe's 187 in the face of Bodyline. Most people would probably include Botham's Headingley hurricane of 1981 and it's not a great stretch to put in Viv Richards's 56-ball hundred, or Victor Trumper's 104 before lunch on a wet track.

But I don't know anyone except Roebuck who would select from Javed Miandad none of his myriad test match masterpieces, but a virtuoso 200 for Glamorgan. Who but Roebuck would nominate a whirlwind 88 by Kiwi legend Bert Sutcliffe, hit against a fearsome South African pace attack, with a bandaged head, and a broken heart the day after a train crash claimed the lives of 151 of his countrymen, including his teammate's fiancee? Who but Roebuck would bypass Garfield Sobers's dazzling 132 in the Tied Test in Brisbane in favour his captain Frank Worrell's unspectacular 65 in the same innings, seeing the greatest heroism in the inspiration a skipper gave to a young, insecure team?

That was Roebuck's peculair genius: he was not ignorant of the cold hard realities of the game; he didn't disregard facts and figures - often he would remind his readers that in the end that most important thing for a player was to make runs or take wickets - all else was incidental. But while keeping these realities in mind, Roebuck would still see the romance of cricket, its adventure and emotion, as much as its results and statistics.

He was a storyteller, and his greatest proclivity as a sports writer was to discern the narratives in cricket. Every innings, every day, every wicket, every moment was a story to Roebuck. Great feats of bowling or batsmanship were cinematic in their scope: he would relate them in epic terms, setting the scene with passages that could seem gloriously out of place on the sports pages, with their poetic imagery and whimsical metaphors. He would construct his story as if creating fiction rather than relating mundane real events - the obstacles to overcome, the inner turmoil of the individual, the magnificence of mighty champions coming together, and the triumph of a man over his opponents, his environment, and himself, were related as if Roebuck were handing down a legend, a tale of giants in a more momentous universe. Cricket was in his bones, and it ran in his veins, and his life was devoted to helping others to see it as he did. A team game in which personal ambition is supposed to be sacrificed to the collective good, yet which is comprised entirely of confrontations between individuals, he understood its beauty and its strangeness and its otherworldly quaintness, and he told its story in the way he saw it.

Players' careers were novels, tales of struggle and redemption and success and failure that stretched back long before the public became aware of them, and continued long after they faded from view. Roebuck was a very good player himself, a successful long-standing first-class player and county captain who played with Botham, Richards, Garner, Waugh and Crowe, and understood as well as anyone the battle a man can find himself waging against his own limitations; the frustrations to be found in the inability to realise your highest aspirations. When writing of a player, even to judge him as inadequate or to call for his dismissal, his pieces never contained malice, never lacked compassion. He never allowed his objective judgment of cricketing skill to blind him to the humans he was writing about.

And he delighted in those humans' successes. When weaving a story from the threads of a cricketer, he favoured the rags to riches variety. He loved nothing more than to tell the story of a subcontinental street kid, a country urchin raised on dirt pitches, or an island villager who grew up using a palm frond for a bat, rising to the highest echelons of international sport. He rejoiced in men like Ranji, or D'Oliviera, who defied their own bigoted societies to succeed. He took an especial pleasure in unconventional operators who found success despite their disregard for orthodoxy or tradition - the bizarre stance of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the crabbed, awkward technique of Simon Katich, the cheerful agriculturalism of Colin Milburn, were all admired by Roebuck, lover of the rebel and the innovator.

His sense of justice, his loathing of bigotry and nationalism, were palpable. He hated barracking, railed against those who would place their desire for their own team to win above justice or the good of the game. His opinions were always fiercely independent and scrupulously sincere. I didn't agree with him all the time - I thought he got it wrong on Darrell Hair, and that he completely lost his head when he savaged Ricky Ponting in the aftermath of the 2008 SCG test against India. But whether agreeing with him or not, there could never be any doubt that what he wrote was motivated by nothing more than pure, genuine conviction. If he could be intemperate, if his emotions could overrule his judgment so that he seemed less than dispassionate in assessing the facts, it only ever came from his love of the game, and his hatred of anything that could sully it. He saw such beauty in the game, and what it could do to elevate people, and bring them together, that it distressed him beyond measure to see ugliness intrude, to see his beloved cricket be less than it could be. That was why he wrote with such anger whenever corruption or greed threatened the game, when he saw it twisted to base political ends, used to assist political thugs in Zimbabwe or organised crime in India. He was no starry-eyed idealist thinking cricket could be divorced from the world around it, but that was just the point - he believed in cricket improving the world around it, and was inflamed by it doing the opposite, or allowing the worst of the world to infect the game.

But perhaps most important of all was how he wrote all this. That beautiful, lyrical, elaborate, passionate, impish, sharp, idiosyncratic style that somehow seemed of another time, evoking Cardus and Wodehouse as it painted intricately detailed landscapes and portraits of a day's play, while simultaneously devising new angles, new windows to see the game through that could distort it in new and lovely ways while also clarifying events in a way that other writers never even conceived of. There was simply nothing else on sports pages to compare with Roebuck's words. The art he brought to what can so often be a flat, blunt craft was something to behold. He could make you fall in love with cricket simply by describing the snap of a bowler's wrist, or the flourish of a batsman as he let the ball pass harmless to the keeper. He made me fall in love with cricket.

