Friday, December 30, 2011


So a couple weeks ago I was at the pub with some friends who started telling me everything I never wanted to know about cricket, but I pretended I needed great ammunition for my blog partially so as not to hurt their feelings and partially because it was clear there wasn't going to be a conversation about anything besides cricket anyway so I might as well get something out of it.

If you don't like this blog post, it's all their faults.

If you do like it, it's clearly because the writing covers over a multitude of (drat!  you can't make "boredom" into a countable noun like this reference requires) boredomnesses.

But again, if you don't, it's not my fault.

Anyway, I have this vague feeling I was coerced into promising the title of this post would be "The Don," but since I don't really do capitalization in my blog post titles that would throw off the rhythm of the blog something dreadful and I get the impression the capitalization was pretty important to them.  And also I don't like to be coerced into promising things about my blog, so ha!  Uncreative title it is, too!

The reason I'm supposed to call this post "The Don" is because Don Bradman is, quote, the best batsman of all time, end quote.  (These boys have a real way with words, let me tell you.)  What's more, Don Bradman (I refuse to use the definite article with anyone other than "the Queen" or "the President") had a batting average of 99.94, which was I supremely impressed to discover was that much better than Ivory soap (99.44% pure) until they explained that, technically, it was possible to get higher than 100, at which point they lost me entirely, because I'd been assuminactg he really was that good and it was more or less like an American batting average but it turns out that isn't right at all and, well, you'll have to find your own cricket expert to explain to you why not.

The other thing that's super great about Don Bradman is that after he made his last shot (is that what they call it?) he missed, which was the shot that lost him that really cool mark of being over 100, and so it was, naturally, a very, very, very bad moment at the time and everyone was completely devastated as he walked off the field until they decided that actually it was a great thing because if he'd gotten over a 100, no one would have remembered the exact number, but now everyone remembers 99.94 and it's like, practically Australia's lucky number.  And no one would ever have known what Australia's lucky number was if Don Bradman had actually made that final shot.

And before my informants get all up in arms that I've left out this salient detail:  Don Bradman was a real sportsman in the sportsmanlike sense of the word.  Even when he knew he'd just lost that precious 100 mark, he did not throw a dirty, rotten tantrum on the field, but simply turned and walked off.  (This is the part where you're supposed to get goosebumps.  Please try to, for their sakes if not mine.)

As  a counter to this incredible story that rendered Don Bradman the greatest sportsman in Australian sport history (just realized!  Australians use "sport" quite a lot more where Americans would use "athletics" ... or "sportS" at least) even among -- and this is an impressive feat, I am vociferously informed -- those who do not consider cricket their favorite sport but prefer, say, rugby (obviously here I mean rugby union and not rugby league).  Everyone thinks of Don Bradman as the greatest -- to the extent that, if I'm re-reading my notes correctly, Australians know where they were the day Don Bradman died, much as Americans recall where they were during the JFK assassination or 9/11.  I'm kind of hoping I'm misinterpreting my notes, but Australians really haven't got so many world famous politicians (hate to break it so cavalierly, but it really is true -- Bill Bryson kindly offering to attempt to keep tabs on who the Australian Prime Minister is because, as he puts it, he figures at least one person outside the country should know) so it possibly is correct.

Anyway, I was about to offer the counter story to Don Bradman's great depiction of what "cricket" truly is, in both senses of the common phrase.  The story of the guy who wasn't goes like this:  it was akin to a game roughly along the lines of the bottom of the 9th of the 7th game of the World Series (it was a Test, which is a 5 day long game, at least if it is a "Test Series 5"), though there was some disagreement as to exactly how major of a Test it was, but regardless, suffice it to say it was a very tense moment.  Australia was playing New Zealand.  They are arch-rivals, which again proves my rule that the archest of rivalries generally develop between teams/nations/school districts/universities that are most similar (Calvin, I love you, but in the big scheme of things, you're not all that different from (gasp! am I even saying this?!) ... that other school in West Michigan ... Though of course a million times better!).

So it was more of less the bottom of the 9th with 2 strikes already (surely all sports are like baseball, much in the same way as all unusual meat tastes like chicken, right?) and Australia was winning but New Zealand was up to bat and needed only one run to win when Trevor Chappell, who was pitching for Australia, had a brief powwow with his brother, who was also on the team, and then did the utterly unthinkable:  he bowled the ball underhanded so that it rolled along the ground instead of soaring through the sky as it was meant to.

