Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Values, Sport and Tragedy

It is ludicrous.

No, it’s worse than that.

But first. I follow sport all around the world. I can become immersed in a battle between bat and ball at Lords, and don’t need a run to be scored to enjoy it.

I can marvel at the tactics playing out in American Football and since attending Ice Hockey at Madison Square Garden New York, have enjoyed the exploits of The Rangers. I can also deprive myself of sleep for 3 weeks following the Tour de France.

Be it professional Cricket, Football, Ice Hockey or Cycling, all participants are well paid, which only serves to help illustrate just how ludicrous our societal values are.

In Australia, our primary sports are Cricket, Australian Rules (AFL) and Rugby League (ARL). All governing bodies are in heated dispute with players over money.

All player unions want to lock in an increased share of revenue for player payments.  

Those paid the most, want to be paid more.

Until the last 48 hours, I was in favour of the new deals. I was firmly on the side of the players who produce the product that generates the income and pays the bills and develops the game.

I don’t care that much anymore. It all seems irrelevant.

I don’t care if a player earning $1.2 million a year will now earn $1.5 million. I just don’t care.

My lack of care, or jolt to realism is due to Rick Maddison.

On Monday, he (allegedly) shot and killed Brett Forte.

Brett is a Police Officer in Queensland. He has a partner and three children.  

Brett was doing his job and lost his life doing it.

Brett and his brethren Police Officers throughout the world protect me, my family and friends our way of life, and your way of life.

Without Brett, I don’t get to support my family, play my sport and enjoy watching sport, or go safely to work.

At work, I am not in danger of physical conflict. Very, very many others can do what I do each day, equally as well, and possibly better. Not many can do what Brett did, and his colleagues do. If we could, perhaps we would.

I get paid more than Brett did. Much more.

So, what do we as a sophisticated society value?

Do we value our sportspeople at a premium of say 10 times those who protect us?

A key reason I get paid what I do is to manage risk to the business. This includes our compliance with the law. The more responsibility I have for ‘risk’, the more I get paid.

Why is the risk our Police face so undervalued?

Our Government talks about a levy on this and a tax on that, to pay for this and pay for something else.

How about we re-align some values and better asses value.

We need to look at how we remunerate those that protect us and maybe, just maybe, levy us in order to do so.

To Brett Forte and his fellow officers wherever you are in the world, we thank you.

Rest in Peace Brett Forte.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Marketing Mayhem

Does anyone really know what someone else wants, needs or desires? If we do know, do we understand what they will do to obtain it in the face of competing priorities?

Marketing and research organisations conduct a business asking questions, constructing surveys and compiling reports.

Business, Government and others use such reports to make business or political decisions.

A business will invest in product development and allocate marketing resources in a particular direction.

Governments will devise a policy, implement or change a decision based on a number of factors, not least of which is how voters will respond.

I wonder if the tried and trusted methodology has run its race. Consumers, young consumers in particular have more choice and more independence than ever before. They feel less of a need to make what may be considered ‘traditional’ choices

For example, based on experience my experience, it makes sense for inexperienced drivers to have a safe and sound car at their disposal. One that has good vision and inbuilt safety features providing protection should a driving error occur and potential injury.

A survey may tell me that a young driver wants to survive a crash uninjured. They may even say it is their priority.

However, if given the option of a white Volvo, or a bright coloured Korean car deemed cool and fashionable, how many will take the Volvo?

Survey 23-year old’s about financial goals and somewhere up high on their list will be to save for a house. Banks can take such information and market to them. But the goal of a house may seem so far away, unless there is another motivation such as marriage. It is unlikely the 23-year-old will act to save funds to buy a house.

The survey results are accurate, the product promoted will be appropriate but the outcome is doubtful. And all parties have acted in good faith.

Is this why so many businesses fail? A fundamentally sound, well researched idea, service or product is launched and delivers a financial fail.

Likewise, how many success stories are little more than luck?

We have witnessed the monumental failures in America and Britain predicting voter behaviour based on research. The questions were asked, the answers provided but the intent was not researched for. Your priority is “x” but how will you vote?

We also live in the internet society and a social media whirlpool, where the firm intention today is influenced tomorrow by access to counter, and counter-counter arguments from seemingly credible sources.

The science of research based marketing may be a lost art, and a new form of research needed.

We live in changing times

Monday, 29 May 2017

So Many Deaths

I didn’t want to write this today.

However to write something else would  have been trivial.

I came across the following scene at lunch time today – in Post Office Square, Brisbane, Australia.

With my fellow ‘luncher’, we noted what was being represented and moved on to have our lunch.

We fleetingly touched upon the display over lunch and on finishing, he suggested we walk through the Square. I said I will look from the perimeter.

The lawn of Post Office Square is laid out with white flower wreaths.

Each wreath represents the death in 2017, that’s 5 months only, of a son, a daughter, a brother or a sister. Each death was by their own hand, suicide.

Today, 29 May, is National White Wreath Day, Remembering all victims of suicide.

There were names with each wreath and ages. He was 32, another was 27, but most were of an age that ended in ‘teen’. I will say that again, of all the wreaths representing a suicide, most died in their teens. Except for one – he was 12.

