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Soup of This Day #294: It Started There

February 25, 2013

Recycling bins
These are recycling bins. The blue flip-top 1 at the left is for paper and cardboard, the white igloo is for glass bottles and the blue igloo is for plastics. The green igloo meanwhile is for baseball players who don’t seem to be working out – Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s drops by regularly to recycle each misfit into a good fit in an outfit that works – Photo: Matěj Baťha, 2010. Matěj Baťha is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I’ve spent some part of the past 3 days attending the 2013 Perth Writers Festival.

On Friday I was in a 3-hour workshop led by Peter Heller, the adventure writer turned novelist whose The Dog Stars is an entangling post-apocalyptic story that could have been overbearingly sad and horrific, but is neither. Heller had some great insights into the mechanics of his writing to impart and somehow he managed to influence me enough to chew on a eucalypt leaf (It was like an acrid cough lozenge) and to write about, and then read out to the workshop, my falling out with toasted muesli.

As far as I can recall nobody but Peter Heller laughed at my punchline, although a fellow classmate told me that she liked my writing as we packed up.

Saturday was a change in pace – 2 sessions with nothing for me to do but listen – Eucalypt leaf consumption optional but acceptable. The 1st was 1 I wrote about in yesterday’s Soup 293, cricket writer Gideon Haigh talking about Australian cricket enigma Shane Warne. I won’t go on about it further in this post.

The 2nd Saturday session was former Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop and retired Major General John Cantwell talking about mental illness. Gallop had retired suddenly from his position leading the WA government in 2005, citing his need to focus on his campaign against depression, while Cantwell had fought a war against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for some 2 decades. Both were candid, brave and realistic.

And then there was Sunday and a chance to hear from China Miéville.

Miéville is a writer of wonderful fantasy. I like his work, and have done as it has evolved, but I’m not really what you’d call a fan. This is because I’ve kind of drifted from fantasy over the past 5 to 10 years – I’m what Miéville referred to, not unkindly, as a ‘civilian’ – Real life kind of cruelled that interest for me – I guess I fit more neatly now into the Peter Heller-side of things – A focus of his workshop was in establishing authenticity via an adherence to a truth.

It’s hard for me to adhere to the truth of a fantastical beast, such as 1 that Miéville referenced, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu:

‘A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.’

There is no Cthulhu in my life and so I’ve not got space set aside to deal with it in my head. I do however have a rampaging 4-going-on-15 year old son who can be a horror story if he consumes red cordial.

Still, despite my estrangement from the fantastic, China Miéville was a great speaker, intelligent without being elitist, generous and interesting. Something he said in particular was pretty cool – He talked about how the concept of salvage was a favourite meme, and how he used it as a process for writing as well as for content. By which I think he meant that he picked up old ideas and themes and re-used them – Not so much as a reboot – More in the way of sampling, as in music.

Miéville recommended Burial’s Truant to the audience – A sort of new weird grab-bag of sounds that is as good a soundtrack to this kind of picking as any.

Which is why that tune provides the title for this Soup – Salvage kind of fits this blog. It is a sampler of sorts – A picker, searching for bits and pieces of sport and more, including music, and then trying to fashion them together into something newish and useful.

That’s ‘useful to me’ – Yesterday I had 0 hits for the day, until pride made me generate 3 so that I’d not get demoralised by having a tennis bagel on my stats page.

Which would have been ok anyway. Sometimes salvaged works appear beautiful only to some people. In baseball for instance, the Oakland A’s frequently look like a prospect only to 1 Billy Beane and the A’s diehard fans.

Sometimes not even those fans seem to be onside.

Beane, the General Manager of the A’s is a proud follower of a statistical approach to player recruitment. He has to be because the A’s generally don’t have the payroll to compete with the big-market franchises. So Billy has to shop smart and often he has to salvage – Picking some player up off of the baseball scrapheap and adding him to the weird wind-up device that is Oakland.

Who in 2012 wound up in the American League Division Series (ALDS) against Detroit, where they came within a game of going to the American League Championship Series (ALCS).

Not bad for something old, something borrowed and something in green and yellow.

In that spirit then, this post is a look at salvaged sports people, in particular a couple of those members of the Boston Red Sox, who in 2013 are seeking a new use in an organisation, itself seeking a rebuild.

I’ll start with Daniel Bard.

He had starting dreams in 2012 and had a decent run at it, but in the end it turned out to be a fantasy uglier than a Cthulhu with bed-tentacles. His command disappeared, his velocity dipped and the walks that strode into the embers of his 2011 campaign were frequent – In 2013 new manager John Farrell will be trying to restore some of Bard’s primary setup lustre from early-2011. It might need more than a simple re-tooling but I think most fans will wish him well.

Maybe not so much with John Lackey.

Lackey is that piece of scrap that initially stands out – The 1 that catches your eye right away, maybe with only a bit of rust and with a sense of solidity that engenders non-specific plans for use. Even if you don’t quite know what the object you’ve found actually is for and you can’t really fit it into the station wagon anyway.

So you take it home, forking out the extra for trailer hire. But then it just sits there in the yard, waiting for a use to suggest itself, for you to bring the promise as well as the actuality. And eventually an idea comes to the plate and so you deploy this shiny thing but somehow it doesn’t quite slot into the role as neat as you’d hoped and before you know it you’ve damaged it, trying maybe to use it in a way that just doesn’t sit right.

John Lackey pitched a 12 and 12 record in 2011 with an ERA of 6.41 and a WHIP of 1.619. That was the 2nd year of a $82.5m, 5 year deal. The 3rd year, 2012, was a write-off thanks to Tommy John surgery.

As a Sox fan I’m starting to wonder if we’ll see a return on the salvage rights.

And now I’m done for the day. Maybe, if I get some hits overnight, I’ll rummage through my notes tomorrow and dust off my toasted muesli story – The 1 that got (to my mind at least) a fantastic guffaw from Peter Heller. I’m sure it’d be ok to re-use it.

It Started There

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