Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Uncut: pyschological models


It’s an inconvenient truth, but we’re all different.

When I’m not writing this column, I work with a number of psychological models, all of them based on the work of a Swiss bloke called Carl Gustav Jung.

Jung, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, was for many years a great mate of Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and father of psychotherapy.

They had a helluva time in the beginning, lots of hi-teas and late night conversations, but then Jung went and wrote a couple of books Freud didn’t appreciate, or understand, or the pages were stuck together. I can’t remember.

Jung also made up his own mind about a couple of things Freud was very keen on and one day blurted out: “Oedipus, smedipus, give it a break, Siggy.”

Or something like that. Or nothing like that but whatever it was it was the end of their relationship.

All these models I work with are based on Jung’s book, Personality Types, first published in German in 1921.

When I’m not hard at it thumping words into keyboards, that’s what I do, not that I need to work, of course, because this column, as you can imagine, pays a lot of money, more than enough to pay the mortgage, the small loan on the other property, the big loan on the private jet, send all the kids to private schools and make sizeable contributions towards the International Monetary Fund debts of several South American nations.

One of the characteristics of a person with my particular profile is that we are easily distracted and tend to go on a bit in a way that seems to have very little to do with the point we are trying to make. Have you noticed?

Now, the beauty of a simple psychological mode is that it helps you come to grips with the fact that there is a kind of mind that will answer the simple question “How much are you paid to write that crap?” with a simple answer: “$50”.

What the model helps you realise is that most minds you interact with operate differently and people are not being the way they are in order to intimidate you, or incite you, it’s just the way they are.

Then again, some folk just can’t help being pricks, whatever their personality types.

Then there is another kind of mind, like the one I mentioned earlier, that will seem to disappear into a surreal world of crazy references, contradictions and weird juxtapositions, when all you wanted was a simple: “$50.”

You might have guessed by now, mine is a bit like that.

So is Terry Gilliam’s, the film director of Brazil, Baron Munchausen and the creator of the graphics for Monty Python. So was John Lennon’s. And Bill Cosby’s.

The strait forward mind, very much like the one my dad had, sees everything for what it is, nothing more, or less.

Hildegard has a mind like that too and often I would take a phone call from dad to be told: “Put your wife on will you. I need to talk some sense.”

The problem is, of course, those people with the seemingly crazy mind think the people with the strait-forward mind are boring and those with the strait-forward mind think those with the crazy mind have overdosed on some mind altering substance.

So, you can see why dad and I didn’t see mind to mind.

Mind you, he had a great sense of humour, and once said to a Manjimup Shire Officer who told him he couldn’t write on the pavement: “Didn’t I pay half the cost of this pavement? Right. Well the top half’s mine and the bottom half’s yours.”

Dad and Hildegard were pretty much aligned in most aspects of their personalities, but, at the same time, they were very different. Why? Good question.

Well, for a start, Hildy is a woman and dad was a man and dad was a born and raised Aussie, whereas Hildy was born and raised in Holland.

So, from time to time, if you have been reading this column and heard yourself saying “I wish he’d get to the bloody point”, it might be that you are not like me and need a point, while my point might be that I don’t.

Uncut: tennis


1961 was a great year in Australian sport and great year for me too.

This was the year I stood up, I hit my straps, got on with it, made my mark, signed my name and started eating spinach.

It was the year of my first Wimbledon appearance and the 74th time tennis legends from around the world gathered on hallowed lawn to do battle for King and country, but mainly themselves.

It was also a year that saw the arrival of one of the all time greats. No, I don’t mean me, my time was coming, or not coming, depending on how you looked at it.

All right, I can hear you plead, who were the winners that year, because time and bad eating habits have rendered you incapable of remembering, or you weren’t there, you’re not sure which.

Guess what, a British player, Angela Mortimer, won the women’s title beating another Brit, Christine Truman and Rod “The Rockhampton Rocket” won his first of four titles, beating Chuck “The Yank” McKinley.

It was Rod’s time. He had been runner up in the previous two years and it was cause for celebration that he beat an American rather than one of his own.

But the Rocket only got there because he thrashed me inside three sets. I played as hard as I could, wore my racquet down to a cat’s gut, gave it everything I had and finished up flatter than a snow pea.

In short, it was a bloodless massacre. Not surprising, given I was 12 at the time.

Oh, I knew all about Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall and Ashley Cooper, but I’d never played them. They were just stories passed on by dad and his dad, or seen at the local picture theatre during the Kookaburra News, sometimes a year or so after their wins.

Rod Laver had already beaten me earlier in the year in the Australian Championships on his way to defeat by Roy Emerson. Roy beat Rod again to win the US Championships.

No-one beat Rod the next year, 1962, he thrashed everyone and took out the Grand Slam.

Back then my attitude was fight hard, never give a champion an even break, chase everything, bang my head against a brick wall for a laugh, swim in a shark infested ocean, eat a barrel of rotten plums and take on anyone.