The visual was shocking by the sheer number, but the detail of each generated a range of feelings, usually described by adjectives that are poor representations of what it must be for their families and friends.

There is better education now about being alert to changes in behaviour of those around us and encouraging us to check in with those we know and love. We have largely de-stigmatised mental health but still, so many lost, so young, so sad.

Most of the education in our communities is about being more vigilant in identifying those that may be at risk, and a good thing too. But can more be done to prevent us getting this far?

Are we past the point of de pressurising our lives? We are so very, very busy, being ever so very, very busy.

Our children are going to school feeling pressured to do well. They are doing after school activities 3, 4 sometimes 5 nights a week; violin, piano, soccer, dance, gymnastics, orchestra, band, cricket, choir, being willed to do well at each and at all.

Parents feel real or perceived pressure to earn the income to support these activities, to go to the right school, have the late model SUV and house where it matters.

In a Family where the decision is for the Father to be the predominant carer, he is held up as the model of the modern man. Where Mum is the predominant carer, she is said to be wasting her education.

No pressure there.

I have no idea what the answer is and cannot pretend to.

I do wonder if we cannot simplify our existence, de clutter the expectations we allow to be thrust upon us, ensure our children feel loved and not just told they are loved.
What would happen if we built environments where our children first and foremost felt valued for who they are, where everyone knew, felt and believed they “matter”?

I didn’t want to write this today, but my lunch colleague said I had to, in case one person read it and it caused a pause, a thought, a change.

The reality is, my comments, my words feel overwhelmingly inadequate.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

46 Years of Similarity

Before you read on, I feel it important to disclose that the following article is very self-indulgent. It is motivated primarily by an event that took place today, between 10 am and Midday, and for 6 years starting 46 years ago.

So, if the decision is to stop reading now, I understand.

I had a conversation today at a coffee shop in South Brisbane.

The conversation commenced a little before 10 am and concluded at about midday.

It was the first conversation we had ever had.  

What’s more, we first met in 1971 and for each of the next 6 years, our paths crossed for about 200 days a year. Over those 6 years, we spent many hours together, usually in blocks of 60 minutes at a time. Together, we learned about Physics, Chemistry and Maths, English, Biology and History.

I was learning about these subjects as a means of filling in time until the next recess, the next party or the next chance to play sport or talk to this hour’s favourite girl. She was interested in the subjects themselves and in doing well, and boys other than me.

When I failed to understand something in Chemistry, I went to lunch break. When she didn’t understand something, she found another teacher who could explain it to her.

Two people could not have been more different. The Geek and the Non-Geek. One interested in doing well, the other in matters more social.

After 6 years, she went her way and I went mine. For the better part of 40 years, I never gave her a thought and I am as sure she never gave me one.

Our paths went in understandably different directions. Hers to Apollo Bay, Ballarat and Phillip Island to name a few, mine to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne (twice) and Brisbane.

You will by now have realised we were in secondary school together.

At the 40th reunion of our School graduation, we discovered some common interests. We discussed these today but only fleetingly.

We talked family, her three daughters and my two sons, we discussed philosophical matters, opinions and plans for the next 50 years. We barely touched the surface.

I had an inspiring, energising, challenging conversation with someone I have known for 46 years, but equally, have never known.

It is easy to look for inspiration in books and podcasts. To seek out experts in our chosen fields and follow the teachings of high profile practitioners.

My discovery today is, we can learn much from and be inspired greatly by those who have in one way or another always been part of our selves. There are hidden treasures of wisdom waiting to teach and challenge us, to be inspired by and to be open with, without judgement.

I found a new friend today, a friend of 46 years standing, and I am better for it.

Doctor, your shout for coffee when next we talk, in Melbourne.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Conflict Creates

We live in an environment of conflict.

Newspapers and news websites attract readers by reporting and recording conflict.

Our TV programmes, be they drama, crime, reality or biographical have conflict as the basis of their content.

All sport by its nature, is based on conflict ultimately producing a victor.

Academia is arguably conflict ridden. Robust debate is necessary to progress our learnings. Inquisitive and questioning minds must have an outlet to express, to argue, to resolve and then create.

Competition in business also represents a conflict of competing products. Witness a discussion between an advocate of Android or Windows and a devotee of Apple, and you will witness the playing out of conflict.

My reading this week has included several articles arguing we should all be following our passions to the exclusion of all else. In really simple terms, the argument is, if we follow our passions with devoted and serious intent, the world will deliver.

Equally, I have read articles advocating following not our passion, but the path dictated by what we are good at. If we do this with intensity, success will follow.

What does it all mean?

Dig a little deeper, and chances are for most of us, they are one and the same.

The probability is, what we are passionate about came about by way of pursuing and practicing what it is we are good at, and visa a versa.

Perhaps the only thing we really need to do is be honest with ourselves about how we want to live our life and then set about doing it.

And as I have written previously, this takes courage and persistence because many people who seek to influence us, also judge and pass judgement on us. We are tempted to make decisions and act based on what is deemed acceptable to those around us.

Chances are, every great artist at some time was under the influence of others to follow a more conventional path. The same perhaps could be said of successful professional sports people. Get an education, get a job and stop spending all your time kicking that ball, riding that bike, (insert your chosen activity).

