Author: rickshaibani

2018 season review: Gold Coast Suns

AFL SUNS LIONS

  • 2018 RECORD: 4-18
  • COACH: Stuart Dew, 1st season (4-18 overall)
  • BEST WIN: Round 18 vs Sydney. A massive win on the road and one of the club’s biggest all-time upsets since entering the AFL in 2011.
  • WORST LOSS: Take your pick. Gold Coast lost eight games by 48 points or more, but the most galling might have been blowing a 31-point third-quarter lead against St Kilda in Round 13.
  • RETIREMENTS/CUTS: Michael Barlow, Josh Jaska, Michael Rischitelli, Matt Rosa, Max Spencer, Mackenzie Willis

The Gold Coast Suns faced a lot of uncertainty heading into the 2018 season. Facing another major rebuild — this time without superstar/face of the franchise Gary Ablett Jr. — the Suns were in for some rough sledding under rookie coach Stuart Dew.

Dew’s high intensity style of coaching definitely translated to the field of play, with the Suns showcasing a more up-tempo, pressure-oriented, contested style. Still, it was yet another terrible season overall.

Gold Coast repeatedly faded away in the second half of games, and the mood was dampened further by tall forward Tom Lynch’s midseason PCL injury, plus his subsequent request for a trade. The club culture at the Suns seems to be a perennial problem, and the team’s leadership group needs to take it upon themselves to turn it around and remake the club in Dew’s image.

Despite the forgettable moments in 2018, the Suns still showed some flashes, including a shocking late-season upset of the Sydney Swans, plus two hotly contested rivalry matches against the Brisbane Lions. On another positive note, it seems like most players have bought into Dew’s coaching philosophy, and the club finally has legitimate AFL facilities.

On the personnel front, speedy utility Lachie Weller was a big-time steal from Fremantle, averaging 18 disposals per game, while former Port Adelaide veteran Aaron Young kicked 20 goals. Key forward Alex Sexton (28 goals) and midfielder Touk Miller (22 disposals) were consistent as usual, with Miller showing a knack for dominating the uncontested possessions count. Young midfielder Jack Bowes is a promising talent who could develop into a star with more seasoning, while ruckman Jarrod Witts remains one of the Suns’ most consistent playmakers (39 hit-outs and four clearances per game). Defenders Rory Thompson and Jarrod Harbrow are solid.

However, key forward Peter Wright, who was so valuable in previous seasons, suffered through maddening inconsistency, managing only five goals in seven games. Granted, Wright had a couple nagging injuries to deal with, but going from 31 goals to five in one season is a terrible fall from grace.

In addition to Lynch’s disappointing decision to leave the club, captain Steven May’s future with the Suns might be in doubt, as he becomes a free agent in 2019. The Suns suffered through a rash of injuries in 2018, including classy midfielder Aaron Hall, who only played in six games, midfielder Pearce Hanley (three) and young forward Brayden Fiorini (11).

“The Suns should use their rival, Brisbane, as a blueprint,” says writer Michael Whiting from AFL.com.au. “Forget win totals — the priority is becoming consistent every week and creating a happy club where players want to sign long-term.”

Despite all the issues at the club, there’s a chance that Gold Coast will be substantially better in 2019 if Dew continues to coach at his best. The Suns have talent, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of culture change, accountability and fitness levels.

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2018 season review: Carlton Blues

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  • 2018 RECORD: 2-20
  • COACH: Brendan Bolton, 3rd season (15-51 overall)
  • BEST WIN: Round 8 vs Essendon. A shocking 13-point win for the Blues, who were winless at the time and needed a massive pick-me-up.
  • WORST LOSS: Round 16 vs Brisbane. It was a great chance for Carlton to snap a mid-season losing streak and they failed miserably, losing to a mediocre Brisbane squad by 65 points on the road.
  • RETIREMENTS/CUTS: Jesse Glass-McCasker, Aaron Mullett, Cam O’Shea, Matt Shaw, Alex Silvagni

June 4, 2016 — that’s the last time Carlton scored at least 100 points in a game, an AFL record.

The Blues’ lack of goalkicking firepower has been one of their most glaring issues in the Brendon Bolton era — even as the young coach has spent the majority of his three years at the club burning his roster to the ground and starting from scratch. After a dismal 2018 season — the worst in club history — it’s starting to feel like Bolton could be on a much hotter seat entering 2019, despite reports to the contrary.

