Wednesday 26 November 2008

Packed with clichés

'Packed to the Rafters' aired on Channel Seven in late 2008.
Well it had to happen. I had been reading for weeks what critics thought of Channel Seven’s drama series ‘Packed to the Rafters’ and increasingly been turned off by the suggestion the majority thought it was worth watching. What’s this a critic actually endorsing a show? And an Australian drama at that! So last night after dropping in on friends I was exposed to the heralded hour of television that follows the ups and downs of the Rafter family on a Tuesday night. ‘Groundbreaking television’ and ‘Australian drama is back!’ could’ve been some of the quotes from critics but they also may not have been since I just made them up – but the show I’d decided not to watch got its chance which coincided with its season finale. So what did I think? Are you ready to quote this critic’s critique? “Channel Seven has clearly raised the bar for Australian drama with their engaging and realistic spin on what life is like when a suburban couple are forced to reconnect with their grown up children and really really grown up grandfather when they all move back into the house due to circumstances that have changed their lives. Wow, imagine if any of the above was actually true? To be fair the premise of the show (which admittedly I’ve taken from ads on television and the odd review in the paper) is solid for a series but after my first viewing I’m afraid I just can’t endorse that fairytale critique above. I’d like to… I really would. Drama in Australia has never dug its deep claws into my television watching habits and that might be because there are some American dramas that set the bar so high (House MD, Boston Legal, Ed to name the rare few) the Australian equivalent simply cannot afford the production costs or quality of cast that these overseas shows have. But it might also be because I’ve never found Australian drama to be engaging on any level. Now that doesn’t mean my drama radar (‘dramadar’ from here on) is accurate for everyone but the fact remains for this watcher – no boats are being floated by Australian dramas. Is that because some people think Home and Away and Neighbours qualify as part of the drama genre? Maybe… however as I continue to break down the night of clichés in the Rafter household during the season finale – you might understand how close those soaps are to the product produced by Seven in ‘Packed to the Rafters’. Firstly enough with the clichéd storylines please!!! Last night the lead storyline surrounded the introduction of a yoga guru ‘Vishnu’ who was not only dating the Rafter’s daughter but was also ‘dating’ half the yoga class, whilst at the same time hitting on Mrs Rafter (Rebecca Gibney) in front of the daughter. Plus tied into his storyline was the fact he was a vegetarian who downed pork spare ribs like they ice cream and then the poor actor who played him was forced into the gratuitous naked butt scene through the family kitchen the morning after staying in the daughter’s bedroom. I’m sure if you looked close enough you could’ve seen the twenty cent piece clenched between the cheeks to keep his posture straight (old actors trick from ‘Are You Being Served’ I believe… how do I know that – don’t ask) and no I didn’t look close enough to validate my claim. No prizes for guessing the resolution to his storyline – he got caught cheating and the daughter woke up to the fact that mummy was right and the guy was a loser. The second driving plot line was the son and his wife facing life with him losing his job as a real estate agent for taking a bath with his missus in an open house he was supposed to be selling – and getting caught (wow didn’t see that coming!) And of course she feels like he is not telling her something (turns out I missed the bit where he lied to her and said he didn’t get fired) and goes to an old ‘friend’ to talk about how he’s not talking to her about things. That old chestnut… Then his new job as a call centre operator sees him sprung as he calls the mobile of the ‘friend’ to sell him wine and his wife answers the phone. So far from being inside the realms of possibility it’s sad, although had she and the friend been rung whilst having dinner together it might’ve felt a tad more realistic. Actually that reminds me of the last time I got a telemarketer (yep right around dinner) I initially couldn’t hear them properly and as I cottoned onto the fact they were calling from overseas about my phone service