The great inventions of the world have followed very many failed experiments. The scientists with inquisitive minds would almost certainly have been under pressure to desist and dedicate their energies elsewhere.

Ask Di Vinci, Einstein, Edison; ask the Wright Brothers, Karl Benz, Alexander Fleming; ask Beethoven, Mozart, Lennon; ask Jobs, Musk and I am sure at some time before achieving success they would all have resisted pressure to give up and follow a more conventional, conservative route.

Perhaps conflict brings out the best in people. Perhaps conflict is necessary to harden resolve and to test our commitment to what is important to us, to what feels right. Perhaps we need conflict to test us and how we respond dictates our life’s direction.

It is easy to subordinate to the conventional, the normal, but doing so may well numb creativity and invention.

It is harder to follow the path we feel is right, but far more rewarding.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Marriage Equality - Margaret Court Can Make it Happen

I was, let’s say annoyed, when I heard about and then read Margaret Court's announcement she was boycotting Qantas and the reasons why.

My reaction was “here is another wealthy, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, privileged person using their profile to promote the denial of a right that in my opinion, should be the available to all people who may choose to exercise it.”

That right of course is marriage.

My opinion, as an Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual privileged person of little profile is, two people, no matter their socially imposed label, should be able to make and exercise a decision to legally marry. I have no spiritual or biblical teachings to impact or support my opinion, no one is telling me what to believe and there is no book of teachings that I can reference in support of my views.

All I can offer is a belief that a diverse and inclusive Nation should  give the respect of legislation to all Australians to make a choice to have their love for another legally acknowledged in law.

My opinion differs from Margaret Court, very much so.

I suspect my opinion differs from the majority of Australians, although we are not afforded a binding vote to prove it.

I am entitled to my opinion and entitled to express it.

Margaret Court is entitled to her opinion and to express it.

I noted today that the other airline in Australia, Virgin Australia, also supports equality of marriage meaning Mrs Court may now have to fly Private in her own country. (Imagine her interview with the pilot and the problems refusing to charter an aircraft based on their beliefs may present, but that is another day in Court).

I have read today about the significant number of Australian Companies that support or have a similar position to the Allan Joyce led Qantas.

These are the same Companies that the Conservative element of the Coalition Government typically seek to support. It is also the Conservatives forces, led by Tony Abbott that prevent the Government having a free vote in Parliament to decide the issue of ‘marriage for all’.

Instead of vilifying Margaret Court for her announcement, let’s make it a focus to rally our Corporates to support marriage equality and to put pressure on Conservative Members of Parliament to cease objection to a free vote.

Let us create a ground swell of opinion motivated by Mrs Court’s letter, to pass marriage equality in to law.

And then, let’s make the opening day of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, and specifically the matches played on Margaret Court Arena, a day to honour and celebrate marriage equality in Australia.

Let’s look at this differently?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Politicians - Stop Treating us as Idiots

Idiots we are not, so stop treating us as such.

Idiots our Political Journalists are not, so let’s get back to demonstrating it.

I am sick of being treated like a fool and of you being treated like fools.

I have had the arrogance of our mainstream Political party elected representatives. I am over their “rubbish speak” when answering questions in interviews.

What misguided self-importance allows you, the people who are elected to serve us, to be so arrogant and self-righteous that you do not answer questions by Journalists who are effectively speaking on our behalf?

And Journalists of the Political World and those Programme Managers who schedule political shows, since when has the interview been more important than its content? What good is an interview if it is full of hot air and the Politician being interviewed constantly if not always fails to address the question? And it is prevalent in both major Political Parties, their only bipartisan position.

Ask the question twice and if it is not addressed, cease the interview on the basis there is no point if questions are being ignored. Or to put it another way, respect your audience and respect yourselves.

The interviewer is asking questions on our behalf and we want to hear meaningful answers, or meaningful, credible reasons why the question cannot be answered. It is not entertainment. It is information, it is accountability, it is important.

Guess what? There was a terrorist incident in Manchester a few days ago. Guess what else? The Coroner handed down the report into the handling of the Lindt Cafe siege this week.

I heard an interview this morning with Michael Keenan – Justice Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter Terrorism.

He ‘waffled’ responses to serious questions concerning possible ISIS supporters. Waffle is a generous adjective in this case.

I would have been fine if he said something like “I appreciate the interest in your question however if I answer, I will be divulging counter terror surveillance methodology and I won’t do that”.

Instead, he ‘waffled’.

Immediately before the interview with the Minister was one with the NSW Commissioner of Police, Mick Fuller. The Commissioner was very articulate and very clear. He owned the problems, committed to reform and acknowledged where improvement is needed. He inspired confidence.

The Minister did exactly the opposite.

My outtake from the Interview is the Minister has little or no understanding of his portfolio.

Is it any wonder we have single issue Parties with make it up on the go Politicians with the sole objective of popularity, here and overseas. Is there much to be gained as a country having One Nation holding such power, or their idol as American President?

Probably not, but it is no surprise they galvanise the frustrated voter who demands leadership and demands to be informed.

To our Journalist, I urge you to require answers to your questions or terminate the interview.