Forward Charlie Curnow (34 goals) is still one of the shining stars of the competition, but he has little to no help in the forward line. Ditto for Patrick Cripps in the midfield and Kade Simpson in defense. The Blues simply haven’t had the right mix of talent and experience. Older veterans have faded away in their form, young players haven’t developed the way they should have, and there’s been plenty of injuries. Guys like Harry McKay, Dale Thomas, Caleb Marchbank, Jacob Weitering, Levi Casboult and Jack Silvagni just haven’t been able to consistently provide enough punch for the Blues.

Midfielder Marc Murphy is a great leader for the club, as is ruckman Matthew Kreuzer, but both struggled with injuries all season; Kreuzer’s career could even be in doubt after being diagnosed with a heart murmur late in the year.

Some much-needed good news for Blues fans: All-Australian defender Sam Docherty will return to the side after missing the entirety of 2018 with a torn ACL. Young gun Zac Fisher showed some moxie in his second AFL season, averaging just over 15 disposals per game. Two other key defenders, Lachie Plowman and Jarrod Garlett, should be healthier after managing just 13 and 11 games, respectively, in 2018. Midfielder Paddy Dow showed some awfully good glimpses of his talent, averaging 14.2 disposals per game in his rookie season.

Carlton looks to take a nice crop of youngsters in November’s AFL Draft, while it remains to be seen how ambitious they are in free agency. One thing is for sure: a repeat of 2018’s lackluster performance will be unacceptable.

Big Eyes (2014)

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The true story of 1960s plagiarist Walter Keane, who manipulated his wife Margaret into passing off her popular paintings as his own work.

Single mother Margaret (Amy Adams) is starting life anew with her young daughter in 1950s San Francisco. A talented artist, Margaret’s simple-yet-evocative paintings of doe-eyed children gain notice in the Bay Area art community, but it’s not until she meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) that her career begins to truly thrive. Charming, worldly and manipulative, Walter falls in love with Margaret and a quick wedding follows.

Walter thinks Margaret’s paintings can make a profit, to the dismay of local gallery owners and highbrow art critics, who view Margaret’s creations as cheap and kitschy. Walter believes that the paintings will be taken more seriously if he attaches his own name to them, and the timid Margaret refuses to object. Walter’s showmanship eventually earns them a small fortune and international fame, so Margaret — timid by nature — goes along with the ruse. The paintings gain serious popularity and begin to spread worldwide, even gaining the attention of art legends such as Andy Warhol.

When The New York Times and several other high-profile media outlets begin to probe into Walter’s past, Margaret becomes increasingly worried. Eventually, both husband and wife are forced to untangle the web of lies that they’ve created, and Margaret attempts to extricate herself from Walter’s control.

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Directed by the acclaimed Tim Burton, Big Eyes is an excellent film that shines light on a long-forgotten, controversial story. It also allows Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz (two of my favorite actors) show off their ludicrous amounts of talent. This film is extremely well acted and the cinematography is gorgeous. While Burton has been up-and-down in the 2010s, this is another very solid addition to his catalogue. The script was written by the team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who previously wrote the script for Burton’s Ed Wood.

It took many years for the real-life Margaret Keane (now age 90) to agree for her unique life to be put on the big screen. Humble by nature, Margaret didn’t think of her story as anything special or “film-worthy”, but liked what Burton & Co. were willing to bring to the table story-wise and offered to make a brief cameo in the film. She also spent many hours with Amy Adams and the two became quite close during the filming process. After Big Eyes was released, Margaret’s paintings enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

The story of Big Eyes captures a passive woman who eventually develops a strong sense of worth through her husband’s illegal machinations. The versatile Adams shines in yet another fantastic performance — one that won her a Golden Globe Award for best lead actress. Meanwhile, dual Oscar winner Christoph Waltz is superb as usual, using his characteristic charm to play a fraudster whose out-of-control ego led to his downfall. It’s an absolute treat to watch these two share the screen.

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With all that said, the film does have a few flaws. I felt like some supporting characters in Big Eyes weren’t very well developed, and there are some occasional pacing issues here and there. I also felt like there were a couple of unrealistic moments in the latter half of the movie that may have been put in for dramatic effect. Ultimately, Big Eyes is a riveting, intriguing film that features stirring performances, gorgeous cinematography and sharp direction.

Grade: B+

  • Directed by Tim Burton
  • Starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jon Poltio, Terence Stamp, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Delaney Raye, Madeleine Arthur
  • Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
  • Produced by Tim Burton, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski and Lynette Howell
  • Director of Photography — Bruno Delbonnel
  • Music by Danny Elfman
  • Edited by J.C. Bond
  • Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.