And don’t forget the cricket. What a year that was.

I had to face the great Fred Truman in the third test at Headingly when he tore us apart, taking 11 wickets and then I had to watch as Colin Cowdrey slapped my best balls as though they were peanuts.

We eventually won the series 2:1 and I will never forget Bill “It’s All Happening” Lawry’s 130 in the 2nd Test.

By 1965 I was retired, finished, washed up on a sandy beach clutching an open 26oz bottle of Emu Bitter.

All right, fair enough, I’ll admit I didn’t really play all those games against all those legends, but I imagined I did, because in 1961 I had a transistor radio attached to my ear and my father often threatened to have it surgically removed.

I wasn’t alone. My grandfather had one on his auricle too and sports broadcasts took us both into venues and up against greats and it also led me, about ten years later, to my first ever media job, down in the bowels of ABC Sport alongside three other greats: Wally Foreman, Dennis Cometti and George Grljusich.

George frightened the hell out of me but Dennis and Wally took me under their collective wings and taught me how to collect stats and make coffee.

What really happened in 1961 when I was 12 was my parents packed me off to boarding school with a brand new transistor radio and it was through its tiny speaker that I listened eagerly to the dulcet tones of Alan McGilvray, the croaks of Vic Richardson, the poetic musings of John Arlott and the unbridled enthusiasm of Norman “Gold Gold Gold” May.

And why does all this come back to me now? Well, Wimbledon is on again with a plethora of new players I’ll never play and, of course, I have to fill this page every Saturday morning.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Uncut: laptops


Simplicity has lost its edge. I know this because recently I bought a new laptop.

In fact, I am writing this offering on my brand new, super-fast, memory-laden, handsomely designed, sleek laptop.

Looks great. Made by one of the world’s foremost laptop manufacturers. Promised everything. Had all the right specs. It’s driving me mad.

Right now, I am fighting back an almost uncontrollable urge to fling it out the window and let it rest by the racing bike up against a tree.

Good question, why is a racing bike up against a tree?

About 18-months ago I found the bike up against a tree in the public open-space in front of our house. It sat there nice and neat for three weeks.

At the end of the three I realised I had grown fond of it, so I took it and set it up against a tree on my side of the open-space.

Hildegard questioned its appearance and I innocently replied: “No idea how it got there but I quite like it.”

Life went on until the next curb-side collection when I noticed a proliferation of bikes, as though the householders had grown tired of them, forgotten to water them, feed them or care for them and had decided to dump them.

Driven by an urge to ensure my lone racing bike had a family of its own, I collected five of the lost souls and placed them all against trees and would have collected more until Hildy put a stop to it: “Enough, Jon. This is not a junkyard. It’s a domestic dwelling.”

Maybe so, but a dwelling housing folk of compassion, understanding and a willingness to take in lost machinery of all species and care for them, whatever their state. Junk maybe, but not discarded as though never having made a contribution to the forward lurch of humanity.

Bikes when bought are generally bought to last the lifetime of a rider’s riding legs.

Which brings me back to this laptop.

When purchasing I assumed it would at least last the lifetimes of this writer’s writing hands and I imagined it would be faster than anything I had ever driven before, faster than a blink, easy to get around, all commands logical and easy to implement.

Nuh. No way.

Its time is almost up.

It’s painfully slow.

I can’t find programs I know are there but it won’t help me find them and programs I thought I had closed-down keep popping back up to haunt me as though operated by a family member I once insulted who is no longer of this earth but has found a way to crawl inside a laptop.

Then there is the intensely irritating habit this particular piece of software I’m using now has of suddenly leaving the bit of page I am currently working on and darting over to another section and inserting words that make no sense whatsoever having seen the blue pineapple when it blurts yes nearly won a bazooka, oh, no, there it goes again.

It’s junk and I paid a handsome sum of money, so much that Hildy will never allow me to lean it up against a tree alongside a bike, even if it is an artistic statement highlighting the absurd claims of laptop manufacturers.

It’s unbelievable, have you seen the variety of cheeses available in your local supermarket? There’s light cheese, extra-tasty cheese, mature cheese, semi-retired cheese, sliced cheese, diced cheese, cheese crumbs, cheese bombs, cheese warts and cheese knees.

Sorry about that, that last paragraph made its way in from next week’s column.

The first laptop I owned was a large machine made by a prominent car manufacturer. I needed a fork lift to get it out of the car and on my lap.

It was a simple machine and I had to learn MS Dos, the Microsoft Operating System, to get around it.

I bought it 20 years ago and it was slow, cumbersome, unwieldy and, now I think of it, a lot like this complex piece of junk that Hells Angels would you marry pineapple fritters over my dead Paraguay baked ricotta.

Which is why I, when I decided to get back on a bike, that I didn’t go out and buy a brand new racing bike, I simply waited for the right one to appear during a roadside collection. Oh, no, that’s not the one up against a tree, this handsome machine is firmly tethered to the house.