To our Politicians, get across your subject and answer the questions, or be replaced at the hands of disenchanted voters sick of being treated like idiots.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Music of Significance - 50 Years On

What music moments from your youth do you look back on with significance?

For me, as of Friday, it will “50 years ago today when Sgt Pepper taught the band to play”.

Friday 26 May will mark 50 years since the British release of the Beatles iconic “Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band” album.

I can vividly recall my first exposure to this album, where I was and the impact it had on me. The year was 1970 and I was 11 years old. I had never heard anything like it and doubted I would ever again. I had no idea what a concept album was or that this was one.

I was just mesmerised by the music, the lyrics, the story they combined to tell and the cover art – oh the cover.

I played the record over and over and over. I studied the lyrics, interpreting and re-interpreting the words, time and time again. I was captivated by the artwork on the cover; it was all electric and eclectic, realism and abstract; it was everything and then some to this 11 year old.

Every track was unique telling its own musical and lyrical tale that all together, told a story. The music, the words, motivated imagination and the story being relayed, changed daily, weekly, depending on what your imagination was interpreting; it was never the same as it was before. The story continues to evolve to this day.

No record has made a bigger impact on me or influenced me more. Sgt Pepper gave me permission to question the conventional, push boundaries, release limitations, think and feel differently and be inspired by creativeness. It has done this for nearly 50 years, and still does.

The Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) Pet Sounds classic album inspired Sgt Pepper. Paul McCartney played Pet Sounds repeatedly during the Abbey Road recording sessions. Ironically, it was the Beatles Rubber Soul recording that provided Brian Wilson the inspiration to write Pet Sounds.

What goes around comes around.

The BBC initially banned three tracks, believing they were promoting “a permissive attitude towards drug taking”.

Specifically, it was thought the “Friends that provided a little help” were illicit substances while the “smoke” that Paul went upstairs to have in a “Day in the Life” was also a drug reference. Also, the 4000 holes Lennon sang about on the same track was interpreted as being the number of holes in the arm of a heroin user.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was a reference to LSD, and I can see where that comes from.

It was also believed the band wanted a record that was both a “celebration and a piss - take” on the psychedelic bands popping up at the time.

There is nothing like the banning of a few songs to help sales and publicity.

Sgt Peppers was the first release by The Beatles after retirement from Live Performances. The band was under pressure from the music media, fans and their record company to demonstrate they could still be relevant without touring. There were many doubters.

Having time to explore and perfect musical output pushed all previous boundaries and released their creative brilliance. Producer George Martin was the perfect mentor, motivator and ultimately the interpreter of their ideas and ambitions.

The result was a magnificent recording that has stood the test of time and inspired many musicians and artists, contemporary and otherwise in very many artistic forms.

I am thankful for the influence it has had on this then 11 year old.

Happy 50th birthday Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band – you will live forever.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Housing Crisis - Alternate Approach

I was involved in a conversation yesterday about the Affordable Housing Crisis and the ‘benefits’ that may result. (Yes, benefits)

I wondered aloud if the Housing Affordability issue may result in a positive societal change.

Australian’s are brought up under a doctrine of being home owners. In a by gone age, the 3 bedroom, brick veneer, garage, lawn, Holden in the drive way and Victa lawn mower in the shed was the Australian Dream.

We live in a world where Home Ownership is a sign of success and stability and by definition, not owning a home is a sign of the opposite.

If this notion applied to New York City, successful Investment Bankers, Accounting Executives, Interior Designers and many others would be deemed, well, less successful and less stable.

New York is a City of renters, with rentals making up two thirds of housing stock.*

Is Sydney to become as City of renters?

Australia is becoming a Country without State Borders. Moving Intercity or Intrastate or work and career opportunity is common among Graduates and those growing, or diversifying a career. Why not rent and invest surplus cash flow in other areas?

The quality of rental accommodation has improved in New York to an extent where you get all the modern facilities and amenities once the preserve of the owner occupier. This is happening in Australia too as inner city apartment blocks come on line.

Needs change – the renting young professional couple make the decision to start a family and the single bedroom rental apartment of the last five years gives way to a suburban dwelling: it may even be purchased. The sheer transactional cost of buying and selling and buying again is yet another argument for renting.

Except for one thing; 5 years.

In this country, the 6 month lease is standard, providing  little or no ‘occupation security’. Renters are subjected to regular market moves and are at the whim of the landlord who may think a few extra dollars can be squeezed out of their investment by going to tender regularly.

Maybe the solution to our housing crisis is to first reform our rental regulations providing more security of tenure to ‘solid’ tenants. The key element would be longer term leases. In addition some control over rental rates would provide confidence to the renter to make their residence a home while also providing more security of regular income to owners, be it at the expense of big increases in high demand, but less risk of non-occupancy.

However, perhaps a change in the Great Australian Home Ownership Dream has to also take place.


.*Reference: Jonathan J. Miller, President and Chief Executive Miller Samuel) in New York Times Article 19 May 2017)



Monday, 22 May 2017

Tough Question - Mangled Answer

The question was simple, the answer proved not so.

So much to consider before providing a clear, concise and articulate response.

After all, what can be so hard, apart from the fact it is one rarely asked, of me at least.