TRIVIA

  • Tim Burton originally became interested in Margaret Keane’s paintings back in the 90s, when he commissioned her to do a portrait of his then-wife, Lisa Marie.
  • Burton’s first film not to be produced by Richard Zanuck, who passed away in 2012.
  • Amy Adams liked the script when it was offered to her, but she originally turned down the role of Margaret because the character lacked “a stronger sense of self”. After playing a more confident character in American Hustle, Adams felt she got a new perspective of Margaret Keane, and the character’s quiet dignity won her over. Coincidentally, Adams won Golden Globe Awards for both performances.
  • This is the first Burton film not to feature actors with whom he had previously worked. While Batman was the first Burton film to feature a recurring actor in a major role, his early films still featured recurring actors in minor parts.
  • Burton and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel originally wanted to shoot on 35MM film, but had to abandon the idea due to budget concerns.
  • The movie is Burton’s second biopic, after Ed Wood, which was also written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.
  • Reese Witherspoon and Kate Hudson were considered for the role of Margaret, while Ryan Reynolds and Thomas Haden Church were once attached to play Walter.
  • The doe-eyed paintings that Margaret made were the primary inspiration for the popular children’s animated TV show The Powerpuff Girls.

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Bill Watterson

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Bill Watterson, one of the most acclaimed cartoonists of the 20th century, continues to have an influence throughout American pop culture. His legendary Sunday strip, Calvin & Hobbes, ran for a full decade (1985-95) and established him among the great syndicated columnists like Stephan Pastis, Jim Borgman and Charles Schultz.

And yet, despite the waning influence of physically-printed newspapers, Calvin & Hobbes has, quite simply, refused to die. The hilarious comics are still relevant, even as Watterson himself has shied away from the limelight. The man chose to walk away at the height of his strip’s fame, and has adamantly refused to sell merchandising rights or attempt to capitalize further on his beloved creation. Now, a full 23 years after Calvin & Hobbes concluded, Watterson himself remains an enigma.

Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Watterson showed his artistic talents at a young age; however, unlike the character of Calvin, he was rarely a troublemaker. Watterson attended nearby Kenyon College, graduating with a political science degree in 1980. Originally aspiring to be an editorial cartoonist, he contributed several of his works to the Kenyon student paper, including the “Spaceman Spiff” strips that would later become part of Calvin & Hobbes. Watterson named his eponymous characters after John Calvin (the famous Reformed Protestant theologian) and Thomas Hobbes (a political philosopher), allegedly as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the political science department at Kenyon.

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Watterson came up with the idea for the strip when working an advertising job that he hated. He incorporated several of his own influences into the Calvin & Hobbes universe. Calvin’s dad is a lawyer (like Watterson’s own father) who adheres to many stereotypical “dad” philosophies and frequently gives advice to Calvin that goes unheeded. The midwestern setting of the show is clearly an homage to Watterson’s home state of Ohio, while the character of Hobbes actually resembled Sprite, Watterson’s cat. (In the strip, Hobbes is seen by Calvin as an anthropomorphic tiger, but appears as an inanimate object to other characters.)

Similarly, Watterson incorporated his love of cycling into the strip (Calvin’s dad frequently goes for rides) while also poking fun at the modern art world via Calvin’s horrifying snowmen sculptures.

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What made Calvin & Hobbes so good? Simply put — everything. It was witty, intelligent, and very ahead of its time. It was never on-the-nose or overtly political, but still made subtle social commentaries about suburban life, the monotonous nature of education, and the folly of opinion polls. Calvin & Hobbes was both sharply satirical for adults and easily digestible for children readers. And it also had poignant moments where Calvin discovers more about himself and his family and learns life lessons that will (hopefully) help him when he matures into adolescence and adulthood.

At the time, it was rare for cartoon characters to have such complex personalities: Calvin is brash, undisciplined and bratty, but also clearly precocious and motivated in the right context. Hobbes is more prone to sarcastic humor and is frequently the foil to Calvin’s more mischievous schemes. The duo deal with Calvin’s parents, avoid the bully Moe at school and try to pull increasingly sinister pranks on neighborhood girl/classmate Susie Derkins.

Calvin’s outrageous fantasies were also a key element of the strip’s universe. In addition to Spaceman Spiff, Calvin would frequently imagine himself as “Stupendous Man” or “Tracer Bullet, Private Eye.” Another recurring gag featured Calvin developing a so-called “Transmogrifier” from an upside-down cardboard box, or by converting a similar box into a flying time machine. There was always plenty of hilarity when he and Hobbes escaped to their imaginary worlds. Scientific progress goes “boink,” anyone?

