Movie Review – Bomb Harvest

22 October, 2007


Last week I saw the preview screening of Bomb Harvest, a great new Australian documentary.

The film follows the life of Laith Stephens, an Australian bomb disposal expert working in the south-east Asian country of Laos. Stephens is trying to help solve the minor problem of around 18 million unexploded bombs that have been left lying around the country since the Vietnam War. (Luckily for Laos it was a neutral country during that War. Imagine how many bombs they would be dealing with otherwise.)

Although the subject matter may seem quite dry, the movie is actually brilliantly entertaining. Stephens and his band of local interpreters and trainees collectively possess a dark sense of humour. (It probably has something to do with the fear of being turned into pink mist if they cut the red wire instead of the blue one) and the film’s political message is not rammed down the audience’s throat.

I’m not a very political person, but the film had me hopping mad about this issue of unexploded munitions. If you want to know more, there is a website (isn’t there always?) for the Australian chapter of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Do yourself a favour and check out the movie. It’s that good.

The nice people at The Scene have posted my review of the movie here.

Check it out and let me know what you think.


Blog Action Day

16 October, 2007


Today is Blog Action Day, where over 7,500 bloggers from around the world have pledged to blog about an environmental issue to raise awareness in the general community.

This is an opinion piece I wrote for a CAE contest a few months ago.

Climate Change and the ‘Oh Sh*t’ Experience

The most memorable lesson I learned from a week-long intensive business school course was that in general, organisations are unable to implement major and necessary change without going through what the lecturer called the ‘Oh Sh*t!’ experience.

Basically the theory holds that management and staff do not have sufficient motivation to go through a potentially disruptive and painful change experience, unless they are faced with stark and compelling events which clearly demonstrate a ‘change or perish’ situation.

Events such as large-scale redundancies, factory closures, major losses of market share and ongoing cash flow crises are usually needed before stakeholders understand that change is not only desirable, but critical.

The ‘Oh Sh*t’ experience also holds true in our personal lives. We are all familiar with stories of people who have survived near-death experiences and been jolted into changing their lifestyles and priorities as a result The most brilliant motivational speaker I’ve ever seen only started living his life with a purpose after ‘dying’ in a car crash. For many it takes a trip to intensive care for them to give up smoking or change their diet.

So, what is going to be the ‘Oh Sh*t!’ experience that forces humanity to recognise and manage climate change? The blatant signs of impending environmental disaster (melting polar icecaps, once-in-a-thousand-year droughts, dying rivers, choking cities, gaping holes in the ozone layer) have not been sufficient to generate substantial behavioural change in governments, corporations or individuals. As football coaches are fond of saying, ‘If you keep doing the same things, don’t be surprised if you get the same results’.

The problem with the ‘Oh Sh*t!’ theory from an environmental perspective is self-evident. What happens if there is no single event that drives instant and effective behavioural change? What happens if the earth collapses irreversibly, rather than suffering a ‘serious but not fatal’ heart attack?

We all have roles to play, both as individuals in our own right – think global, act local – and as active members of communities which can pressure governments and companies to act in the best long term interests of the planet.

As creative artists we can also help spread the message, by dealing sensibly and persuasively with climate change and helping to raise public consciousness of the underlying issues.

Previous Hollywood attempts to cover climate change over the years have been entertaining rather than disturbing – think Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes, Waterworld, Mad Max – and similarly works of fiction that cover climate change in a confrontational yet believable manner have been few and far between. Perhaps it’s time for a new school of creative arts that makes consumers think, ‘Oh Sh*t! I’d better change my behaviour?’

Tarpins – the bright side

12 October, 2007

As I’m sure all my regular readers will know by now, Tarpins failed to live up to the my hype and finished mid-field sixth and definitely out of the money.

I wasn’t the only one with high hopes for our boy. All three Herald-Sun tipsters had him in their top four picks and the monkeys rated him in the top half of the field as well.