Is my difficulty the result of having lived through the period that has seen such huge growth, diversity and development. What was almost an elitist industry when I was born became somewhat mainstream just 10 years later. Colour television brought it roaring in to our lounge rooms and exposed us to such a variety, and from all around the world.

I was surprised it was so hard and shocked by the multiplicity of my answer.

I was at my favourite Saturday café and placing my order. Music was playing and a song I really like was playing. While I may Iike the song, and can describe the features of the artist, their name is one I can never recall.  I told Jackson, the Barista, how much I liked the song and he agreed with enthusiasm., which surprised me given he is in his late 20’s

And then it happened, he asked what music I like and I stuttered and stammered saying I am ‘old’ so there is much to consider. He pushed me, an answer was demanded.

I thought out loud saying that as a teenager of the 70’s, I grew up influenced by the Black T Shirt Bands, Deep Purple, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, Slade, Black Sabbath, Bad Company and the like, but also loved the Beatles at a time you identified as a Beatles or a Stones fan but never both but then I went to see the Stones on their last tour.

Then there is Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, Bowie put on the equal best show I have seen and there are the products of the great live music scene that was Melbourne in the 70 such as ACDC, Men at Work, Skyhooks, TMG, Thorpie and Lobby Lloyd.

I explained about Countdown and while I scoffed at the soft pop of many of the hits, I bought the 20th anniversary CD’s and each song prompts a memory and embarrassingly I know all the words. I have bene to several John Farnham shows (don’t tell anyone), LRB are a long standing favourite and I have enjoyed John English live on some 4 occasions. Van Morrison, Eagles, Dobbie Brothers, Joplin, Cocker, Elton, The Oils, Queen, the Peppers and then there is Robbie Williams and of course, Paul Kelly.

I said I like Courtney Barnett and Ed Sheeran and have recently purchased Jay Z music. And my youngest son rotates different artists through my CD player in the car so I don’t get stale, most I enjoy, but can’t say who they are.

I also recently bought ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ via ITunes making it the 3rd time I have bought it. I have the Vinyl and lost the CD.

Jackson asked me a about “Journey”. Have you ever tried to describe Rick Wakeman’s solo work to someone who has never heard of him? Take a moment and imagine what you would say.

I explained the recent purchase of a box set of solo piano tunes I play regularly, particularly when writing, and I listen to ABC Classical regularly.

My somewhat long answer sounded so ridiculous even as I was spurting it out.

He asked me about Jay Z and what appealed to me and I talked about the stories his lyrics tell. He agreed, he is a great story teller.

Try and answer the question – what music do you like and see if you can provide a more coherent answer.

I ended up saying that I really don’t know what I like, it depends on my mood I guess.

And when drinking my coffee, I wondered to myself, “does the music we listen to depend on our mood, or does our mood depend upon the music? That is a question for another day.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Philosophy - What Is It?

I was reading an interview with author Simone de Beauvoir a day or two ago. The interview was conducted in 1965 and published in that year’s Spring – Summer edition of The Paris Review.

There was much of interest in the interview, however one particular quote returned me to a subject I have considered from time to time.

Simone de Beauvoir said “My studies gave me only a very superficial knowledge of philosophy but sharpened my interest in it”.

What is Philosophy?

The word “Philosophy” is used often, however I wonder if others share my uncertainty as to its proper intention or meaning.

I decided to look further in to this.

A common application to “Philosophy”, summarised simply, appears to be “a study of the history of knowledge gathering, research, interpretation and subsequent learnings”.

To provide a practical example, we are taught the world is round. Likewise, we also learn that at one point, there was a belief based on the science of the time the earth was flat.

Philosophy would be the study of, and acquisition of knowledge about the process of discovery, research and experimentation and by whom, that resulted in today’s teachings that the world is round.

By definition, a Philosopher is one who conducts studies in to past learnings, and validates the process that resulted in a new belief or teaching.

I must re-iterate, my defining of Philosophy is my interpretation and I admit, it is a very simple definition.

However, researching this conclusion took me to another question and one that proved to be far bigger.

Is “Philosophy a Science”?

I was expecting a very clear answer, however found this to be a topic of significant debate. The arguments for it Philosophy being a science are equally clear and evidence based as the arguments against it being a science.  

Here is one such article and one that initiated much reasoned and compelling debate, in equal measure, for and against.

What was of most interest to me, was not just the quality of opinions expressed supporting and rebuffing Philosophy as a Science, but the lack of any deriding of those with views that differ. Debate was respectful, while also forceful.

Perhaps the significant thing I discovered is the biggest question facing professional and amateur Philosophers is determining just what category of academia “owns” Philosophy.

As Alanis Morissette sang - Isn't it Ironic         

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Gambling on a Drug Cheat

Australian betting agency Sportsbet has been in the news recently after airing an advertisement featuring Ben Johnson, 1988 Seoul Olympic 100 metre champion, for all of 48 hours.

Johnson won the race of the century at the Seoul Games in World Record Time only to test positive and be stripped of the medal and obviously, the World Record.

Johnson immediately denied using banned substances but subsequently confessed, including his World Record Time set the previous year (1987) at the World Championships was also achieved with the assistance of performance enhancing drugs.

He cheated, no question and he admitted it and to more than perhaps he needed to. The majority of athletes caught for taking drugs continue to deny the undeniable.