Watterson’s desire to create truthful characters and magical cartoon worlds led him to be fiercely protective of the merchandising rights to his comics. Fearing that it would devalue the characters and their personalities, Watterson never allowed his publishers nor anyone else to profit from making Calvin & Hobbes merchandise, retaining all artistic control over his creation.

Nevertheless, Calvin & Hobbes was beloved by readers the world over. Watterson, who always claimed that he worked for personal fulfillment alone, appreciated the fandom, but felt that he was frequently held back by the powers that be. Believing that comic strips were being artistically undermined, Watterson never felt like newspaper executives gave comics enough due diligence or appreciated them as an art form.

During a rare 2013 interview with Mental Floss, Watterson spoke about his uphill battle to maintain his vision against his publisher’s more commercial plans for the strip:

I had signed most of my rights away in order to get syndicated, so I had no control over what happened to my own work, and I had no legal position to argue anything. I could not take the strip with me if I quit, or even prevent the syndicate from replacing me, so I was truly scared I was going to lose everything I cared about either way. I made a lot of impassioned arguments for why a work of art should reflect the ideas and beliefs of its creator, but the simple fact was that my contract made that issue irrelevant.

Watterson best summed up his complex views on fame, commercialization and the value of comic strips as art in a 1989 speech he gave at the Festival of Cartoon Art at the Ohio State University:

Comics were invented for commercial purposes. They were, and are, a graphic feature designed to help sell newspapers. Cartoonists work within severe space constraints on an inflexible deadline for a mass audience. That’s not the most conducive atmosphere for the production of great art, but more than occasionally, wonderful work has been produced.

Amazingly, much of the best cartoon work was done early on in the medium’s history. The early cartoonists, with no path before them, produced work of such sophistication, wit, and beauty that it increasingly seems to me that cartoon evolution is working backward.

Comic strips are moving toward a primordial goo rather than away from it. As a cartoonist, it’s a bit humiliating to read work that was done over 50 years ago and find it more imaginative than what any of us are doing now. We’ve lost many of the most precious qualities of comics.

The comics are a collaborative effort on the part of the cartoonists who draw them, the syndicates that distribute them, and the newspapers that buy and publish them. Each needs the other, and all haves common interest in providing comics features of a quality that attracts a devoted readership. But business and art almost always have a rocky marriage, and in comic strips today the interests of business are undermining the concerns of the art….True, comics are a popular art, and yes, I believe their primary obligation is to entertain, but comics can go beyond that, and when they do, they move from silliness to significance.

I consider it a great privilege to be a cartoonist. I love my work, and I am grateful for the incredible forum I have to express my thoughts. People give me their attention for a few seconds every day, and I take that as an honor and a responsibility. I try to give readers the best strip I’m capable of doing. I look at cartoons as an art, as a form of personal expression. That’s why I don’t hire assistants, why I write and draw every line myself, why I draw and paint special art for each of my books, and why I refuse to dilute or corrupt the strip’s message with merchandising. I want to draw cartoons, not supervise a factory. I had a lot of fun as a kid reading comics, and now I’m in the position where I can return some of that fun.

Nevertheless, Calvin & Hobbes continued as a beloved weekly strip well into the late 80s and early 90s. During this time, Watterson wrote a brief, tongue-in-cheek autobiography and gave the 1990 commencement speech at his alma mater.

On November 9, 1995, Watterson wrote a letter to the editor announcing his plans to bring Calvin & Hobbes to a conclusion at the end of the calendar year:

Dear Reader:

I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted, however, and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue.

That so many newspapers would carry Calvin and Hobbes is an honor I’ll long be proud of, and I’ve greatly appreciated your support and indulgence over the last decade. Drawing this comic strip has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Sincerely,
Bill Watterson

And that was that. Watterson faded into obscurity, while fans developed a newfound appreciation for their gone-too-soon comic strip. Numerous collections of Calvin & Hobbes have since been published, including the Calvin & Hobbes Lazy Sunday BookThe Essential Calvin & Hobbes and The Indispensible Calvin & Hobbes. Additionally, Ohio State University hosted an exclusive look at Watterson’s work in 2015 titled Exploring Calvin & Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue.

Watterson, meanwhile, returned to his typical everyday life in suburban Cleveland. Now working as a painter, he still rarely gives interviews and has steadfastly refused to give into demands to let Calvin & Hobbes be adapted in any way. In the same Mental Floss interview, he was asked about Pixar’s revolutionary animation and whether he had ever considered adapting Calvin & Hobbes for either the big or small screen:

The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever compared a film to a novel it’s based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It’s inevitable, because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie’s needs get served. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There’s no upside for me in adapting it.