Tarpins jumped out really well and was briefly in the first two or three, but then went backwards over the first half of the race. He settled at the front of the chasing group and probably made up a couple of positions in the run home, but was never a threat. Still, he seemed to race well, holding a fairly straight line down the home straight and seeming not to display the ‘backwards mentally’ behaviour* we had been warned about.

(*Sutha was worried that if Tarpins raced too immaturely, he might knock the bourbon can out of the hand of the one spectator watching from the Wangaratta lawn area).

We now have to wait for the trainer’s report to find out some more about how the horse handled his debut outing.

A few consoling thoughts for all you Tarpins fans out there:

  • Bradman made 19 & 1 in his first test
  • Dr Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers
  • Woody Allen failed English at New York University
  • James Hird hardly had a sniff in his first match
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas

The moral of the story – don’t lose heart.

Edit: Trainer Cliff Brown was quite happy with Tarpins’ first run. The jockey reported Tarpins couldn’t go with the hectic early pace but he was happy with how he finished off the race, making good late ground. Depending on how he pulls up, Tarpins’ next start may be at Benalla at the end of October. Nothing like racing close to home.

Punters – Your Wait is Over

10 October, 2007


Finally, the moment has arrived.

Wonder horse Tarpins is saddling up for his first start, in the prestigious Johnnie Walker Maiden Plate at Wangaratta on Friday.

Our boy will be ridden by talented country hoop Daniel Moor, and will carry 57 kg from barrier 8.

So remember you heard it here first. Wangaratta Race 1, Horse 8 – Tarpins.

Don’t say you weren’t told.

Well done Georgie Boy

7 October, 2007


Congratulations to Col Gray lookalike George Gregan on a wonderful, record-breaking career.

Losing to the old enemy in the RWC quarter-final was a sad way to bow out of international rugby for Gregan. But at least he had the chance to run around a bit and go down fighting, unlike our other retiring champion, Steve ‘Chalky’ Larkham, who watched injured from the sidelines.

George was a fantastic competitor and displayed a never-say-die attitude which served the side well in our glory days as well as the lean times.

Thanks for the memories George.

Favourite Gregan moment : That match winning tackle on Jeff Goldie Wilson (do yourself a favour and watch the video on the link)


Four more years, boys…

7 October, 2007


Yeah, I know the Wallabies bombed out of the Rugby World Cup at the ends of the old enemy last night, but at least we can take some solace from the fact that the All Blacks also bowed out at the hands of their long time nemesis, France.

The Kiwis have taken the loss in the right spirit as usual, blaming the ref and looking to sack their coach.

As now retired George Gregan once famously commented, “Four more years, boys. Four more years.”

See you in NZ for the Rugby World Cup 2011. Given the size of the tiny ‘stadiums’ over there in the land of the long white cloud, it may be advisable to start queuing at Ticketmaster tomorrow morning.

My Top 5 Moments as a Sporting Spectator

5 October, 2007

My trip to Sydney last weekend to watch the mighty Melbourne Storm win the NRL premiership rates as one of my all-time favourite moments as a sporting spectator. And believe me, I’ve spectated plenty of sport in my time.

Here, in no particular order, are my greatest 5 moments:

(Criteria = events must have been seen live in person)

#1 – 2001 Bledisloe Cup – Australia v New Zealand at Dunedin


‘You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out…’

What a trip. What a match. What memories.

My two brothers and three of my best buddies made the trip over to NZ for the 2001 Bledisloe Cup. We were joined on our pilgrimage by our unfortunate Kiwi mates ‘Aussie’ Mal and Vic. The Aussies triumphed 23-15 and paraded the silverware in front of us after the match.

Our trip took in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and featured celebrities Jeff Thompson, David Boon, Mark Ella and Richard Hadlee’s niece.

If I had to pick one highlight, it would be Vic coming a cropper on the luge at Queenstown.