The advertisement appeared a few days ago and my first reaction was it was someone pretending to be Johnson. On subsequent viewings, I realised it was actually him.

Obviously Sportsbet meant it to be amusing. Johnson was pretty much poking fun at himself. I was a little uncomfortable with it but landed on a belief that he has done the crime and served his time and is free to accept whatever legal work is offered him.

There are many athletes suspended for cheating and then allowed back to compete at the highest level, even winning Olympic Gold Medals. Alexander Vinokourov is one example that immediately comes to mind

One of our Rugby League programs has as one of its ‘stars” a former player caught for using an (illegal) recreational drug. He served his suspension and returned successfully to competition. A co-star on the same program has admitted to drug use during his playing days however was never caught. Both regularly appear in advertisements.

Tyler Hamilton tested positive and was allowed back to competition. He subsequently tested positive for a second time. However, he has written a highly successful book and his story is made more interesting (and increased sales) due in a large part to his indiscretions. He has since been held up as a highly credible witness in the case against former team mate, and fellow doper, Lance Armstrong.

The advertisement featuring Ben Johnson has been pulled from the air following a large number of viewer complaints (150 allegedly) *.

However, the publicity the campaign attracted and the subsequent withdrawal has ensured it all became a main stream news story, even achieving exposure via international news sites.

I am guessing Sportstbet are laughing all the way to the bank. Being a quite simple production, it would not have cost a great deal. They reportedly paid Johnson $200,000 for his appearance. Given all the free exposure and the many hits the add has achieved on YouTube , they must be thrilled with the return on investment.

I doubt current users of their service will look elsewhere and I am sure many new users have been attracted to a betting agency they may have been only mildly aware of.

Sportsbet should thank the Politicians, Journalists, Broadcasters and Opinion Setters for making such a fuss – perhaps a fuss about nothing.

I should note that Ben Johnson returned to competition after serving his ban and again tested positive for banned substances, just as Tyler Hamilton did.

*as reported on Melbourne radio station 3AW on 19 May 2017. Other reports refer to a substantial number of complaints without specifying a number

Friday, 19 May 2017

TIME - In Times Square

I visited New York for the first time in October and November 2015.

I have never written about New York as such, finding the experience difficult to describe – so much that could be covered and even more that could be left out.

However, the events in Time Square yesterday have motivated to at least touch on a little about New York City. My comments will therefore be Times Square Centric.

The first time to Times Square was somewhat unpleasant. Cars, people, street stalls, spruikers, buskers, all vying for attention while I was looking for a street and a specific building. It wasn’t mind numbing or overpowering, just annoying.

The following day I walked through Times Square wearing a suit and tie and knowing where I was going and must have looked a little like a local because no one tried to separate me from my money.

I was relaxed and was able to take in what was around me and it was mesmerising, exciting, energetic and entertaining. All sorts of people doing all sorts of things with the extra flavour of fancy dress as it was the last business day before Halloween.

The sheer volume of people and cars, meant it shouldn’t, but it does work.

This was the first of 3 nights staying in Times Square, Coming back from dinner that night, I stopped and just took in the incredible light show that is Times Square. Looking from the end of the Square back to, and past the illuminated billboards and M&M Shop it appeared the light assault was layer upon layer upon layer. It was breathtaking.

Saturday night was Halloween and the Square was electric; sound, colour and costumes. The noise of celebration infiltrated the double glazed windows of the 17th floor of the hotel, and influenced what was not the ideal night of rest prior to the Marathon.

The cartoon characters in the Square impressed me and represented a New York work ethic. They are working to have tourists tip them for being photographed with them. And, they do this next to a sign, a large sign saying there is no obligation to tip the Cartoon Characters. They were putting in a 10 hour day and were back doing it all again the next day.

Tough gig indeed!

I loved the theatres and enjoyed seeing a show. My next visit will include several shows.

It was a short walk to Madison Square Gardens and what a night that was. I am a Rangers fan for life.

The events of yesterday show how vulnerable a large crowd can be and also how resilient the people of New York are, as if we didn’t already know that.

Living there would be exciting and exhilarating, costly and frustrating, and I would love to do just that for a year or so.



Thursday, 18 May 2017

Writing - With Nothing to Say

It is day 28 into 30 consecutive days of writing and for the first time, I am not at all clear as to what I will write about.

Usually I look back on my day, or an event in the day that may have triggered a memory, an opinion or a thought and turned that in to some kind of article.

Today is different.

There seems to have been quite a number of small things that could trigger an article, but these would be forced whereas usually an idea comes easily.

I could talk about the new local anti cyclist hate group on Facebook and couple this with the discussion at work deriding cyclists, triggered by someone who has a niece who until recently was a member of a National Road Series team. To give her credit, the irony was not lost on her.

I could talk about someone I know who is on a work trip to a regional centre and panicking that anticipated torrential rain storms that may close the airport. This would mean an extended weekend stay in an area that for good reason, doesn’t exactly promote tourism as a local industry.

I could talk about the seemingly never ending pantomime that is unfolding under the disguise of the Trump Presidency, however there is nothing amusing about this.