Lifelong Calvin & Hobbes fan Joel Allen Schroeder attempted to get closer to the enigmatic cartoonist with his 2013 documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, which explores the lasting impact of the comic strip on fans around the globe, while also probing into Watterson himself and why he walked away at the height of his fame.

In an interview with NPR, Schroeder explained how the final Calvin & Hobbes strip (pictured below) was the best finale Watterson could’ve written.

“It′s a fresh layer of snow and Calvin and Hobbes are out with the toboggan,” Schroeder explained. “Calvin looks to Hobbes and says, ‘It’s a magical world, old buddy … let′s go exploring.’ And those last words are just a challenge to all of us to make sure that we have that curiosity. And I think they’re words to live by.”

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HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: Arthur Stace

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Arthur Malcolm Stace was born on February 9, 1885 in Redfern, an inner suburb of Sydney, Australia. One of five children born to alcoholic parents, Stace lived in destitution and had to pluck food out of garbage bins or steal bread and milk in order to survive.

At age 12, with no formal schooling or training, Stace was classified as a ward of the state. By age 15, he had already spent time behind bars, while many of his siblings resorted to begging, prostitution, or alcoholism. While working as a laborer in his early 30s, Stace enlisted in the Australian Army, seeing it as an easy way out. He served in World War I with the 19th Battalion, 5th Brigade, but was medically discharged a year after the war ended due to recurring bronchitis.

Many years later, on August 6, 1930, Stace, a 45-year-old homeless drifter, wandered into St Barnabas, a historic Anglican church on Broadway in Sydney. Inspired by the words of then-Rev. R.B.S. Hammond, Stace decided that Christianity was the right path for him to take. He began attending sermons and services regularly while working on staying sober. A few years later, Stace heard another inspirational sermon from the Rev. John Ridley, which was centered around Isaiah 57:15:

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Stace was intrigued by this Scriptural passage, but also by Rev. Ridley’s own words. “Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney!” Ridley exclaimed from the pulpit. Overcome by emotion, Stace had all the inspiration he needed.

Stace began wandering all over the streets of Sydney, writing Eternity with a piece of chalk. He would wake up before sunrise and leave the mysterious word written on sidewalks, subway stations, and more. Despite the fact that he could barely write his own name legibly, the word Eternity came out in beautiful cursive font.

Eventually, Stace’s choice of graffiti brought him to the attention of the Sydney City Council, who tried to arrest him on more than one occasion. But every time, Stace would respond with, “I have permission from a Higher Source.”

Stace continued his inspired work for decades. He stayed sober, got married and even became a part-time janitor at his local church. By one account, Stace wrote the word almost half a million times in 35 years, and sometimes 50 times per day. Still, for many years, no one knew the true identity of the mysterious “Mr. Eternity.”

The mystery was eventually solved when Lisle Thompson, Stace’s pastor, found him taking a piece of chalk from his pocket and writing Eternity on the sidewalk. With Stace’s permission, Rev. Thompson wrote about Stace’s horrible childhood and his adult redemption in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph; the story was published on June 21, 1956.

Other than that instance, Stace was caught in the act only one other time, in 1963. A photographer, Trevor Dallen, cornered Stace while he was writing the famous phrase and asked to take a few photos of him. Dallen took four photos before running out of film. By the time he came back with more, Stace had disappeared.

Perhaps the most amazing Eternity was found inside the bell of the Sydney General Post Office’s clock tower. The tower was considered a Sydney icon, but was dismantled and locked away in storage during World War II, as it could have been destroyed by Japanese fighter planes. When the tower was reassembled during the 1960s, workers found Eternity engraved in chalk on the inside of the bell. To this day, no one knows how Stace was able to access the bell when it was locked away.

Suffering from ill health after the death of his wife in 1961, Stace left his longtime home in the suburb of Pyrmont and moved to a nursing home. He died of a stroke six years later at the age of 82.

The only other original Eternity was written by Stace on cardboard and given as a gift to a fellow parishioner; it is now on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, the nation’s capital. There are several other Eternity replicas in Sydney, including on Stace’s grave in Botany Cemetery and in Town Hall Square near St Andrew’s Cathedral. In 2011, the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst (formerly the historic Burton Street Tabernacle) was named in honor of Stace.

As a tribute to Stace, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit up with the word Eternity as part of the new millennium celebrations in 2000 — the same year Sydney hosted the Olympics. Australian composer Jonathan Mills also developed an opera called The Eternity Man in honor of Stace’s life work.

The fabled word followed Stace to his grave — quite literally. His epitaph, located in Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park, calls him Arthur Malcolm “Mr. Eternity” Stace.