provider I simply played up the fact I couldn’t hear them and in about thirty seconds they hung up on me – glorious trick that worked wonders (thank you Billy Birmingham and Richie Benaud from ‘The Final Dig’). As it turned out the wife was only talking to the friend for support (probably the only plot line that didn’t go down the clichéd route) and by the end of the show the son has renewed confidence in himself (thanks to his mum knowing just what to say at the right time) and will face season two of the series ready for whatever challenges await. The other plot device was something about the dad (Erik Thomson) and his friend using stolen equipment to build something… can’t say I paid attention to that part so have no idea what they built. So that was the episode. It finished up season one and the ratings have been relatively strong apparently so there are obviously people out there without Foxtel or a DVD player who enjoy it. Just a couple of notes on the show: Michael Caton (the grandfather living in the house) was appallingly underused. His role in ‘The Castle’ may have me expecting more from him than is fair but he was barely heard from in the episode and it just seems criminal to underuse your best comedic asset in a show that desperately needed something to take the focus off the clichés! Rebecca Gibney (Mrs Rafter) has a presence on screen that the rest of the cast doesn’t but the whole inner monologue commentary thing where she’s spouting epiphanies just doesn’t fit in this show. It sounds incredibly disconnected from the tone of the show and detracts from the words that actually come out of her mouth following the voice-over. Erik Thomson (Mr Rafter) is forgettable as the man of the house. Was never an All Saints fan during his ‘heartthrob heyday’ so he just looks like the same wooden actor that did a short stint on Getaway a few years back.
Now I have no idea who the rest of the cast are – they all seem like newcomers and that is underlined by the fact I’m sure the two main guest stars in the episode (the ‘friend’ of the wife and Vishnu aka Barry) have been in mainstream advertisements before on television and were recognisable. In fact good old Vishnu was channelling Eric Bana for most of the episode – twenty cent piece clench and all.
The youngest son Nathan (Angus McLaren – thank you Google because the official Channel Seven site is borderline useless) is Jamie Oliver’s lovechild according to my friend.
His wife Sammy (Jessica McNamee) just pouts for an hour while searching for a dramatic one liner.
Eldest son Ben (Hugh Sheridan) had one scene eating ribs in the whole episode (I guess acting does have its perks).
Daughter Rachel (Jessica Marais) was seemingly riding an emotional rollercoaster in her relationship with Vishnu and had her moments but her delivery in the confrontational scene with the cheating Yoga teacher fell way short of convincing. Where there other characters? Didn’t notice them if there were. I’m not here saying that writing a drama is easy, in fact the respect I have for the writers of House MD and Boston Legal in particular who produce superb television each week is incredibly high, but I often wonder why the people that DO write for shows such as Packed to the Rafters settle for the easy route of cliché driven storylines. As I said before the overall idea of packing grown up children back into the house they grew up in with their mother and father and a grandparent has potential as a series. And clearly there’s enough in the mix (or a lack of any competition on free to air) to have the show rating well in a free to air television market under heavy assault by the internet and DVD releases – so that’s a feather in the cap for Channel Seven but if this show has designs on lasting past season two I can’t see how another dozen to two dozen episodes of plot lines we’ve all seen before can sustain it. So here’s the real critique that can be quoted til the cows come home or the show’s writers pluck up the courage to step out and write what they want to write rather than what they’ve seen before. “Packed to the Rafters may have struck ratings gold with its debut in 2008 but the show appears to lack the dramatic beating heart that good dramas live on. In theory having plot lines running wild over one hour can make a show entertaining but unless the undercurrent of the show offers some form of personal investment for the viewer – these Rafters will remain packed with clichés and not the heart it needs to survive.”