My mind wanders to those who produce a piece of writing on a daily or semi daily basis and are compensated for doing so.

It would be easy for me to take one of my ‘half ideas’ and embellish it in to something that perhaps only I would know it isn’t.

There are checks and balances on the writers of hard facts, if only by way of the actual participants in the story they are writing.  

As I write, it occurs to me that I have a much higher level of scrutiny over the authenticity of what I produce. The scrutiny I have is, I will know if what I produce comes from the heart or from the brain, or a balance of both.

At the end of the article, I have to be able to look myself in the mirror.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Daily Column and Newspapers - RIP

The recently announced redundancies at News Corporation and Fairfax Newspapers have been exercising my mind.

Like many people over 30 years of age, the pleasure of taking the time to read a paper cover to cover is a memory we cherish and a luxury we crave.

We had morning and evening papers, paper boys delivering to our homes and “sellers” each evening on every corner in the City Centres spruiking their wares.

In Melbourne, we had two morning, and at times two evening Mast Heads, although the Herald was the one that endured. The Sun News Pictorial not only dominated the morning news market, but long held the honour of the most read paper in Australia. It was of tabloid format while it’s competitor, The Age claimed the quality mantle with its broadsheet layout. The Sun and the Herald merged and The Age has survived.

We also had The Sporting Globe delivered on Saturday Night with a further edition produced mid week, both on pink paper. My recollections as a sports crazed child was waiting for the delivery of the Globe each Saturday to read the real story of the VFL games of the day or the days play in Club, First Class and Test Cricket, across the Country and across the World.

When first living in Brisbane, there was The Sun and Courier Mail in the morning and the Telegraph in the evening. The Telegraph soon disappeared and The Sun followed suit a few years later.

The Australian and the Australian Financial Review were, and still are our National Daily Papers.

So, why the trip down memory lane?

Reduced readership attributable to a growing reliance on social media and on-line news sites for our information is leading many to predict the demise of “hard copy” Newspapers. Combine this with specialist  on-line sites where we can find a job, sell a car and buy just about anything has destroyed traditional classified advertising that essentially funded our Papers. Their time is limited.

This saddens me, but I am also to blame. I read the news each day, but rarely buy a paper. I access on-line free sites and while having taken advantage of various free trial offers from the New York Times and Financial Review, I have never been motivated to subscribe.

When I reflect on by childhood, I recall a daily paper reading routine from an early age.
Page 9 of the Melbourne Sun was home to “A Place in the Sun” written each weekday by the highly irreverent, superbly observational and always witty Keith Dunstan. Arguably, Keith Dunstan taught me to read and maybe even motivated me to write. I admired his style, his alternative view of the world and his prose.

Interestingly, or maybe not, the first large non fiction book I read for personal interest was at age eleven titled “The Paddock That Grew”. This book chronicled the history of the Melbourne Cricket Club and in reality, a history of Victoria. I read this book many times as a teenager and continue to read parts of it to this day. The Author is Keith Dunstan and his easy style is on display in the book and I am certain my familiarity with his writing in the Sun assisted this 11 year old to be able to read such a huge book.

I am not sure our on-line News sites have a need for daily columns, addressing local matters, at least not in the way they used to.

Daily columns created a following and there were several Journalists I would always read, whereas now, there is probably only one and even then, I don’t seek out all  work. The Journalist I refer to is Gideon Haigh.

I ponder this question, has the daily column been lost because of the demise in Newspapers, or is the demise in Newspapers attributable to the loss of the daily column?  The romantic in me wants to believe it is the latter.

Here is a little about Keith Dunstan







Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Men Deserve to be Equal to Women in Sport

I appeal today for “Men” to be given the same status as “Women” in Sport

I make this appeal in a week where history will be made when a Female officiates for the first time as a central umpire in the top tier of the Australian Football League. (AFL)

Eleni Gloufisis, a school teacher from Adelaide  has been appointed to adjudicate Sunday’s contest between Essendon and West Coast. This is no “gesture”. Eleni has earned her stripes the same way all top level umpires do, working her way through the development programmes. In a true reflection of the adoption of the sport by different cultures, Eleni's Father was born in Greece.

She was identified some years ago as an emerging talented official however her endurance was not up to standard, until now. Her hard work will be rewarded on Sunday and whether she wants to be or not, instant role model status will be thrust upon her.

I have two related hopes for the future.

Firstly, I look forward to the day when news of a referee making their debut will be gender neutral, in all sports because the best, most talented individual will earn the opportunity and their gender will not be a news item.

Secondly, I want to see more “Men” in our sports.

We have two thriving Big Bash Cricket competitions. One is called The Big Bash, the other called Women’s Big Bash.

We have the National Basketball League and the Women’s National Basketball League

We have the AFL and the AFLW – guess what the “W” stands for?

Surely, we must standardise naming.

Our National Hockey Competition is the Australian Hockey League (AHL). This is expressed as AHL Men and AHL Women.

It is well overdue for all sports to follow the example of Hockey e.g. AFL Men and AFL Women, Big Bash Men and Big Bash Women.

The same needs to apply internationally. Basketball, Football (Soccer in Australia and USA) as a start.

The rules the Men and Women play under are as good as identical. Let’s give them equal and consistent billing.