“Arthur Stace knew the forgiveness of God in his own life and wanted others to have the same powerful assurance,” said Australian minister Tim Costello. “The magnificent sounds of eternity are often drowned out by the sounds of this temporary existence….as French scientist and mystic Teilhard de Chardin said, our lives will change when we realize we are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

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HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: The Bounty

The mutiny on the Bounty.

It’s been mythologized, contextualized, and debated for a couple centuries now. The villainous Captain William Bligh versus the tragic victim of circumstances, First Officer Fletcher Christian.

Historians still differ about what actually went down on the infamous ship. And while Bligh has been a lightning rod for criticism, some revisionist scholars have been more sympathetic towards him — and conversely, more harsh in their criticism of the mutinous Christian.

The story has refused to die over the decades and centuries since, as it has been kept alive — first by novelists Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, who penned the initial Mutiny on the Bounty novel, shortly followed by two other novels focusing on the aftermath (Pitcairn’s Island and Men Against the Sea). Several films have been made based on these events as well, two of which launched the careers of Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, and another which starred Marlon Brando in his prime. A fourth film (simply called The Bounty) painted a more sympathetic picture of Bligh and gave both him and Christian a more nuanced portrayal.

By now, the background and essentials of the story are well-documented. But never fear, dear reader. I’ll fill you in just in case.

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Part 1: Background

The HMS Bounty was commissioned in 1787 for the purpose of transporting breadfruit plants to Jamaican plantations by way of the South Pacific (more specifically, Tahiti).

William Bligh was a former mentee of the accomplished Captain James Cook (1728-1799), who mapped and chartered much of the Pacific — including Australia and New Zealand — over three separate voyages before getting murdered by Hawaiian warriors on the third journey. Bligh served as Cook’s navigator on those trips and was from a prominent naval family in Britain.

Fletcher Christian was Bligh’s master’s mate, having sailed with the captain on two previous voyages and garnered a reputation as a skilled navigator. Only 23 years old at the time, Christian came from a wealthy family of lawyers, but chose to be a sailor contrary to his parents’ wishes.

The entire journey — from London to Tahiti to the West Indies and back to London — was to take an entire two years. There were 46 men aboard the Bounty during its long journey — 44 midshipmen and two civilians. After making the treacherous journey around Cape Horn, the crew stayed in Tahiti for several months, growing breadfruits in a tropical environment and planning to take them to Jamaica at a later time. However, Bligh grew increasingly irascible and became more and more demanding of his crew. Christian, in particular, became a key whipping boy and discontent grew rapidly among the crew.

The Bounty left Tahiti in April 1789. While the crew may have been slightly disgruntled, none suggested any serious talk of rebellion. After the Bounty made a supply run in the Friendly Islands (modern-day Tonga), the mutiny occurred in the early morning hours of April 28th. Christian overestimated how many men would be behind him during the mutiny; nonetheless, he cast Bligh adrift, along with 18 of his men. In addition to the core group of mutineers, several Bligh loyalists were forced to remain against their will due to a lack of lifeboat space.

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Part 2: Initial Analysis

The prevailing narrative of the story is that Bligh was, at best, an unpredictable control freak, or at worst, a wicked tyrant — thereby portraying Christian as either a tragic victim of circumstances or a justifiably pissed-off rebel. This account has been the one that’s been dramatized most frequently, first in the book trilogy and later in most of the film adaptations. However, over the years, academics, historians and analysts alike have begun to be more sympathetic towards Blight and unsympathetic towards Christian.

This was first epitomized in the 1984 film The Bounty, which starred Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian. The movie, directed by Australian filmmaker Roger Donaldson, was much more revisionist than previous dramatizations, and Gibson later went on record as saying that the depiction didn’t go far enough — arguing that Christian should’ve been portrayed as the clear villain from the get-go.

(Side note: The 1984 film is not based on the original Mutiny on the Bounty novel, but rather on a different book called Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, first published in 1972 by historian Richard Hough).

Regardless, what logical conclusion can we take from the Bounty incident? Was the mutiny justified? And more importantly, what happened in between all the pivotal and memorable moments, both before and after the mutiny?

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Part 3: Reading between the lines

Truthfully, the roots of the mutiny can be found in Tahiti, where the crew of the Bounty spent five months. Upon their arrival, the Bounty‘s crew were ordered by Bligh to keep a careful eye on the breadfruits’ growth, but overall, their duties were light during their five-month stay. Bligh had a good relationship with the Polynesian natives, as he had made contact with them many years prior while traveling with Captain Cook. Bligh presented gifts to the Tahitian chiefs in exchange for the breadfruit plants; they happily accepted and were, by all accounts, very hospitable.