Perhaps you have already obtained goosebumps again (of the bad variety, of course) of your own accord here, but it took me awhile to work out what exactly had happened and why exactly it was a bad thing.  The boys explained this laboriously to me and I might be able to remember a few pieces of it for you.  Basically, it is just Not Done to bowl underhand.  It is not even a remote option.  It's like throwing the bowling ball instead of rolling it, except completely the opposite.  It was so obviously not how you're supposed to do it that they hadn't even written a rule to specify it, but had to after Trevor Chappell did, much like Americans took out that whole unlimited reelection policy after FDR proved you could keep getting elected till you died, because, really, it just. wasn't. cricket.  Kind of like they don't write a rule that says your pet parrot isn't allowed to come along and stuff your golf ball down his beak and regurgitate it in the hole to give you a hole in one.  It's just obvious that isn't supposed to happen, even notwithstanding the fact you're not legally supposed to be keeping a pet parrot.

Or something like that.  I never claimed to have all the finer details of it, but basically what Trevor did was Really Bad and Highly Embarrassing and Very, Very, Very Not Cricket, but not technically against the rules.  And so Australia won the game, but a bitter, bitter win it was.

The boys themselves looked sheepish as they told me, almost as if they'd been the ones to do this very, very not cricket thing, but then speedily drew my attention back to Don Bradman and how very, very wonderful and very, very cricket he was and that, really, he was the one I should be blogging about and not that Other Incident.

Aside from those two stories, they told me lots of other stuff about cricket, too, but neither had any concept of starting at the beginning and explaining all the rules to me in any semblance of order, and I don't think they realized how very, very little I actually knew about the sport.  Basically, I think if you look at it as a sort of 5-day baseball game played in white outfits you have the general idea, but if it's details you're after, here are the ones they gave me.  In the order I got them.  And they wonder why I'm still confused about cricket:

--There are three ways to get out in cricket:  you can be caught, bowled or stumped.  Actually, you can also be run out, which is very similar to but different from being stumped and I know just the guy who'd love to explain that difference to you because he knows it and is very clear on the difference but possibly not so clear that I took legible notes on it.  And also LBW means "leg before wicket" (no one bothered to tell me what a wicket was, so I can't tell you either) and it is bad, too.  I'm thinking it sounds vaguely like being offsides in football, but seeing as I know roughly as much about football as I do about cricket, I could be wrong on either account.


--Protect the stumps

--Score runs!


--Duck = bad

--Golden duck = 1st ball = out

--Ritchie Benno wore cream jackets and used to play cricket but is more famous for being a commentator

--wickets (they seem to have come up again; still undefined)

--King pear = 2 golden ducks

--Peter Roebuck

--balls - on top of stumps

--Don Bradman was from Adelaide and then moved to New South Wales.  He lived in the 1940s or 50s ish.

--a test goes for five days and each side gets 2 innings (so that's different from baseball, the way the innings work, but they still call them innings which is slightly but not overly confusing) -- in an inning, everyone must get out OR they must declare (maybe you could google this verb if you don't understand it) and it's a draw if they don't finish 2 innings.  I learned a bit more about innings, but it's getting late and I can't quite remember it all.

--The Boxing Day Test Match is huge.

--The Flying Burrito Brothers -- Bali.  That might have had to do with something else.

--Shane Warne:  best spin bowler.  Oh, yes.  I was supposed to dedicate a paragraph to him, too, because he is very talented.  He is the only guy to be the best player of the century while still playing, if that makes sense to you.  He bowled the ball of the century to the captain of England, whose name is Mike.  It was the first ball in the Ashes, which I have vague recollections of blogging about before.  It is the test match between England and Australia and a slightly sore subject in recent years, but not historically.  Basically, Shane Warne bowled a ball that went behind the batter's legs, which is just gravitationally very amazing.  I don't claim to be up on my physics, either, but it was a monstrously impressive feat of physics, though you'd have to see it on youtube to really get it.  So would I.

--Stumping -- bowler bowls and the batsman runs out and I'm in front of line and wicket keeper grabs it and hits stump because batter missed.

--Run out -- hit ball -- run -- partner runs -- fielder -- throws and hits stumps or to someone. 

Ah yes, this is the difference between stumping and running out.  As I said, I know a guy who can explain it.  At length.  Stopping him will really be more your difficulty.  Good luck.  Break a leg.  Whatever works.  Hopefully it won't take as long as a test series, but don't hold your breath.  Oh, and laugh at his jokes.  It takes effort, but it makes him happy.  Possibly so happy he'll change the subject.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

quicko: index cardsI

After years and years of looking, I have finally found index cards in Australia!!  They can be purchased for $5.50 a pack from Humphrey's Newsagency on the Manly Corso.  It's about time!