I was reading Roebuck before I read a word by Douglas Adams. Before I'd even heard of Terry Pratchett. Before I'd watched a second of Monty Python. Before I'd encountered Wodehouse, before I'd thought of becoming a writer myself. Of all the influences on me as a writer, Peter Roebuck is probably the longest-standing outside my own parents. I never net him, and now, to my lasting regret, I never will. I didn't know him - though, from what I understand few really ever did. But if it's true that a writer can show themselves through their writing, that you can get to know someone by the words they put down, I knew him. I knew him by his words, for most of my life, and the devastation I feel at his death is a testament to his ability to touch lives of people he was never even aware of. It's a mad, delusional conceit for me to wish I'd really known him, to think maybe I could have done something for him, as an act of reciprocity. But if I wish I could have been a friend to him, it's because he so often made me feel he was a friend to me. Maybe that was the greatest part of his genius after all.

I don't know all the details of his life, or of his death. I don't want to speculate, I don't want to intensify my own sadness, or anyone else's, by sifting through that which I really know nothing about, or by pontificating on sadness, or loneliness, or the flaws of a man only just gone.

But what I can say is that in recent years, Peter Roebuck seemed to be one of the last bastions of cricket the way it was supposed to be. As the game became more driven by money, by greed, by coldly professional calculations and cynical self-interest, to the point where the lines between corruption and administration were becoming blurred...Roebuck stood as a voice for cricket as pure, as joyous, as the most beautiful of games. As Michael Parkinson said, sport only matters if it doesn't matter - only if sport can remain a game, played for love and by principles of fairness and honesty lacking in the important, life-and-death world outside, can it be a beacon to that outside world, a force for good. Once cricket becomes just like everything else in life, it might as well not exist.

Peter Roebuck felt that. And now that he's gone, I wonder if anyone else really feels it the same way. With Roebuck gone, cricket feels a little more prosaic, a litle more dull, a little more sordid. I don't know if this game that I love still has the magic, the beauty that can make me believe there's something better in the world. Maybe there's nothing better in the world. Maybe everything really is, at heart, dirty and ugly and selfish. Maybe cricket is destined to go the way of everything else, and even the most brilliant of artists among us can't hold back the tide of voracious, remorseless reality. I hope it's not so, but maybe it is. And this summer, this Roebuckless season that is now upon us, can't help but feel grim and hopeless and dark. This game I love...can it be beautiful anymore? His words, today more precious than ever before, will hopefully help it remain so.

Peter Roebuck I will miss you. If I wrote a thousand times as many words as I have here today, I'm not sure I could ever really say how much.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yo Pro-Lifers! Suck It!

Oh, look! An article by Joel Hodge of the Australian Catholic University that is all about defending people's right to assembly and is not at all about defending people's right to harass other people on their way to undergo legal medical procedures and demonising the pro-choice movement. It's all about justice and freedom and stuff.

Because after all, all these people are trying to do is prevent the murder of babies, right? I mean, not literally, but in their own heads, because they're insane. That's all they THINK they're trying to do, right? And if you knew there was a an establishment near you where babies were being taken to be slaughtered, wouldn't YOU picket and harass and wave signs and throw pamphlets at people?

Wouldn't you?

I mean, of course, you'd do more. You'd actually break down the doors and rush in and take those baby-murdering bastards OUT, in a heroic, John McClane-esque manner, because hey, they're KILLING KIDS.

But if you were a real wuss, you'd stand outside picketing and stuff. If you were opposed to baby-murder, but lacked any sort of intestinal fortitude or moral fibre, you'd totally protest outside the clinic where the babies were being murder. If you had guts, you'd take some effective action, but if you were a total coward you'd definitely stick to maximising psychological trauma for young women.

Coincidentally, that's also what you'd do if you actually DIDN'T think abortionists were murdering babies, but were just a self-righteous uptight prig who wants women to be punished for having sex and is enraged by the thought that there might be women who have sex without having to have babies, because you believe women having sex for purposes other than procreation is slutty and disgusting.

As I say that's just a coincidence, because that is not what THESE protesters are doing. These protesters are not hypocritical, judgmental, sexually repressed arseholes. They're just religious maniacs who are also really, really gutless. So let's cut them some slack.

I mean, don't listen to them, or pay attention to them, or alter your behaviour in any way because of them. You can't do that. Ignore them - they're insane. But have a bit of sympathy at least, huh?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You'll See Things In A Different Way

You know Liner Notes. You love Liner Notes. But you wish it would come along more than once a year. And you wish there was an opportunity for you to see Liner Notes tackle their classic albums more than once, because you missed out on tickets last year.


Liner Notes: Fleetwood Mac's Rumours is BACK

Featuring ME, and also:

Cate Kennedy
Lawrence Leung
Carrie Rudzinski
Emilie Zoey Baker
Sean M. Whelan
Omar Musa
Josh Earl
Alicia Sometimes
George Dunford
Eva Johansen

Showing you Rumours as you've never been shown Rumours before!

You never did believe in the ways of magic? I've got a feeling it's time to try.