Friday 21 November 2008

NSC Video Blog: Australia v New Zealand 1st Test, Day One Commentary

NSC Video Blog commentary on the first day of the First Test between Australia and New Zealand from the Gabba in Brisbane on November 20, 2008. Talking Jason Krejza, Shane Watson, Jesse Ryder, Michael Clarke, Australian Selector Brilliance and the rest of the first day as it happened. Warning: Some lip sync issues at different stages - apologies.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Michael Robertson a marquee player?

According to player manager Steve Gillis he is. Picked your jaw up from the floor yet? Here’s the direct quote from Gillis. “Michael is a marquee player.” Don’t get me wrong the guy did score a hat-trick of tries in the Grand Final, deserved to win the Clive Churchill Medal (but didn’t) and also became an international this season but his agent is on some seriously potent medication if he thinks his client is a marquee player. Robertson probably came close to getting into the Kangaroos World Cup squad on the strength of his Finals form, but classifying him as an international when it comes to contract negotiations lacks substance given Robertson’s games for Scotland in this tournament were the first time he’d played for that country. But the job of a player manager is to get the best deal for his client – however the mooted $200,000 per year figure is ridiculous even for a guy who does his job done each week and exploded in the biggest game of the season with three tries and a try assist in the Grand Final. At his best Robertson is an above average NRL winger. He never looked up to scratch while with the Raiders and was plagued by hamstring issues in his 5 seasons there but his move to the Northern Beaches in 2006 saw him get some regular playing time once healthy. He does the important things well like finishing, scooting out from dummy half, defending his man and he can cover fullback if needed. He rarely gets targeted in the air despite his lack of height and has good support instincts. But being an above average NRL winger shouldn’t result in a mass payday for Robertson. The fact is there are a lot of very average wingers in the competition and that inflates his true value. His market value won’t be any higher than it is now so I can understand why his manager is shopping him but he’s not going to have a massive impact on your team’s ability to win football games. He is not a match-winner (few wingers in history have been) and generally a marquee player at the NRL level wins matches. Some teams might flirt with offering Robertson overs if the Sea Eagles don’t try and keep him past next season but they’d be better off investing that money in shoring up positions that are far more vital to a team’s success – like hooker, halfback or fullback. The stat line: Michael Robertson, Winger. 2006-2008 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 79 Games 38 Tries (48.1% Strike Rate) 54 Wins 25 Losses (68.4% Win Percentage) 2001-2005 Canberra Raiders 59 Games 15 Tries (25.4% Strike Rate) 29 Wins 29 Losses 1 Draw (49.2 Win %) Overall Record 2001-2008 133 Games 53 Tries (39.8% Strike Rate) 83 Wins 54 Losses 1 Draw (60.1% Win Percentage) 1 Premiership (MAN 2008), 2 Grand Final Appearances (MAN 2007 & 2008)

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Remember this...

I doubt any of you aren't aware that today is the 11th of the 11th - Remembrance Day for a host of allied countries who fought in the two World Wars of the 20th Century. The world we live in today didn’t come about by accident and it certainly didn’t come about because people used the power of their minds to make things happen for the good of humanity… is that Oprah’s new thing or another rehash of The Secret…? either way my cynicism isn’t going to take this blog over. I guess I want this blog to just simply say something about someone that you knew/know who was part of the awful reality that was war – and why it mattered. Just comment below if you’ve got something to share – I’d love to hear it and sometimes people need to read it to be reminded of what has happened before to allow us to live like we do now. The closest person I knew growing up that was part of World War II was my adopted Grandfather Mr Walker. He was my parent's insurance agent from like the 1970s and 1980s and given that three of my four grandparents died before I was 3 years old - Mr and Mrs Walker became very much like family given my parents and the Walkers became great friends. He was a bomber pilot based out of England in the 1940s and did his training in Canada before hand, but I never really talked at length with him about his experience - and upon reflection now - I come to realise he probably didn't want to talk about it. I was and still am someone who absorbs a lot of information about war - not through a morbid fascination but a deep respect for what was done and the cost that eventuated for those involved. The one conversation I can remember having centred more on his training in Guelph, Ontario, Canada before he left to go into action - as I was about to get on a plane and go live in Canada in 1999 as an exchange student - so we kind of had something in common there. By this stage he'd been gradually deteriorating mentally as he was in his 80s at that stage but the man who used to throw me up and down above his head when I was a little tacker with his big strong arms - still had a great sense of humour about the things they used to get up to in training. But we never really talked about what it was like to be in a plane over Germany etc - all I can recall is that there was such a strong bond between the men who flew in the bombers that every time they took off from the air fields in England - they knew there was a big chance they wouldn't all come back alive. And as the numbers of World War II veterans continue to thin, the understanding we the a generation who will need to pass the facts and reality of what was achieved by winning World War II in particular - must be strong so the deeds of the men and women who served in this terrible war are not forgotten. I must admit I was driving in the car with my niece and nephew at the stroke of 11am today when I realised that I hadn't stopped for a minute's silence as a mark of respect - so tonight at 11pm I will step outside my house and just reflect, thank the Lord for His mighty hand in the outcome of the war and silently stand in complete respect for the sacrifice and courage that people like my Mr Walker displayed in what was most certainly a different (and far more reality checked) world than the one we live in today.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Commentary doesn't get any better than this...