Maybe too much.

Christian and the rest of the crew were weary of the sea, and were more than content to get some R&R in this tropical paradise. Given that most of the crewmen were 15-25 year old men, they were beyond willing to drink rum, lounge on the beach, and socialize with the Tahitian women — who, back in the day, traditionally went topless.

Bligh continuously stressed discipline, but by that point, the crew (including Christian) weren’t in the mood to be bothered. A frustrated Bligh began to impose greater punishment on those who he deemed lazy, boorish, or worse. However, Bligh had rarely been a strict disciplinarian towards his crew during their long voyage, and was even seen by some as playing favorites with Christian.

Bligh was initially tolerant of his crew’s boozing and womanizing after the first few weeks in Tahiti, so his spurts of fierce discipline seemed to come out of nowhere — be it floggings, forcible rum rationing, or other punishments. In addition, Christian was frequently singled out and humiliated in front of the other crew and the natives. “Such neglectful and worthless, petty officers I believe were never in a ship such as are in this,” Bligh wrote angrily in his diary.

On January 5, 1789, three disgruntled members of the Bounty crew — John Millward, William Muspratt and Charles Churchill — deserted the rest of the crew in a small boat, taking some food, weapons and ammunition with them. Churchill left a list of crew names on a piece of paper on the Bounty that Bligh later found. This list apparently included both Christian and fellow crewman Peter Heywood. Incensed, Bligh soon captured the would-be deserters and had them severely flogged.

An increasingly paranoid Bligh began to rapidly increase the workload as the crew began to fill the lower cabins with the breadfruits; the Bounty finally left Tahiti on the morning of April 5th. Despite being irritated at having to leave, the crew were actually in fairly good spirits for the next few weeks, according to the diary of crewman James Morrison.

However, Blight continued to target Christian for minor offenses and seemed to be completely clueless about how his authoritarian approach was affecting morale. For example, when the Bounty reached the Tongan islands for additional water and supplies, Bligh warned Christian that the natives were unpredictable, having had skirmishes with them during his journeys with Captain Cook. However, he forbade Christian from bringing any muskets ashore with him in case things went awry. Christian was harassed by the Tongans, who stole the ship’s anchor and denied him any further access to the islands. Additionally, Bligh later accused Christian of stealing coconuts from his own private supply, despite Christian denying it. In retaliation, Bligh ordered his crew to ration food and rum.

Then the mutiny happened. It is believed that the mutiny itself was organized by Christian alone, although he had previously grumbled to fellow officers Edward Young and George Stewart. Neither of them encouraged Christian to desert, but suggested that he would likely have the crew’s support if he chose to revolt. Christian definitely didn’t have the foresight to know who would remain loyal to Bligh or not. Nonetheless, he had the leverage, and that’s what mattered in the end. “Never fear, lads, I’ll do you justice if ever I reach England,” Bligh called to his loyalists who remained onboard the Bounty.

Part 4: Bligh’s return and fate

Bligh and his men eventually navigated their way to the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) while rationing food and supplies. They tangled with the Tongan natives (again) and nearly got cannibalized in Fiji. Six men ultimately died on the return trip home.

Bligh finally arrived in England in 1790, and the news of the mutiny proceeded him. The Royal Navy court-martialed Bligh and then dispatched the HMS Pandora to round up the mutineers and send them back to England to be tried for treason.

In March 1791, the Pandora finally reached Tahiti and found several of the mutineers. Three of them surrendered immediately, and the remainder were rounded up within a week’s time. However, there was no sign of Christian.

Tragically, on the return trip, the Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef — 35 men were lost, including four mutineers. In September 1791, they arrived in Kupang, Dutch East Indies, where 16 crewmen also died, mostly from disease. In total, only 78 of the 134 men aboard the Pandora made it back safely to London.

Out of the 10 mutineers that were brought to trial, six were found guilty and four were innocent. Only three out of six were executed, as one got off on a technicality and two others were pardoned.

Bligh was exonerated for his actions in his court-martial and he remained in the Royal Navy. He undertook a second breadfruit expedition to the West Indies in 1793 and later become governor of the colony of New South Wales in 1805. The fledgling Australian penal colony was notorious for its rough conditions, and Bligh’s no-nonsense approach was seen as a perfect fit.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. In a bit of deja vu, the New South Wales army corps rebelled against Bligh, arresting him and declaring martial law in what is now known as the “Rum Rebellion.” To date, it is the only successful armed government takeover in Australian history. Bligh returned to England, where he died in 1817 at the age of 63.

