Friday, October 28, 2016

Aren't Bowlers Chosen to Take Wickets?

I have a lot of respect for what Rod Marsh did as a player for Australia, and as a coach of the Academy in its formative years.

But seriously...

Jackson Bird was taken to New Zealand as a back-up seamer earlier this year. Because of injuries, he got the call up, and he took a five wicket innings in the final Test. He then was taken to Sri Lanka, where he did not get a game on the spin friendly wickets.
In the Shield match currently taking place, he took 3/75 off 30 overs and 3/59 off 14 overs against Victoria. He is a specialist bowler who bats down the order, so his runs are not valid.

Well, apparently now they are. Because the reason that Rod Marsh has given Jackson Bird for his omission from the Test squad in favour of the uncapped Joe Mennie is because his batting is better than Bird's, and the bottom order has to contribute runs as well as take wickets.

This is the biggest and most vile heap of bullshit I have ever heard in regards to picking a player for any team ever.
How many of the top six are contributing wickets to the bowlers cause in the Test team? Answer - none.
Moreso than this, how many RUNS are Mitch Marsh and Peter Nevill contributing to the cause at the moment? Answer - none.

The bowlers job is to take wickets. The batsmen's job is to score runs. Should the bowlers get some runs, that's a bonus, just like it is when a batsman jags a wicket or two.

This is a gutless call from the Chairman of Selectors, and by insinuation the other selectors as well. Believe me, I have a lot of time for Joe Mennie, and do think he is going to be a valuable contributor to Australian cricket in the next few years. But is there any genuine effort to reward recent performance in cricket anymore, or are our selectors just picking favourites. Bird has done everything that can be asked of him since his recall to the Test side, and he has been cast aside with a piss poor excuse that wouldn't wash in an Under 11's representative team. Meanwhile, an under-performing so-called "all-rounder" who truly cannot make the team in either capacity is still one of the first selected. And no, it isn't Shane Watson, but it is now the exact same thing that we lived through for all those years. And while I support Nevill as our keeper, under the ground rules laid down here by Marsh to Bird, then surely Matthew Wade should be being picked as our keeper because of the runs he has scored in comparison.

No matter what the result of the 1st Test is, and no matter how well or not the individuals perform, this selection and the reason given for it has again changed the landscape of selecting the national team, and in the worst way possible. If I was Jackson Bird I'd be suing for unfair dismissal.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Stephen King Book #5: Night Shift (Collected Short Stories). 4/5

In reviewing the collection of short stories entitled Night Shift, it is important to note that as with most collections, there will be three levels of stories contained within – the ordinary, the average and the brilliant. That goes with the territory of such a conglomerate of stories, and categorising them in those three levels will make it easier to know whether you need to return to them in the future. Fortunately for all, there are far more in the higher categories than the lower here.

(Ratings out of 5 are in brackets after the story title)

JERUSALEM’S LOT (2) is probably not the starting point I was looking for. Having enjoyed “‘Salem’s Lot” so much, this ‘prequel’ short story, written as being comprised of letters written back in the 1850’s, doesn’t do it for me. Rather than enhancing the book that had already been written, to me it detracts from the set up that was given in that story. On re-reading it again my opinion hasn’t changed. Vice versa, GRAVEYARD SHIFT (4) tickles my fancy, because no one likes rats, and thought of not only a massive infestation of rats, but a plague of rats that had evolved into other things even more shuddering is something that really gets you squirming. Terrifically ridiculous. NIGHT SURF (3) has obvious story line relations to The Stand, which was released six months after this collection in 1978, but the story itself was published back in 1969 so its history in regards to that epic post-apocalyptic novel has some interest, though in the long run it isn’t a hugely interesting piece.

I AM THE DOORWAY (4) is a thought provoking piece about the possibility of alien life forms using our own bodies as vehicle to not only spy on us but to perform deeds through us. I love the way the protagonist Arthur describes how the eyes feel as they try to reach out through his clothing shields, and how he himself looks to them through their/his eyes. A terrific short. THE MANGLER (4) is a typical kind of King short story, taking an inanimate object and allowing it to run riot of its own accord killing as it sees fit. The typically ambiguous ending allows you to fill in the pieces for yourself as well. Even more so with THE BOOGEYMAN (3) where everyone’s night fears are brought to vivid life in this short tale. It’s a beauty, with nothing left to the imagination by King in its telling.

GREY MATTER (5) is one of those perfect, creepy tales that King does so well, telling the tale through the mouths and ideas of a group of the ‘table of knowledge’ of a man who drank a bad beer, and appears to be morphing into something not human. The ending is perfect Stephen King, again leaving you the chance to fill in the blanks. BATTLEGROUND (4) is another of those excellent bad-guy-gets-his-comeuppance stories, where a set of armed forces miniature toys takes on a professional hitman in a battle to its well written conclusion. This is followed by TRUCKS (4), another one-scene story of machine vs. man where the believability of the scenario is told in such a matter-of-fact way that it is completely believable. These three stories in the heart of the collection are all excellent tales that hold your interest throughout.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK (3) is a morbid story that, for me, doesn’t quite come up to the standard of the earlier stories. The idea is sound, of those who killed the lead characters brother returning from the dead to commit more mayhem, but in the end it doesn’t fit together well enough to be completely enjoyable. STRAWBERRY SPRING (5) is much better, telling the tale from first person perspective of “Springheel Jack” who got away with several murders while under mist and fog. King keeps this story fresh and alive without giving away the culprit until the end. THE LEDGE (5) is one of the best stories here, combining some obvious conclusions along with surprises and twists that make the story riveting until the very end.