Channel Nine's Rugby League 'expert' Ben Ikin came out with this absolute ripper during the England-New Zealand Rugby League World Cup Pool Match Saturday night. Just after halftime with the Kiwis mounting a comeback after being down 24-14 at the break, Ikin (who had said little in the half thus far) must've figured that he had to say something, anything to justify his position in the commentary team and delivered this beauty that really took the viewer inside the heads of the players on the field. "I get the feeling both teams really want to win this one." I was watching the game with a friend as we waited for the Manchester United-Arsenal Premier League clash at midnight and for the next twenty minutes I just couldn't get over Ikin's insight and its inherent accuracy. What? BOTH TEAMS WANT TO WIN? Knock me over with a feather and next thing you know I'll be knocked out unconscious... I was seriously waiting for him to chime in a few minutes later with something along the lines of 'Whoever scores the most points in this game will win." Can this guy get any better at his job? Seriously he's raised the bar so incredibly high that the likes of Phil Gould and Peter Sterling (far and away the best analysts in the game before this special Ikin moment) can only dream to reach such heights of the commentary nirvana Ikin has clearly found.
Having endured two long years (feels like twenty to be honest) of 'commentary' one has to hope that maybe Ikin will be featured less in Channel Nine's coverage of the 2009 NRL season but I'd hazard a guess that this is about as likely as Jason Krejza taking 8 wickets on Test Debut...
Wait a minute... At least Arsene Wenger's comment about Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre's broken nose later that night showed that some people can make brilliant comments without also making considerable effort to be heard. Wenger was asked if there was any danger of further damage if Silvestre copped a knock on his broken nose during the game and Wenger in his great French accent goes "Well the nose will still be broken so... no not really." Nice question by the reporter and what a funny and frank response from Wenger.
Arsene Wenger says "Good call Benny Ikin! Spot on the money!"
Shame we can't always get the same from others on television, who seem to think that just because they haven't spoken for a few minutes - they better say something no matter how inane and painfully obvious it may be.