As a side note that might possibly be more important than the actual note, I've been meaning to blog about newsagencies.  They are omnipresent in Australia and just considered very, very normal stores -- along the lines of importance of a post office.  I don't think we really have an equivalent.  Basically they're like convenience stores and offer, say, candy but mainly stock magazines, newspapers, a smattering of cards, bus tickets, gum and various pieces of stationery.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

quicko: boxing day

So it's a bit past Boxing Day now and it's quite possible I mentioned this last year, too, but I haven't got another fascinating tidbit besides extensive notes on cricket I haven't got the wherewithal to make witty tonight.  Anyway, the deal with Boxing Day is that it's actually a holiday here -- you know, something more than that funny little bit of writing that always appears on calendars on December 26th that no one ever knows anything about and kind of suspects is British if anything besides an odd typo someone added years ago and no one's worked out how to remove from the universal calendar template.  But in Australia it's actually a day off work -- much along the lines of Black Friday* after Thanksgiving -- a general "we know no one's actually up for doing anything the day after a major holiday so let's just all call it quits and not even bother" sort of holiday.  It's fantastic, except that Coles was closed when I realized my milk had gone sour over the two (two!) days I'd left it home alone (and it didn't even expire until the 30th!  and there was plenty left!  I'm convinced milk goes off here faster than it does at home, but I still haven't worked out why).

The other thing about Boxing Day is that it's the start of the famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which is kind of cool.  I got to watch with binoculars from the roof of my friend's apartment building -- see photos under the actual day, though the zoom on the camera doesn't really work, alas.

Anyway, happy belated Boxing Day!

*I meant to blog about that, too -- so many Australians were asking me about Black Friday this year.  It seems that no one had really thought about it much before, but this year the message leaked out to Australia that Americans do something crazy like shop or something on a certain Friday, but why do they call it Black?  Its relation to Thanksgiving is tenuous in the Australian mind at best, but they are very curious about it.  For anyone uniformed reading, it's basically the day after Thanksgiving when the whole country has off work and there are huge, huge, huge sales and it's a complete zoo to do any shopping, but that doesn't really stop half the country from trying.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

photos: christmas eve

Okay, technically these were on Christmas morning, but it was really still Christmas Eve after the "candlelight" (i.e., glowstick) service.

Merry Christmas!!!

I promise I'll catch up soon ... ish ... :)  In the meantime, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

quicko: christmas plants

Trees:  much, much smaller here.  Not nearly as big a deal.  Virtually all fake.

Poinsettias:  sold.  You can find them and a handful of people seem to realize they're Christmas-y, but they're not exceptionally prevalent.

Pomegranates:  haven't seen any.  Not sure if you can get them or not.

Holly:  haven't seen any.

Wreaths:  haven't seen any.

Mistletoe:  haven't seen any.  Assume people would know what to do with it, if possibly only from the movies.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

quicko: christmas traditions

Although Christmas is huge in Australia, it doesn't have the same extent of Christmas tradition -- or spirit, if you will -- of a northern hemisphere Christmas.  It's a very different vibe really.  The following are traditions that are major in America -- and not unheard of in Australia, possibly even done, but just not to the same extent, from what I can tell:

--Christmas trees (esp. real ones)
--decorations (inside and outside the house and inside the church)
--Christmas music (ex., Feliz Navidad isn't so big here as in America, go figure)
--Christmas cookies
--gingerbread houses
--Christmas cards
--Christmas pageants

Thankfully, though, the actual meaning of the holiday -- Jesus' birth -- is definitely celebrated, at least among Christians.  In some ways, you could argue that there's more emphasis on His birth without all the additional fuss and trimmings -- and then you could argue on the other side that by making Christmas such a complete and full holiday it adds weight to the significance of His birth in beginning it all.  I go back and forth.  I miss the fullness of the Christmas season, but appreciate a more direct focus on Jesus.

And besides:  my bus was completely decked out for Christmas today.  How joyful was that!?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

quicko: between a card and a hard place

I was looking for Christmas cards yesterday and, though I admit to only really scanning two stores, I was distraught to find next to no cards with any sort of Jesus-Mary-Joseph type sentiment behind them.  Half couldn't even mention "Christmas."  Of the three? cards with genuineness about them, two featured the wise men only.  Now the wise men are lovely and part of the story and all -- but surely they're not exactly the highlight!  I found one card with a general nativity scene (that thankfully managed to be pretty and sparkly, too!) ... tough times for Christmas in Australia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

quicko: it's begininning to feel a lot like christmas!

It's funny these days -- it's been relatively gloomy and overcast, and Sydneysiders are, once again, beside themselves.

"Oh, this horrible weather!" they cry.  "This is not SUMMER!"

(They are so distressed, in fact, they cannot determine which word requires the most emphasis, which leads it all to come out as a rather mangled moan of despair quite in keeping with their general attitude.)

They claim that it's never felt less like Christmas in their lives because Christmas, everyone knows, is supposed to be sunny!  And hot!  And bright!  And beach-y!

Everyone is supposed to be scorching hot and sweltering in the sun barely able to move enough to re-apply the sunscreen for it to be summer.

