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Soup of This Day #326: Conscience Laden

July 29, 2013

Australian Raven
An Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) in a willow tree, being not at all symbolic – Photo: Bidgee, 2012. Bidgee is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This morning, while I was on the way to work, a raven flashed across the front of my car. This could have been taken as an omen of ill will, except that the glossy black bird was clutching a sprig of verdant willow in his talons, and so I figured the whole thing was cosmically neutral.

Not for the raven – It was a clear winner, having: a. Not got hit by my car; and b. Got itself a stylin’ piece of willow.

To be honest I’m not big on omens anyway – I’m pretty sure that ravens have other things to do than fly past warning me of doom. There are 7 billion people on this planet and things do go awry regularly – The ravens would be right cawked off having to warn everybody about every little thing that will go wrong.

Also there are no ravens in Antarctica – What happens when there is impending doom there? The penguin of ill will doesn’t have the same ring to it – I’m not sure even Poe could have made the object of Happy Feet into a portent of bad stuff.

So the raven wasn’t really that significant to me. I’d not have remembered it to be honest, but for the sprig of willow. Which was quite large, maybe even better described as a branch. That raven/branch o’ willow combo made the whole thing stick in my mind. And that is, as I understand it, how experts in remembering stuff do their thing – They take an everyday object and mentally attach something to it so that it is memorable.

For instance they might be trying to remember a baseball player like Alex Rodriguez and so to their mental portrait of him they’ll attach something like a Zamboni. Alex Rodriguez riding a Zamboni. Alex Rodriguez on ice.

It’s unusual but also strangely appropriate. Go on, admit it – You’d forgotten all about A-Rod the baseball player, what with him being injured and all. Now though, with my memory trick, you’re thinking about him rounding the bases again, albeit on a Zamboni.

You’re also thinking about his pay packet. His epically large pay packet that he is set to get for what now looks like an injudiciously long contract – $275m across 10 years until 2017, including slightly more this year than the entire Houston Astros team – $29m vs $25m.

And the 36 year old A-Rod is yet to play for the Yankees in 2013 (While the Astros players have fronted up for a collective 1,436 appearances).

Oh, and there is that Biogenisis thing with the PEDs which could mean that Alex is going to miss part or perhaps all of the remainder of the year even when he comes off the Disabled List (DL).

If he comes off the DL. That’s not set by the way – A-Rod apparently has his own doctors and they seem to disagree with the Yankees doctors, causing the player himself to publicly declare himself available, apparently without the team being ready for him. This bypassing of the normally tightly engineered Yankees machine so exasperated GM Brian Cashman that he just as publicly declared (via ESPN):

‘Alex should just shut the @#$% up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.’

Which is direct but entirely lacking in nuance. Maybe Brian should try saying it with dance.

Memories and dancing are much on my mind of late – The 2 are in fact the themes of this Soup. Not because I have great memories of me dancing – I’m not for the dance. Any dance. I have no coordination and when it comes to moving in time to music, even Mike Tyson can put me to shame:

Iron Mike comes in at 3:13 and absolutely bites the ear off of his role.

Dancing in short, makes me uncomfortable. As does dancing in shorts, because I think I have bowed legs. They do fit right in for a spot of comedy dancing for the kids though.

The kids aside, and it’s not just me dancing that I struggle with – I’m not good at watching dancing. In fact any kind of thing involving artistic expression. Possibly this is because I had no date for my school ball but most likely it is because I’m a fairly blokey bloke, and expressing feelings and stuff is not really blokey, or at least it wasn’t growing up in country Western Australia. Even in watching sport, which is a quintessentially blokey thing to do, I don’t like the artistic elements – Synchronised swimming, gymnastics, ice skating, ice dancing – Pretty much anything where judging involves interpretation of the aesthetics of human movement.

Non-human movement is cool – I’m completely ok with a Zamboni trying a triple-Lutz.

Occasionally I’ll get over that awkwardness – 1 of my fondest Olympic memories hails from Beijing in 2008 when Australian diver Matthew Mitcham took to his final dive in the 10m platform trailing 2 Chinese divers and a Russian dude for a medal. This situation was not unusual – The home diving squad had won every other gold medal in diving for those Games, and a fair haul of the silver and bronze 1s too. So Mitcham needed something special just to get onto the podium. He chose to go with a complicated twisty, pikey, generally-bendy thing that should have left me wondering why he’d bothered.

It didn’t.

Mitcham abso-bloody-lutely nailed it. Even me, with my lack of appreciation of artistic merit, thought wow, he’s just gone and abso-bloody-lutely nailed that like he’s been shot out of a nail gun with an artistic-flair setting. It dropped my jaw and I didn’t even need the crowd to tell me that I’d just witnessed a brilliant dive, although their obvious excitement helped. As did the gold medal that Mitcham subsequently and most deservedly won – He’d scored 4 perfect 10s to garner 112.10, the highest single score in Olympic history for a dive.

It was artistic and I got it, even if I was still uncomfortable with the whole expression side of things. I still am, and not just in sport. Take this next performance from Ellie Cosgrave:


If you kind of skipped over that video then please go back and watch it again. And then read this. If you’re like me then the video will be uncomfortable viewing and the article uncomfortable reading but I figure they should be. They made me squirm so much that I want to ask a question:

Who the hell are you?

Not you Ellie – I think I know a little bit about who you are now – You’re the person dealing with a horrible memory and confronting a horrible reality with an brilliant display of courage. I was more asking the guy that generated this dance. Seriously, who are you? Because I’d like to meet you. 1st because you should get a sense of how uncomfortable it was watching that dance. Because of you and what you did.

2nd and I’d like to know what made you do that? Was it us, i.e. Blokey blokes like me? Did we give you that idea that just getting off against the leg of complete stranger in a crowded Tube car was ok?

Because. It. Is. Not. Okay.

That’s almost all that I have for today – There are no humorous punchlines to make this Soup less awkward. I will leave off with this though:

I now think dancing in sport is okay. In fact dancing is okay anywhere, but if interpretive dance, dancing to memories, does make the Olympics can we give a medal to Ellie, because she abso-bloody-lutely nailed it. And maybe we could award her A-Rod’s pay as well, just so that it could mean something. That would be a much more useful piece of symbolism than a raven with a sprig of willow.

Conscience Laden

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