Thursday 6 November 2008

On the menu this summer

The menu has arrived at the Australian sports lover’s table and the best of summer sport is now available. The barren sporting wasteland that is October in Australia is now behind us and November’s arrival signals the start of the Australian sporting summer. While you’ve probably been keeping an eye on the India-Australia Test Series from the subcontinent and the odd World Cup Qualifier for the Socceroos, the fact you now know that sport will be played in Australia over summer en masse, the hunger that comes with the end of the football seasons is about to be satisfied. So what’s on the menu? Here are the Top 5 Sporting Events on the summer menu to get you through until the Footy returns in early next year. 5. A-League Football. Now in its Fourth Season since its reincarnation as an actual national competition, the A-League is making solid ground as it strives to become a spectator sport in summer on a level that matches its player participation rate during winter. There’s no doubt that the world game has the potential to grow into a tribal competition much like the AFL and NRL but those days are not here yet. Still with teams in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Adelaide, Wellington and Perth – and three different champions in three years (2005/06 – Sydney FC, 2006/07 – Melbourne Victory & 2007/08 – Newcastle Jets) there is reason for optimism that the A-League can produce a competition full of the necessary parity to have fans of all teams harbouring hope that their team can emerge victorious each year. With plans to expand into the Gold Coast and North Queensland as soon as 2009/10 – the A-League will continue to expand its circle of influence and push hard into more regions where Football may yet become the #1 spectator sport. When it’s on: Games are played Friday Nights, Saturday Nights and Sunday Afternoons & Evenings from August 2008 until January 2009 with a four team Finals Series in February 2009. 4. Rugby League World Cup Final. The NRL Season finished on the first weekend of October with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles claiming their first premiership since 1996, but the staging of the rugby league’s World Cup in Australia that began October 25, ensures that there is some football to digest into the late stages of November. Host nation Australia have handled their two biggest rivals easily in their opening pool games (beating New Zealand 30-6 & England 52-4) and will play their last pool match against Papua New Guinea in Townsville this Sunday night, November 9, 2008. If Australia wins they will top Pool 1 and face the team who emerges from a playoff between the winners of Pool 2 & 3 in the Semi Finals – with the game to be played in Sydney on November 16, 2008, as Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium will host the Final on November 22, 2008. Even if you’ve had your fill of league thanks to the long NRL season, don’t let the fact Australia looks certainties to win yet another World Cup turn you off – remember this is Australia we’re talking about so make sure you tune in or get to the game to savour what should be another sporting conquest by Australia. When it’s on: The Rugby League World Cup started on October 25, 2008 and runs through to November 22, 2008 with the Final to be played at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Queensland. The Semi Finals are the weekend before on Saturday and Sunday evenings. 3. Golf – Australian Major Tournaments. Perhaps not the must-see event it used to be when the big guns of World Golf came out to play but in the last few years tournament organisers are trying harder than ever to spice up the fields for the four major tournaments played over summer in Australia. Plus Australian golfers are now strong performers on the US and European circuits so there will be some quality golf played. The Australian Masters tees off first at Huntingdale in Melbourne, Victoria from November 27-30, 2008 (featuring Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Michael Campbell & Rod Pampling); followed chronologically by the Australian PGA at Hyatt Regency Coolum in Queensland from December 4-7, 2008 (featuring Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Stuart Appleby & Peter Lonard); The Australian Open is then played at Royal Sydney , NSW, from December 11-14, 2008 (featuring Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Michael Campbell & Darren Clarke); with the season culminating in the Johnnie Walker Classic at The Vines Resort in Perth, Western Australia from February 19-22, 2009 (featuring Greg Norman, Lee Westwood & Paul Casey). Watching Golf on a Sunday afternoon has been an institution in Australia for many years and unless there’s a Test Match on instead – what else are you going to watch? When it’s on: Four Tournaments in November & December 2008 and February 2009. 2. Australian Open Tennis Championship. The first Grand Slam of the 2009 Calendar is the Australian Open Tennis Championship played at Melbourne Park, Victoria from January 19-February 1, 2009 during the height of the Australian summer. Defending champions are Novak Djokavic (Serbia) and Maria Sharapova (Russia) after both players opened their 2008 Grand Slam campaigns in style yet failed to win another major thereafter. Both will be back and eager to show their 2008 titles were well deserved. It appears all the big names of tennis will be available with only the new World Number One Rafael Nadal in any doubt with tendonitis in his right knee which forced his withdrawal from the ATP Tennis Masters Cup this month. But with superstar Roger Federer and last year’s runner up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the men’s draw (oh and Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt who might have one last memorable run left in him) and crowd favourite Ana Ivanovic and the Williams sisters stepping out for the women – the tournament promises to be a winner from every angle. When it’s on: The tournament starts Monday February 19 and continues until the Men’s Final on Sunday February 1, 2009 at Melbourne Park, Victoria. 1. Australian Summer of Cricket. The main course in the summer smorgasbord involves digesting the exploits of the Australian Cricket Team as they take on the touring sides in Test, One Day and Twenty20 matches around the country. The tough series Australia are currently experiencing in India ensures that this summer will be hotly contested as the Kiwis and Proteas come to Australian shores with renewed optimism as they try and topple the hosts. When Australia finishes their commitments in India they will jet home to face the New Zealand team for two Test Matches in Brisbane (November 20-24, 2008) and Adelaide (November 28-December 2, 2008) and then the South Africans in three Tests in Perth (December 17-21, 2008), Melbourne (December 26-30, 2008) and Sydney (January 3-7, 2009) to round out the Test portion of the summer. Australia will also play five One Day Internationals against South Africa (January 16, 18, 23, 26, 30, 2009) and another five against New Zealand (February 1, 6, 8, 10, 13, 2009) and sandwich four Twenty20s in amongst them with two games versus South Africa ( January 11, 13, 2009), one versus New Zealand (February 15, 2009) and one against the Johnnie Walker All Stars to kick off the summer at the Gabba, Brisbane on November 14 2008. Plus Domestic Cricket will be featured heavily leading into Christmas with the Sheffield Shield and Ford Ranger Cups contested with the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash featuring all six state sides taking place from December 26-January 24, 2009 to start the second half of the season. All in all there will be plenty of cricket to digest from the couch, your local or at the ground. When it’s on: The Australian Summer of Cricket runs from November 2008 to February 2009 and is played at grounds all around Australia. Which will make sure you’re sporting appetite is well fed throughout this summer.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

The name means everything... 2008 Melbourne Cup Preview

The Bluffer's Guide to the 2008 Melbourne Cup: The name means everything...
By W D Nicolson, November 4, 2008

Horses, Money and Fashion mean everything on Melbourne Cup Day - and not necessarily in that order.