It has been raining a bit lately, which is patently not (or is not?) Christmas weather.

I, on the other hand, have been delighted.  I've been feeling a bit on the homesick side, and there's nothing like a cloudy sky to make me think snow flurries and sleighs and jingle bells and -- gosh, I find myself thinking of Christmas, how jolly!

Shh, don't tell the Australians!

Monday, December 19, 2011

quicko: off-brand

Not known in Australia!  I spent ages trying to ask the man at Coles (who wasn't exactly fluent at the best of times) if they had any off-brand Tobasco sauce.  He didn't have a clue what I was after, and was convinced he'd solved everything by showing me the Tobasco sauce.

Eventually I worked out that "home brand" is the Australian term, though "Coles brand" will suffice if you're in Coles.

ps -- there is no off-brand Tobasco sauce.

photos: carols under the bridge!

Joy to the world -- the Lord is come!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

public service announcement: LAST CALL FOR CAROLS!!!

Carols Under the Bridge is TODAY!!!  It's a great event under the Sydney Harbour Bridge where everyone can come to sing Christmas carols and celebrate Jesus' birth at Christmas.  Festivities kick off about 5, with the carols about 7:30.

Hope to see you there!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

quicko: bauble

Now this one took me by surprise to see written out -- I guess I'd assumed it was "bubble" or something.  It's the ornaments that are clear and spherical on Christmas trees.  I'd just call them ornaments.  What about you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

review: ides of march

(possible spoiler alert ...)

So I'd been hearing a lot about this movie -- for the first time in my life, firstly from my Mom.  The fact that Mom knew about a movie, who the actor in it was (even if she never had heard of George Clooney before, she managed to impart his name to me, which is really saying something) and told me about it before I'd heard of it was really rather staggering, much as if the world had shifted its 23 or whatever degree tilt to the other direction and the Tower of Pisa was no longer leaning.

She'd written to inform me that Cincinnati was very excited about the upcoming movie because this famous actor was from Cincinnati and many of the scenes were shot there, which promptly sent me to Wikipedia to verify that George Clooney had ever actually lived in Cincinnati, which I was amazed to discover was true.  Rumor had it there really were scenes shot there, and I began to get rather excited about the whole prospect of my home town being on screen.

A few people I knew had been to see it and I eagerly asked each if they'd seen Cincinnati in it, and I got a rather muddy, well, um, it was a good movie sort of answer from most of them, which only made me more curious as I hastily tried to describe Fountain Square or Union Terminal.

As it turns out, neither Fountain Square nor Union Terminal is in the movie, though I can attest that it was in Cincinnati.  I was so intrigued I made a list of Cincinnati references throughout the movie:

--the Ohio flag is often on display (it is, incidentally, the only American state flag that is not rectangular)
--clippings from both the Dayton Daily News (which I once had an article published in) and the Cincinnati Enquirer (which I have not)
--9th and Vine
--television channels shown are 5, 9 and 12, which is exactly right
--Miami college gear on people in audiences
--they drove instead of taking taxis for the most part -- I've never known anyone to take a taxi in Cincinnati
--Bearcats references
--"the other side of the river" references (i.e., the Ohio River divides Kentucky from Ohio)
--much to my embarrassment, a painted "who dey" sign (I think if I were Australian, I'd deem it excessively bogan)
--a background flag that said Cincinnati
--for that matter, they consistently spelled Cincinnati correctly, which is something only people actually from there can be depended on to do consistently
--Lunken Airport -- but really!  That is not the Cincinnati airport!  Don't worry -- if you come to visit, there is a much bigger, better, nicer airport.  Really!
--a reference to Proctor and Gamble (which has its headquarters in Cincinnati)
--Sibcy Cline relators
--513 area code (which, as I scribbled out, caused me a very odd possible aha moment ... did 5/3 bank name itself such because it was spoofing the area code and just tilted the one to the side to make it a slash??  It's the most logical explanation I've ever come up with for its name in any case.)
--the skywalk! About 5th Street
--Cincinnati Bell
--the license plates were clearly Ohioan
--presumably the Oakley Clinic and the Country Oven were real places, but I'm not actually familiar with either
--shots of the city skyline (not Skyline)

As for the movie itself, I actually liked it -- especially the ending.  I was slightly preoccupied finding as many references as I could (could you guess?), but the story itself was well told.  I thought the title itself was a bit of a spoiler, until I realized that it's only a spoiler if you know the reference.  If you don't, well, the ending might be a bit surprising.

I found the story really realistic in many ways -- rather stretched in others, of course, being a movie -- and it had a good bit of discussion material in it to talk through afterwards.  It does an excellent job of presenting ethical issues, but doesn't exactly solve them.  Which makes it a bit frustrating and a bit of a good movie, I think. 

photos: english teachers have the most fun at parties