#2 – 1993 AFL Grand Final – Essendon v Carlton


Col, Barnes-man, Santa and I saw virtually every game of the 1993 season. The Bombers came from nowhere in 1992 to pinch a premiership with a team of talented kids in 1993.

We met at Col’s for an early morning BBQ, knocked back a few 10am beers to help settle the nerves, then headed into the ‘G for the match and a few more nerve-settling ales.

Longy was brilliant, so was Wanganeen. Pre-match singer of the national anthem, Maroochy Bamba, was not so great, but memorable nonetheless. The Bombers skipped away to an early 7 goal lead and managed to keep more or less that margin for the whole game. We had a few nervous beers as the game ebbed and flowed.

Highlights of the day: sledging a 10 year old Carlton supporter with blue hair on the train, and watching Silvagni claim ‘I touched it!’. For some reason it was a very early night for your correspondent…

#3 – 2003 Rugby World Cup – Semi Final and Final


Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of the 2003 World Cup.

First, the Wallabies beat the highly fancied All Blacks in the semi final thanks to a brilliant Mortlock intercept and length of the field try (and a not so brilliant Carlos Spencer cut-out pass). Wakes and I sat on opposite sides of the ground. We had promised not to sledge about the result during the game. Texting doesn’t count as sledging, does it?

Highlight: Gregan’s “Four more years boys. Four … more … years”

Then the agony. A packed Telstra Stadium in front of a heaving crowd. The English supporters were fantastic, before, during and after the game and created a fantastic atmosphere. The game itself was one of the all time classics, going down to extra time after the brave Wallabies refused to give in and kept clawing themselves back into the game.

Then, Wilkinson calmly stepped up and slotted the winning goal. Pandemonium in the crowd for the Poms and desolation for us Aussies.

Still, I’m sure everyone who was lucky enough to be there that night will think of the game as one of the great all-time experiences.

#4 – 22 July, 2002 – Chicago Cubs vs Philadelphia Phillies


The cubbies won an otherwise forgettable game 7-6.

The game is memorable not only for my first and only visit to the fabulous Wrigley Field, but more importantly for my feat in catching a foul ball, one grab, with my bare hands. I had been telling the guys who took me that I had a history of crowd catches, (ask Mark Greatbatch and Shane Woewodin) but it seemed unlikely a ball would come my way, sitting as we were some 70 yards from the batter on the foul ball side of first base.

Suddenly the batter got a piece of the action. The crowd roared, the ball soared, went foul, and would you believe it, landed smack bang in the middle of my hands. I was an instant celebrity, however this being the land of instant celebrities, I was soon forgotten by the crowd. Still, I got to keep the ball, which I have to this day.

#5 – 2007 Melbourne Storm NRL Grand Final and after party


The Melbourne Storm were the top team during the regular season in 2006 and 2007.

They dropped the Grand Final in 2006 but there was no way the boys were going to let it slip through their fingers in 2007.

Although outnumbered by the home town Manly fans, the Storm supporters turned out in force, and were rewarded with 80 minutes of uncompromising, passionate, brilliant rugby league. Coach Craig Bellamy’s philosophy is for each player to play his role to the best of his ability, and this is certainly what they delivered.

The celebrations after the game were memorable, the players taking an eternity to complete their lap of honour.

Hundreds of supporters crammed into the Novotel after-party – and party they did, especially when the players arrived with the premiership trophy later in the night.

#6 – Honourable mentions

I couldn’t work out my greatest cricket memory:

  • Lillee knocking over Viv Richards on the last ball of the day
  • Lillee and Thommo in full flight vs the old enemy 1974-75
  • Steve Waugh’s farewell Melbourne test
  • Steve Waugh double ton in Wellington
  • Surely something with Warney in it?
  • Garry Sobers 254 vs Australia
  • Centenary Test?

Or what about Makybe Diva’s third Melbourne Cup?

Or watching England play soccer at Wembley Stadium?

And countless Bomber memories…

Over to you guys, let me have your lists and share your favourite memories with the world.