Well ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere jury – those of you who read all the way to the end of my blogs get an extra special shout out – it is the first Tuesday in November in Australia and that means one thing: Melbourne Cup Day.

 For the uneducated it is the biggest horse race in the Australian calendar and is widely known as ‘The Race that Stops a Nation’ – because at around 3pm every place of work in the country stops productivity for a good half an hour to watch the race and plan their revenge on the winning staffer who won the Cup Sweep through dumb luck rather than any form of skill in selection.

Generally the wager is a gold coin per entrant but even still when you pull out the horse called Neverinwithachance who is listed at 500/1 and the guy sitting next to you Frederick Huggles (the World of Warcraft geek who wouldn’t know a real horse name but could name all 450 sub-breeds sired by his mighty steed Buttercup from the computer game) plucks out the raging hot favourite ala Makybe Diva for 3 straight years – you can feel aggrieved at your misfortune. Especially when Neverinwithachance is scratched at the gate because the Race Caller complained his name was too long to say and thus required him to breathe whilst calling the race.

 Anyhoo – personally I will have no financial interest in this race for a host of reasons and the main one comes in the form of the following form guide to the runners and as you’ll see – my strategy involves taking the best name available over any kind of actual historical form.

But here’s the Form Guide in numerical order (not barrier order):

1. Septimus Well if the Melbourne Cup was run in September this horse from Ireland would be a shoe in – but it’s November so a change in name to Novemus is required quickly for any chance of victory.
2. Master Reilly Can’t take this horse seriously given that it comes from the same place as that hilarious ‘Beached As’ youtube video was produced – Kiwiland. About the only thing Kiwis are the Master of is the forward pass as anyone watched the Bledisloe on Saturday night can attest to.
3. Honolulu Is this horse from Hawaii? No it’s another Irish ‘potato’ (say it with an Irish accent – always funny) masquerading as a steed from the Pacific – pfft all this horse is going to do is Lu-Lu-Loose.
4. C’est La Guerre ‘It is the war’ is the direct translation… aren’t you impressed? I know my French-New Zealander stuff… ok truth be told Google Translate is brilliant but this name just doesn’t tickle my fancy when converted to English – the battle is lost my friend.
5. Nom Du Jeu My tipster in Brisbane likes this horse to take the biscuits and he’s not always wrong (nor is he always right) but that’s enough to have me putting this horse in with a chance. Now Google Translate struck again and this becomes Name of Thursday – and we’re running on a Tuesday – so I can’t tip it to win.
6. Yellowstone The National Park would’ve been a big chance based on its name alone… but is scratched so steer clear of this natural wonder.
7. Zipping How can I tip a horse whose name openly proclaims it has won ZIP?
8. Mad Rush Mmmm the name’s original, slightly mental and suggests it’s a quick horse… but everyone else seems to like it so that alone has me turned off the scent. This fool won’t be rushing in on this equine today.
9. Ice Chariot Chariots and horses are synonymous but ice? We’re not racing in Iceland! And this race is from a Toowoomba stable so where this name came from is anyone’s guess. Has the jockey who won the Cox Plate on it… but he was supposed to be on one of the favourites ‘Efficient’ before it pulled out so don’t waste your time here – even if in Melbourne there’s always a chance of sleet no matter the time of year.
10. Viewed Right… the horse was viewed by its owner and bingo – that’s a name? How about a little creativity so the horse gets a chance to have some sort of personality when announced by the commentator in the ring… ‘And now we go down to the ring and Kenny Callender what are your thoughts on ‘Viewed’? “Well the view from down here is good. I just viewed Viewed and on first viewing I was impressed by the movie a View to a Kill… what do the viewers think?” If they called it Mountain Viewed or something I might be interested but just ‘Viewed’ – it made me do that terrible commentator joke so it can’t win. Phew!
