An end to Watto Lotto?

Shane Watson, out leg before wicket. It’s a refrain that has been heard 29 times in his 59 Tests, frequently after a slight break to allow the decision review system to confirm the obvious.

Watto is out. We’ve said it so many times over the years, often as he failed yet again to convert a half-century into a big score. He’s accumulated 24 half-centuries and a mere four tons. Sadly for Watson, four Test centuries is too few for Cricinfo even to bother counting the accomplishment in its league table of Australian century-makers. It’s less than 10 per cent of Ricky Ponting’s record 41. Continue Reading →

Texting while driving, and other smart tech to help morons

Do you text while driving? One in three do, apparently. Which means that even though it’s a leading cause of accidents, a lot of us are such utter idiots that it’s a miracle any car gets to its destination intact.

Our capacity to act against our obvious self-interest has inspired inventor Scott Tibbetts to create a device to solve a problem that really shouldn’t be one. It’s a little box that stores the text messages up, only delivering them to our phone when we’ve arrived at our destination. The theory is that we’re all so thoroughly programmed to be distracted by a “little bing”, as he puts it, that we need to ensure that these messages don’t arrive in the first place. Continue Reading →

What I learned hanging out with a 5-year-old boy

This week, I spent a day escorting a five-year-old boy around Sydney. Courtesy of school holidays and a last-minute change in plans, I was called up from the childcare reserve bench. My challenge: to ensure not only that my nephew was kept safe and sound (basic childcare), but that he had a reasonably good time (advanced childcare).

Safe and sound wasn’t too hard – it meant that we had to hold hands crossing the road and on the escalators, and he promised not to run off in exchange for my promise to follow wherever he wanted to go in return. A solid negotiation, I thought.

But the challenge of killing most of a day in the city was a daunting one, especially since rain was forecast. Continue Reading →

An Undo button for all seasons

This week, Google introduced ‘Undo Send‘ as a standard feature in Gmail. It’s more like an Undo Godsend for those times you accidentally email the wrong person, or notice a shocking typo just as you’ve sent the message, or suddenly realise your message was way too harsh and you should sleep on it and redraft it in the morning – or is that just me?

In such situations, ‘Undo Send’ gives you a few precious seconds to reconsider. Having used it in the development phase, it’s surprising how often it comes in handy – in fact, I sincerely hope that other companies will follow Google’s lead. ‘Undo’ should be part of every email application, especially at my work where every month or two someone accidentally sends a message to several thousands of users, before presumably being taken into an IT dungeon somewhere and flogged with a mouse cord.

But it’s not just in the realm of email where the ability to reverse things would be invaluable. Here are a few other social situations where Google, with their omnipotence, should be finding a way to allow us to take it back. Continue Reading →

The Simpsons did it, and now they’re done

grandpasimpsonAs the longest-running sitcom in the history of television lurches towards another season, one thing is increasingly clear: friends don’t let friends make 27 seasons of The Simpsons. In recent years, the show’s become like that favourite 90s band that insists on releasing inferior new albums years after its heyday. In short, The Simpsons are the Smashing Pumpkins.

In 2015, still more episodes of The Simpsons is probably the second-last thing our civilisation needs, just behind that book of 352 Kim Kardashian selfies. There are already 574 episodes in the can, so many that you could watch non-stop for eight days and still not get through them all. Surely our appetite for even this most brilliant of series has been satiated?

Once I used to read those news stories about the latest ingenious developments brewed up in the writers’ room with great delight. But the latest batch of announcements was dismal. “Homer and Marge are to separate!” said one batch of articles, with Lena Dunham appearing as the Other Woman. Goodness me – marital strife between Marge and Homer – is that for the 324th or 325th time?

And come on – it’s a sitcom. Hence the subsequent obvious, clarification that it was only going to be for an episode or two.

What I’d like to hear producer Al Jean clarifying is why the series is continuing at all when his only other ‘teaser’ announcements about Series 27 were that Spider Pig is coming back, as though there’s any more juice to be squeezed from that one brief joke, and that Bart will die. Continue Reading →

How to enjoy the Midwinter Ball

So you’re heading to Parliament’s Night of Nights, the Midwinter Ball! Or maybe you’re just curious about what our politicians get up to when ordinary Australians are distracted by State of Origin? Here’s an exclusive guide to enjoying the only social occasion within the Parliamentary Triangle that’s more entertaining than Senate Estimates. Continue Reading →

Give us a home among the gum trees

A few summers ago, I was sitting in a beer garden with half a dozen friends who work as commercial lawyers in major firms. The conversation drifted to property, as it always does in Sydney, and each of them confessed that they were looking for a house so their young kids could have access to a backyard. Then they all sighed and said that there was absolutely nothing affordable even remotely near the city, and they couldn’t look too far afield because they didn’t want to spend an hour plus each way commuting.

They were keen to reiterate that they weren’t looking for anything big or fancy, just a little terrace or something with a modest rectangle of backyard so that their kids could burn off some energy within the safe walls of their yard. Maybe, they pondered wistfully, they’d host the occasional barbeque, as well?

Not being a commercial lawyer myself, the conversation made me wince. If these people, who had jumped through all of society’s hoops to guarantee themselves success and a healthy income, and put in long, dedicated hours doing finicky work for demanding commercial clients, were having trouble finding a house that wasn’t a brutally lengthy commute from the CBD, what hope did I have? Continue Reading →

Ten Reality TV Ideas Even Better Than Married At First Sight

Many people wonder why television broadcasters keep producing terrible reality TV shows. The answer is simple – because they rate. And what’s more, the more terrible they are, the more they rate. This maxim has recently been proven by Married At First Sight, a show on Channel Nine with a premise so disturbing that it’s compelling. So much so that it was renewed after the first episode scored 1.5 million viewers.

So, how can the industry possibly top/sink beneath Married At First Sight? I’ve gazed into my television crystal ball and come up with a few suggestions. Continue Reading →

Eurovision 2015 was disturbingly freak-free

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest was pretty good.

As reactions go, that’s roughly on par with saying you found the new Mumford & Sons album not in the least bit effete, or that you were moved by a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

In fact, both observations have been made recently after recent instalments from the Mumfords and Kardashians pleasantly surprised critics. Which goes to show that just because a live, international television broadcast has been one way for an astonishing 59 years, that doesn’t mean it can’t achieve the unexpected.

This year, for its 60th anniversary, most countries somehow lifted their usual standards to produce a perfectly respectable, non-wacky effort. Which might just have made it the most disappointing Eurovision I’ve ever watched. In fact, it was so solid that one could almost have been forgiven for taking the whole thing seriously. Continue Reading →

Graduation address: There’s life in the media yet


The Dark Knight Returns

I was asked to speak at a graduation of Sydney University arts graduates, primarily media students, on the afternoon of 15 May 2015. 

I want to begin by adding my respects to the traditional owners of this land, and their elders past and present.

First of all, I want to thank the Arts Faculty for doing me the great honour of asking me to speak today. I only graduated late last year, and it occurred to me on that day that I’d probably never wear these amazing robes again – thanks so much for the chance to dress up once again as Academic Batman. Continue Reading →