2018: Not Such a Good Year (Sport, the Arts)

Sport The third World Nomad Games in the Kyrgyz Republic were a great success. 

In other news, Westcoast Eagles smashed Collingwood’s hopes of their 16th trophy (on their second attempt since their last trophy in 2010), so that they were not taken to the equal top of the all-time ladder with Essendon and Carlton. It was a nail biter with 4 points the difference at the final siren. 

Apparently the Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast, though I have no memory of any such event.  Having researched them, I now know that a Georgia Lear showed her rear to the Prime Minister and Prince Phillip during the Opening Ceremony, explaining that she was aware that she had developed ‘a bit of a wedgie‘ during her dance routine, but not the extent of it. Only a day or so later, she said she had put the whole thing behind her. Official records suggest the Winter Olympics also occurred in Pyonchang.  Who knew?

Australia regained the Ashes at the start of the year, and at the end of the year, the Boxing Day test provided two days of the most excruciatingly boring cricket I have ever seen (nothing at all happened), followed by a day on which, India having declared for 443, Australia lost 7 wickets for 62 runs, bowled out for 151. 

Chennai Superkings made a fairytale return after a two year match fixing ban to win the Indian Premier League Big Bash competition. 

France won the World Cup in Russia, beating Croatia, 4-2, Tim Cahill wearing the gold and green for the last time.  Australia did well, but not well enough to win a game. 

A Welshman won the Tour de France, a Dutchman placed second, and an Englishman third.

But the big news was that wearers of the baggy green cheated by sandpapering a ball to make it swing, and then conducted a public relations disaster of a humiliating cascade of lies which foreshadowed that orchestrated by the King of Saudi Arabia. One was about a test match in South Africa, and involved growing men crying, and the other was about flying a kill squad into a foreign state to execute a dissident. But each was, to an Aussie cricket fan, approximately equally excruciating. Then Prime Minister Turnbull rang the then cricket people to tell them that it was just not cricket, and ‘Off with their heads!’ Consequently, Steve Smith was banned for 12 months and excluded from leadership positions for another 12, David Warner was banned from playing for 12 months, and Cameron Bancroft, who actually did it, was banned for only 9 months and returned to cricket at the end of the year. The ban cost Smith (who knew of the plan and did not step in to prevent it) and Warner (who devised it and schooled Bancroft in its technicalities) IPL fees of $2.4 million each.

So not only did we get a new Victorian Opposition Leader, and a new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but we got a new captain of Australia, Tim Paine. And heads rolled at Cricket Australia too: Mark Taylor quit as Director; Chair David Peever was forced out; CEO James Sutherland, who has been somewhere near the helm since I was a boy, stepped down. Darren Lehmann finished up as the team coach.

Arts Someone paid more than $125 million for a David Hockney painting of an upper class swimming pool, a record price for a painting by a living artist, and surely they now feel very silly.  Hockney sold the painting for £18,000.

On TV, I enjoyed ‘Killing Eve’, ‘Das Boot’, ‘Wild Wild Country’, ‘Godless’, series 2 of ‘Fauda’ and ‘the Crown’, ‘the Night Manager’, ‘Collateral’, ‘Bodyguard’, and the excellent Australian drama ‘Mystery Road’.  Series 2 of ‘Making a Murderer’ was a disappointment, no spoilers here though.  Netflix released its first Indian drama, Sacred Games (and it also filmed an action movie in, and set in, India, given which its name Dhaka is odd).  ABC Radio National’s Matt Bevan’s podcast ‘Russia, If You’re Listening’ was amazing in its ability to go deep into the drama of America and Russia and Presidents Trump and Putin in a way accessible to the ordinary Joe Bloe.

Behrooz Boochani published an extraordinary book, No Friend But the Mountains; Writings from Manus Prison.  It was Readings’s 20th best selling book of the year.  (The best seller was, deservedly, Yottam Ottolenghi’s Simple.  It’s a great book, but one of his definitions of ‘simple’ is ‘fewer than 10 ingredients’, most of which are barberries and orange blossom water.)  Boochani is a Kurdish journalist and philosopher who fled Iraq for Australia before Prime Minister Rudd announced that no one who arrived in Australia en bateau would ever be allowed to have any fun or come to Australia (or anywhere else vaguely suitable for the resettlement of Middle Eastern refugees).  He got to Christmas Island after the first boat he boarded sank and he very nearly drowned, like many of his fellow passengers.  He has been illegally imprisoned ever since in a concentration camp on Nauru.  He says emphatically that it’s torture.  He is not necessarily speaking as an international lawyer, but his book vividly evokes the ‘twisted and extremely complex system of rules and regulations [that] entangles the refugees – an absurd labyrinth that functions as its own cruel form of incarceration. Imprisoned refugees are absorbed into a highly mechanised system – the all-powerful kyriarchal system – and they begin to experience the deterioration of their human identities.’

It is fierce, free-thinking, literary, wringing the fantastic out of mundanity, like no other book you have ever read.  He casts his critical gaze equally on his fellow refugees, the smugglers, the New Guineans, and the Australians.  For some reason, rather than calling to mind other practitioners of prison literature (Boochani wrote the lengthy book in instalments of Whatsapp messages from a mobile phone kept in credit by Australian supporters), I kept on being reminded of the Italian literary author Italo Calvino, only partly because of the Marcovaldoesque passages about the solace of residual nature.

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