11. Littorio Sounds like a Coffee Brand and I like Coffee – especially LavAzza Medium Roast so this keen coffee bean is a chance and a half of full cream dairy milk today.
12. Bauer Can’t decide whether to go down the ‘24’ Jack Bauer path or the Bauer Ice Hockey skates road with this one… but that’s two things that come to mind so with that annoying ‘incoming phone call’ beeping tune running through my head – the horse deserves consideration.
13. Boundless … plains to share; With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair. Sorry got patriotic for a moment… wait a minute this is another KIWI! Now I must stress I like New Zealanders but this is the premier Australian horse race… so that means a non-local horse will probably win it.
14. Gallopin Must admit I first read this name as ‘Gallipoli’ and thus gave the horse a big chance… turns out I am a little dyslexic (just spelt that dislexic btw!) and it is just plain old Gallopin… shock horror horses gallop! No prizes for this gem of creativity.
15. Guyono Our only West Indian entrant… and the end of my joke, that’s all I’ve got.
16. Zarita I’m sure I’ve heard of this horse before (one of the few I actually have) and nothing about the name other than the use of ‘Z’ – which is traditionally used for bad guys names in books/film – strikes me as impressive. Wait just found out this horse is scratched too… too bad.
17. Newport Good friends of mine are having their reception in this northern beaches suburb of Sydney in January so that’s nice… unfortunately for anyone who has backed this horse – that little bit of trivia does nothing for this horses chances of winning.
18. Profound Beauty Now forgive me for being superficial but I haven’t seen a picture of this horse yet so how can I go out and back a horse that might be as attractive as day old porridge? I just can’t take their word for it here and until I see otherwise this MySpace user name wannabe is not getting my recommendation – let alone my number.
19. Red Lord Just as long as the stewards allow this horse to wear red – it will compete. Otherwise this lordly stayer gets an identity crisis and can’t run if forced to don colours not consistent with its name.
20. Varevees Foxtel just launched a new kids TV channel called ‘CBeebies’ or something and that sounds vaguely familiar to this horse’s name… it also sounds like the Friday the 13th hockey mask wearing and machete wielding murderer Jason Voorhees – so watch your back during the race everyone. Could win by the process of elimination.
21. Prize Lady Gee I hope this horse has won its owner some prizes since it started racing… otherwise it’ll be off to the glue factory sooner rather than later.
22. Alessandro Volta Not sure if this is a soccer (sorry Football) player from Italy or one of the fault lines in the Pacific Ocean’s continental drift… ok 99% sure it is neither but come to think of it… nah got nothing else. No chance lance.
23. Barbaricus The winner ladies and gentlemen because it was the first name to ‘jump out at me’ when browsing the SMH race guide. Not only am I pretty sure there was a Transformer character called Bruticus who was way cool man… um when I was growing up and it could be a name I’ll adopt in my novel for some poor bound to get killed by the hero sucker… and for making it into my novel – your 2008 Melbourne Cup winner is BARBARICUS!
24. Moatize Sounds like a famous composer and given I know little to nothing about music in general (as Team Waz can attest when it comes to picking the weekly composer question) – this poor animal is not destined to make any sweet tunes this afternoon.

So to the Trifecta for the 2008 Melbourne Cup.
1. Barbaricus – at about $15-20 bucks for the win at the moment – don’t say I didn’t tip you off if he wins.
2. Bauer – Never count Jack out.
3. Littorio – So rich and creamy, blended to perfection with a perfect froth make Littorio Coffee the choice for me. Wait I’m not endorsing a product in my blog am I?

Roughie Varevees – as I said earlier if the race becomes a bloodbath my money’s on the machete wielding murderer!

Well there you have it for another year punters and people who spend their lunchtime reading websites to try and bone up on the horses so they can sound like an expert later in the arvo. 2008 will be the year of the Barbarian!

2008 Melbourne Cup Results:
1st - Viewed
2nd - Bauer
3rd - C'est La Guerre
4th - Master O'Reilly

Monday 3 November 2008

What will your footprint be?

