Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

Alpine wilderness. Mount Wellington. April 2012.

A fantastic Q and A this this week submitted by Smudgeon. Some tricky ones this week, some have definitely got me thinking. As ever, I'm always looking for new questions, so please feel free to shoot me any that you might have laying about!

Hobart or Burnie?
Burnie is always where my heart and allegiance will lay, but there are a number of good reasons that I live in Hobart. That said, it is starting to give me the shits...

White, dark, or milk chocolate?
I’m not really a chocolate fan, but I’d go dark (80% plus) if forced.

Penguin or Wynyard?
I hold both in very high esteem, but have to give Wynyard the nod. I have fonder memories and it has a nicer river and more options for food. In addition, it is much further away from Ulverstone.

Marsupials or mammals?
Aren’t marsupials mammals? The patriotic part of me should really feel much more strongly about marsupials but, to be frank, they really are a bit naff. I mean, would it have hurt to have a few (feline) tigers or elephants wandering about the place? When the top of your food chain is eliminated by a mongrel dog, you do have to wonder.

Blur, Oasis, or Pulp?
I enjoyed all three to differing levels at the time (mid-1990s), and will admit that although Blur has grown in my esteem, I was then and always will be a Pulp kind of fellow.

Prague or Berlin?
A very hard call. For a short visit, Prague is hard to beat. I suspect that Berlin might well hold my interest for a bit longer. Both definite top 5 “places I’ve been to” though.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee. I only drink tea when I am sick. That said, I am not a coffee snob. I’m generally happy enough with an instant. I know that good coffee can be excellent, but it’s my opinion that it has become one of the most overrated fashions of the last twenty years and a coffee fascist is one of the most annoying individuals around.

Apple or Microsoft?
Microsoft. Apple is very much the ‘middle class’ of the computer world. I generally eschew anything so blatantly brand self-conscious. I got a great little HP laptop for Christmas that does everything the Mac I bought (as a gift) the Christmas before, except a) it looks a little less swish; b) the keyboard isn’t backlit; and c) the screen is a tad smaller. Whatever reliability issues might arise (and I’ve yet to have any), I know that it can be addressed quickly and cheaply. I know that the Mac will be worthless in three to four years. Guess which one cost seven hundred bucks and which one cost over two grand.

Is Tendulkar doing India more harm or good by playing on?
The answer really depends on your metric and information that I might not have. I suspect that his appearance generates significantly increased gate, TV and sponsorship revenue, so the Board wouldn’t like to lose him. I’ve no idea whether he is a good or bad influence on the younger blokes, but that would have to be factored in. Given that I’m only interested in Tests, I’d confine any comment on performance to that arena. A quick look at the data suggests a decline in returns since 2010, and a patchiness of yearly runs since 2003 compared to a relatively stable decade or so previous to that. It’s easy to say “he’s blocking a young guy” but if no-one wants to part with the cash to watch the young guy, I suspect the money men would be more concerned with that than they are with results.

On batting: ugly but effective, or graceful but inconsistent?
I always much more preferred Steve Waugh than Mark Waugh. I think that this answers the question.

Who do you believe is the most under-rated Australian domestic cricketer? Current and retired.
Current? I dunno. I think that Doherty’s performances of the past three or four years have been overlooked somewhat. Retired? It surprises me that how few people acknowledge just how good a player Damian Martyn was. Much better than Mark Waugh.

Pick XI current test cricketers who you don't like, with consideration given to team balance:
Off the top of my head: G. Smith, P. Hughes (does he count?), J. Trott, M. Jayawardene, K. Pieterson, B. Haddin, J.P. Duminy, C. Broad, M. Morkel, D. Steyn, R. Herath.

Explain one of your choices in the above XI.
There are a lot of white South Africans. Smith and Pieterson exemplify traits of that type I really don’t like very much.

Who should replace Haddin?
Right now it has to be Wade. I’d keep Paine in the mix though.

Is Michael Clarke's captaincy "all that"?
Time will tell. I think that stronger opponents will be the test.

Imagine it's 2030: what's the state of cricket?
Five over games. Batsmen get three ‘lives’. Bowlers wear blindfolds and must have an arm behind their back.

Which, out of Brave New World and 1984, has been most "prophetic"?
Orwell was closer to the mark in the pre-satellite age, but essentially his fear was of a state that seeks to shape and control information through iron rule. Huxley though envisaged a world in which there would be no reason to ban a book, as conditions would arise in which no one would be bothered to read one. Essentially we have a world of a captive culture versus that of a trivial culture. Brave New World is one in which ‘freedom’ is limited by distraction and people are constrained by their appetite for pleasure. In 1984, people are controlled (ultimately) by inflicting pain. Which sounds closer?

1984 is a fantastic book though, and its worldview was influenced by the destruction of the Second World War, the vicious Nazi occupation of much of Continental Europe and Orwell’s fear of an aggressive and repressive Soviet Union. His exploration of the control and use of history and language is extremely relevant, if the immediate threat of such a totalitarian regime is less so. Just because the World has changed, the analysis is not rendered worthless.

Most intriguing period of 20th century history:
Very tricky this. The indulgent answer would be the ‘short 20th Century’ from 1914 through to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is hard to isolate and separate specific events from the whole. If I HAVE to, I find it difficult to get my head around the who, what and (most importantly) why’s of the Eastern Front and everything that happened in the occupied territories during WWII, the destruction and the subsequent reconstruction, the immense reshaping of borders, peoples and languages and the net effects on the following period are all almost too overwhelming to properly comprehend.