THE LAWNMOWER MAN (2) is one of those King pieces that is so far offbeat that you will either love it or loathe it. To be honest it has never done very much for me, but it is enjoyable enough if you take it in the right frame of mind. QUITTERS, INC. (5) is one of the best thought-out stories here, and makes all the sense in the world if you have been a smoker. A real thought provoking story as to what YOU would do in the scenario put forward. I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED (3) is an interesting enough tale but without a really likeable character to grab your interest in deep enough.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (3) has sprouted a number of films and utilises the oft-used theory of a society killing off adults when they reach a certain age, and also the Stephen King classic of getting lost by taking back roads, and regretting it fully once they get to said destination. THE LAST RUNG ON THE LADDER (3) is a sad tale told in reverse, one that isn’t in the horror genre that King normally writes in, but shows he can delve into other genres of writing. THE MAN WHO LOVED FLOWERS (3) is a more typical King short story in that the protagonist appears like a normal person to all those around him, but in reality has his dark secret that drives his actions.

ONE FOR THE ROAD (4) is a much better story connected with “’Salem’s Lot” that the opening tale of this collection, as it occurs just a couple of years after the events described in that novel. It is nice to catch up with those events again down the track, and that the vampires are still active despite the blaze. The book concludes with THE WOMAN IN THE ROOM (3).

I love Stephen King’s novels of all lengths, and I also do enjoy his collected works of short stories. Not all of them are great, something he admits himself often, but as a short burst to read before going to sleep at night they are enjoyable. And sometimes sleep depriving.

Rating: Overall a terrific read, of the great and the average. 4/5

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"But the Legend Never Dies....."

What a night last night. After rising before 5.30am for work until 3.00pm, I then drove to Sydney to firstly watched "Motley Crue: The End" at George Street cinemas, before crossing the road to The Metro Theatre to finally see Symphony X live, in all their glory.

Their support, Melbourne's Black Majesty, were great. Very accomplished. Worth checking out.

Words fail me in describing how good Symphony X are. Their musicianship is amazing, band leader, composer and guitarist Michael Romeo is a freak, just ridiculously awesome. In a live setting, he just nails everything, and is almost impossible to take your eyes off. I expected him to be great - I was awestruck instead. And that's to take nothing away from the other guys - Michael Pinnella's duelling keyboards, Michael LePond's rumbling bass guitar and the brilliant Jason Rullo on drums are just superb, and the fact that they have been together for over 20 years is testament to their combined ability.
And then there is Russell Allen - by god the man can sing. I already knew that, but when he nails every single note live the way he does in the studio, then you cannot be anything but amazed at his prowess. High, low, soft, hard, heavy - it doesn't matter. And a great frontman, engaging the audience, having his spiels, and generally having a great time. Brilliant.

It was the last show of their Underworld World Tour. They played the entire Underworld album, and it sounded amazing. Russell told us the back story, and the band played it brilliantly. When, after playing "Run With the Devil", Russell began telling us how 'bad' the devil was, a guy standing dead in front of me yelled "The devil sucks!" Russell paused, and said, "Yes. You're right. And the fact that you said that while wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt makes it a thousand times cooler!" He then gave us the "Ah ah ahhhhhhhhAAAA!" from Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", which caused much cheering, and demands to play the song. The band looked at each other, shrugged, and then off the cuff played it in its entirety - yes, Russell nailed every one of Robert Plant's screams. Awesome! And then at the end, when they asked if we wanted one more song, the crowd in unison called for "The Odyssey", the 23 minute monster from the album of the same name. Though they begged off doing it, Russell promised that they would return to Sydney, and play it on the next tour. We'll see, but that would be superb.

Highlights from the night for me were "Nevermore", "Without You", "In My Darkest Hour", "Run With the Devil", and the superb trilogy of "The Serpent's Kiss" and "Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)" from Paradise Lost, and the closing track from Underworld, "Legend". Before playing this song, Russell commented on how the fans of the heavy metal genre are all one family ("heavy metal is just a slice of the slice of the slice of the pie of word music"), and that it didn't matter what genre of heavy metal you loved, we are all a family (echoing the words of Bruce Dickinson at the Maiden gig this year). He then raised the metal salute, the metal flag, and said how this had been given to us by the great Ronnie James Dio, who should never be forgotten, as it was his music and his aura that bind us all together - thus leading into "Legend". Great stuff.

Living off three and a half hours sleep today at work, but it is totally worth it. One of the best gigs I've seen. I can only hope it isn't the last time they tour Australia.