I wonder which of the predominantly Male Administered sports will have the foresight to set the example?

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Fine Life

I attended a funeral today.

I had met the deceased on one previous occasion, at the funeral of his wife of 50 plus years.

He passed a week ago, aged 92.

I attended in support of, and out of respect for his daughter, someone I respect greatly, a courageous and giving lady whose friendship I value.

I heard the story of a Gentleman who lived a life worth aspiring to, not for the wealth he acquired, the prose he produced, the goals he kicked or the masterpieces he wrote.

He had clearly developed ideals, priorities and standards. He lived committed to these, he was unrelenting.

I learned of a work ethic chiselled out of the challenges facing Europe in the immediate post second world war era. He never wavered from this ethic, he set an example, always.

He was determined to get on with his life after his much adored wife passed away in August 2016, learning how to use a microwave and make on-line purchases via eBay.

Right to the very end he maintained an interest in the world around us and one of his final conversations included debating the outcome of the French Presidential election.

I heard the story of a Gentleman who lived his life how he wanted to and with a commitment to an ethic he believed in. He fought for and delivered security and safety for his Family, his overarching objective.

I heard the story of a Gentleman of whom it can be said, will always be remembered, loved and who made a difference.

What more can one aspire to?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Mother's Day Memories

Mother’s Day has always been a big deal in our Family.

As early as I can remember, it was a day for dressing in our best outfits and heading out for lunch, and at a restaurant.

For many years, the venue of choice was McClure’s near the lake at Albert Park.

Seating was in booths and each had a phone to be used for ordering but as much as I wanted to do this, it seemed a waitress always appeared to take the order.

I would spend quite some time going through the menu before ordering exactly the same meal – Southern Fried Chicken.

Our Parents viewed such outings as part of our education, teaching us how to behave and act when in a restaurant. We were also exposed to visits to Live Theatre for the same reason and I vividly recall productions such as Funny Girl and No No Nannette.

We moved on from McClure’s in our teenage years however Mother’s Day lunch maintained its reverence. I recall several restaurants however cannot recall the names, apart from Leonda on the Yarra River at Hawthorn where a floor show added to the ambience and celebration of the day. We were adults by this time.

We were brought up to adhere to commitments we made to team sport. I recall when playing Junior cricket, Mum and my Sister departed for our Queensland Holiday on a Saturday morning however my Father and myself caught an afternoon flight so I could complete the cricket match. The mantra was if you commit to the team at the start of the season, you play every week.

However, when Hockey Victoria began scheduling State League fixtures on Sunday and they clashed with Mother’s Day, there was no question of me playing. Mother’s Day is sacred and the only reason a game would be missed.

Mum is now a Great Grand Mother.

If only she could return to McClure’s with her Children, Grand Children and Great Grand Daughter. I can picture her enjoying being the centre of attention, while all the time pretending not to be the centre of attention.  I can visualise her conducting proceedings with that easy attentive nature, always making sure everyone else was happy and taken care of. And doing so with her ever present smile and laughter, often at her own expense. However, I somehow think a certain little lady of nearly 8 weeks of age may command most of her attention, quite righty too.

Happy Mother’s Day Mum

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Dietary Choices – And Un-Solicited Feedback

I recall a conversation with 7 month pregnant Abby. We were chatting about the things Baristas talk to customers about on an afternoon when I was the only customer at the counter.

I asked how she was coping with all the “gratuitous” advice that comes the way of all soon to be first time Mum’s and she smiled.

She said complete strangers seem empowered to come up and touch her tummy and to tell her how she is feeling, what she should be doing and the most horrific labour stories. She added, one complete stranger even asked her if the Father was standing by her, noting she was not wearing a wedding ring.

What makes us think we can do this, approach total strangers and offer advice?

I am all too regularly the recipient of dietary advice.

I tend to eat healthily. Low fat, low salt, low sugar. I have little red meat but do eat fish. I consume much fruit and vegetables, but no fruit juice or canned foods.

The high sugar content means I do not have breakfast cereals and my pasta and rice of choice are wholemeal and brown respectively.

I have next to no alcohol but do have coffee and tea – black no sugar.

I can place an order at a café or restaurant and have a total stranger say, “you need to have more than that”. On one infamous occasion, I ordered a salad roll, rejecting several attempts to have me add ham or chicken. Having had my order accepted, on three further occasions, a staff member came to our table to confirm and re-confirm I did not want meat in the roll. When served, it was placed in front of me with comment about needing more than that.

I can be selecting from a buffet lunch at a conference or event, and because the protein options are cold processed meats or warm options of fish drenched in butter or meat featuring fat, I select only the salads and vegetables. Strangers in the queue regularly pass critical non-approving comments on my selections.

I don’t feel inclined to pass comment on what might be on their plate, or empowered to do so.

If I see an obviously overweight person selecting their fried eggs, bacon, croissant, cream, white bread, butter and maple syrup at the breakfast buffet, it never crosses my mind to comment on the food choices or on their body shape.

I have piled my plate with fresh fruit and had a Lady scold me for being slim and instructing me to have something more.

Just what is it that makes others feel empowered to make such unsolicited comments arguably about what they no absolutely nothing about? Are they attempting to justify their own choices?