Has The Simpsons lost its edge?
The last time that I watched it it had. Mind you, I can’t say that I’ve seen much since Season 11, and that was the year 2000!

Who is your least favourite historical figure?
I’ve chosen to reinterpret this a little. Rather than pick an obvious and nasty one like Hitler, I thought I’d go with one whose reputation frustrates and annoys me: Winston Churchill. While I certainly accept that he was an important source of strength and leadership in WWII, there is much to revile about the man. He was a sexist pig, a drunkard, integral to the wonderful idea of the Dardanelles Invasion (including Gallipoli), a silver-spooned reactionary who advocated the shooting of strikers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer that oversaw the decisions that led Britain into the Great Depression, a traitor to his political parties, a frightful racist who denounced Ghandi and used poison gas to supress colonials. A lot of that seems to be missed in the narrative that he was solely responsible for saving Britain and winning the war.

List your three favourite webcomics (active or inactive):
The keys ones that I've kept going back to for years now really are Married To The Sea, Pictures for Sad Children, and xkcd. I should also give a nod to get your war on, which really impressed me when it first appeared.

Name an author who people have recommended to you, but you just don't get:
David Foster Wallace is the big one at the moment, but there are a few. Obviously Don DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers can all write, but they leave me cold. Ayn Rand, on the other hand, her work is so ham-fisted and poorly-written that I struggle to believe that it is anything other than an elaborate joke. J.R. Tolkien just bores me to tears.

Whales: on, or off the menu? Why?
I have no problem with anyone eating anything, provided it is done sustainably. It strikes me as supremely arrogant to have erected some moral or ethical barrier around an animal that has long through human history been part of the food and resource chain. Protect the resource, of course, but to dictate to all others that it is now ‘off limits’ (in absolute confidence of one’s moral superiority) bewilders me.

If you had the means to eradicate one extant virus, disease, or syndrome, which would it be?
Can I answer ‘stupidity’? If not, I will hedge my bets and say ‘cancer’.

You've just found $23,500 in unmarked, non-consecutive notes in a neat bundle on your doorstep one morning: do you give the police a call, or pop it straight in your pocket?
If it is on the doorstep, I simply have to figure that there is some kind of scam or swindle going on. I’d call the police.

If you had the means to revive an animal recently extinct due to human activity, would you? If so, which?
The ‘recently’ tag rules out one of the many dinosaurs that I could offer the boys for Christmas. While I’d love to see thylacines out and about here in Tasmania, I can’t help but feel that they’d struggle with modern life. If 1627 isn’t too far back, I would be fascinated to have the Aurochs back.

I understand you used to teach political science students: do you miss this?
I do miss the teaching side of things, but will confess that the increasing trends of apathetic, egoistic (as distinct from egotistic) and superficially opinionated students was depressing. I love the Internet, but the overwhelming mass of facts, opinion and comment [i.e. knowledge] seems – for many people – to have a) disempowered truly independent critical thinking and personal reflection; and b) narrowed rather than widened the scope of dissenting opinion that individuals encounter.

That is, in the vast multitudes online, it’s easy to surround yourself with people who think like you, believe the things that you believe, listen to the music you listen to, read the books (blogs) you read etc etc. In some ways it must a be a good thing for people, but there is something to be said for being the only 15-year-old Burnie boy at Parklands High who is a mad keen Byrds fan and discovered Hemingway, Heller and Morrissey and trying to get your head around what happened to the Soviet Union and why those Yugoslavs are suddenly killing each other [to a large extent] independently from the rest of the world. I don’t know what might have become of me if the answers to the millions of questions that were emerging could (ostensibly) be found in twenty seconds. My reflections upon the experience of teaching at University from 2000 to 2008 does not fill me with hope.

Favourite building at St John's Park:
Hmmmmm. This is a hard one. I’d have to plump for the King's Orphan School building.

You've got all your pieces of pie, and you're in the middle of the Trivial Pursuit board, playing for the win: which topic are you hoping you aren't asked?
God’s honest truth, I’ve never once lost a game of Trivial Pursuit. It got so bad that everyone ended up refusing to play me. Very upsetting. If everything rode on the last question, I’d want most to steer clear of ‘Science and Nature’.

Least favourite 20th century communist state:
It is very hard to go past the regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. You know things must be bad when other totalitarian Communist states invade you because of your treatment of your people.

Weapon of choice: pencil, biro, or keyboard?
It depends on the battle. I always try to have a pencil with me at all time, so for versatility alone it has served me well.

I enjoyed that, and have accepted the challenge of penning some questions in return. I'd say it's almost trickier than answering them!


Carola said...

Your questions and answers are fantastic. Where do you get the time from to answer all this? At home or at work.
I've not been to Prague, but I lived two years in Berlin. B. is realy a place to visit!

Kris said...

Hi Carola, most of the time I get these Q and As a week or two in advance, so I usually just do them in stolen moments, at work and home. I store the draft in a draft gmail letter, so can access it pretty much anywhere.

I loved Berlin. I enjoyed it much more than Paris (the French will love to hear that).

smudgeon said...

i agree, Berlin is a fantastic city. sorry Paris, you've been outvoted.

excellent responses Kris. sounds like i managed to get a few good ones in there.

and i definitely agree about Damien Martyn. don't remember him ever getting out to a lazy shot, unlike one M. Waugh. also have to agree about Brave New World - as terrifying as the world of 1984 is, you can't help but feel that distraction has been far more effective than fear...