As Russell Crowe's Maximus says in the opening scene of 'Gladiator' while readying his Roman Legions for battle "What we do in life, echoes in eternity." Whoever came up with that inspiration gem in the writer's room in pre-production deserved a gold star for truly capturing how leaders can inspire their followers. Admittedly as we draw closer to Remembrance Day on November 11 - I still find it hard to comprehend what corner any man had to turn to get 'ready' for battle and being prepared to kill or lest be killed. I don't deny for a second that when I see war docos on the History Channel I occasionally tear up because I just can't answer the question of 'would I have been able to do what they did' openly - these men and women who fought in the great wars of the 20th century (and before obviously) faced a battle to overcome both their fear and the odds that stray lead or explosives would claim their courage without them having any say in the matter. That is what scares me most when it comes to trying to comprehend war and the act of battle. In our lives right now we've got this mindset of control over our destiny. Over our next day, over our next action over the very next breath we'll take... we think we've got it all in hand and we can literally choose our own adventure. The people who fell in war had no such misconception. Their lives were a toss of a coin or literally the aim of a bullet in most cases and for some they never even knew the danger they would fall victim too. Just try and picture how you'd try and cope or adapt in a situation where all of a sudden - you are in a situation that you CANNOT control the outcome no matter what you do. I'd be wearing double absorbent Huggies for a start and I'm not even sure they'd be enough... war scares me beyond reckoning because as I just wrote - we think we're in control of what happens next. Well newsflash ladies and gentlemen - we ain't! I deliberately left the caption blank on the picture I took for this blog because I think you need to try and match the blog title to what might be in the picture. There is a footprint there... you might not be able to make it out and I only put pressure on the ground for about 10 seconds or so but in the grand scheme of time - those ten seconds are more than what my lifetime registers on the scale. What I'm asking here is - does your footprint make a greater impression? What have you left embedded in your life that will 'echo in eternity?' Is it the imprint of a hobbit-looking hairy foot? or is it something more? As regular readers of this blog will know - I'm writing a novel. The quick synopsis is that the story revolves around one's struggles with following what they believe and what the world has come to believe matters. Which way do we follow - the tough trek up the mountain on foot or just cruise down the highway to oblivion? The hero in my story faces the decision to follow his Lord and Saviour or remain loyal to the Kingdom that he has grown up in as an heir to the throne and has given him everything he has ever needed in his world's estimation of worth. Is his sense of loyalty stronger than his faith? He must decide what is the right choice - and what footprint his decision will leave on the land he has lived in. Ecclesiastes 6:12: "For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?" Here is the wisest of all mortal men King Solomon (bar Jesus) saying that no matter what when death comes the individual won't know what happens after he is gone - and that's a good point but what I'm getting at here is others will see what you left behind and even while you're alive they will see what you don't really see - who you are in their eyes and what you live for. When we go from this life we won't be able to reflect and say 'gee how good did I go here' because if you're a Christian our focus won't be on what we have done but what we are doing in heaven - but if you make something matter in your life in your walk with Jesus - those who are still 'under the sun' might get some encouragement from something you've done with the days you did have. Am I running around in circles here? Possibly but I'm also trying to encourage you to realise that the decisions you make here and now matter in the future - not just for yourself. For myself - I don't doubt for a second that God put this idea for the novel in my head back in 2003 for a reason - it might've taken me the best part of 5 years to get stuck into it but as I frantically scribbled down more notes about the Final Scene of the book during the sermon last night (will I get in trouble for admitting that? no... not if I note that the passage used actually helped me in a big way to capture where the next turn of the Finale would go. I was in half light during the singing at the end of the service writing in BIG scribble (as opposed to my normal scribble that is hard to read in the best of light) as the scene just flowed in my head like a movie... but I can't tell you what happens... not yet. But believe me - if I'm sitting there excited about the scenes that are coming together in my head and trying my best to write them into readable copy - they'll be good. So for me as I work on this massive charge of writing a novel about my Lord - I feel as if this is just one part of what I will leave on this earth that signals to people that I followed the Lord. I want people to know that Jesus means more to me than anything else in this world - not just appearing to be a lifestyle choice I've made that makes people go 'Oh that's nice but not for me'. I love God - what I'm trying to do is leave a footprint that shows people now and in the future that this is what mattered in my life - Jesus. And I can control how much I talk about the love of Jesus - even if I can't control what will happen in the next 24 hours. Free will gives us the choice to choose what really matters to our hearts - and I'll let a living insight from my NIV say the next bit "Our thoughts form the thermostat that regulates what we accomplish in life... you and I become what we think about." Jesus has echoed pretty strongly in eternity so far me thinks, I just want to help make that echo a little bit louder.