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Part 5: Pitcairn Island

Meanwhile, Christian & Co. had unsuccessfully attempted to colonize the island of Tubuai before electing to return to Tahiti. At this point, the party consisted of Christian, 12 mutineers, and four Bligh loyalists. Christian eventually decided to take several men and a handful of Tahitians with him on a journey further east to Pitcairn Island, where they hoped to set up another colony. Many of the other mutineers stayed behind in Tahiti.

Once Christian and the remaining mutineers got to Pitcairn Island, they set the Bounty ablaze. The island itself was prohibitively isolated, filled with lush vegetation and plenty of raw materials in order to help sustain its new population. For awhile, the mutineers and their Tahitian companions coexisted peacefully, and many of them settled down and had children, including Christian.

Eventually, conflict broke out. Many of the Tahitian men were disgruntled at the hard labor they were expected to do, while debate arose among the mutineers about whether or not the Tahitians should be considered their slaves or fellow free settlers. Christian also became increasingly quiet and withdrawn during this time.

The Tahitians revolted against their former allies in September 1793, when they executed six mutineers. But only a few months later, all of the Tahitians who planned the murders were killed themselves, possibly by the mutineers’ wives as revenge. Christian was murdered, too — according to one account, he was shot while working in a field and his body was then dismembered with an axe.

Two of the four surviving mutineers, Ned Young and John Adams, grew weary of the violence and attempted to bring peace to Pitcairn. They reasoned that the copy of the Bible that was on the Bounty would be a good place to start. The two men taught the Tahitians and their children how to read and write, and also preached the Gospel.

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In 1808, an American ship, the Topaz, stumbled upon Pitcairn. To their amazement, they found a thriving colony on the island that was filled with friendly, peaceful people, as opposed to drunken, disorderly mutineers and their children.

However, with a potential war against France looming, the Brits weren’t overly concerned with the fate of Christian’s men and word of their whereabouts didn’t reach London until two years later. By that point, Adams was the only surviving mutineer (he didn’t die until 1829) and was later given amnesty. The British officially colonized Pitcairn in 1838.

To this day, the mutineers’ descendants still live on Pitcairn. A large number of descendants also live on Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia where several settlers temporarily relocated due to overcrowding on Pitcairn in the 1850s. In the latter half of the 19th century, the entirely Anglican population converted to Seventh-day Adventism due to the efforts of American missionary John Tay.

Due to its extreme isolation, Pitcairn has no airport and is classified as a British Overseas Territory, although they use the New Zealand dollar as currency. With a mere 50 inhabitants, Pitcairn is the least populous jurisdiction on the planet. Many of the residents still have surnames such as Young, Adams and Christian.

Coaches on the rise (2018)

Rhett Lashlee ADAY on Saturday, April 19, 2014 in Auburn AL Lauren Banrard

Rhett Lashlee — Offensive Coordinator, SMU

Lashlee goes way back with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn — he quarterbacked a record-setting offense for Malzahn at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas before following his mentor into the college game, first at Arkansas State (2012) followed by Auburn (2013-16). He transformed a previously stagnant offense at UConn last season before joining forces with Air Raid guru Sonny Dykes at SMU. Lashlee is still only 35 and has an infectious energy that pays dividends in recruiting. Look for him to get a head coaching shot sooner rather than later, most likely at a mid-major school in the south.

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Neal Brown — Head Coach, Troy

Amazingly, Brown is still at Troy after a fantastic 2017 season that saw the Trojans stun LSU on the road and claim a share of a Sun Belt championship. Brown’s exciting Air Raid offenses have lit up the scoreboard frequently, while his defenses have been marked by speedy playmakers who create turnovers at just the right time. Brown has won two bowl games in two years and has a combined 13-3 record in conference play. While he has no shortage of big-time offers, don’t be surprised if Brown waits for the perfect opportunity to become a head coach at a higher-profile program.

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Beau Baldwin — Offensive Coordinator, Cal

Born in Santa Barbara, California and raised in Spokane, Washington, Baldwin has a sterling resumé: he’s a former quarterback with plenty of experience in innovative offensive systems, and he’s also experienced at the lower levels of Division 1. Baldwin coached at Eastern Washington from 2008-2016, posting an overall 85-32 mark, six FCS playoff appearances, and one FCS national title (2010). Baldwin was rumored to be a finalist for the Oregon State job this past offseason until it went to Jonathan Smith, so look out for his name when the 2018-19 coaching carousel starts spinning.

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Ryan Day — Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

At this point, I’m basically contractually obligated to put at least one Urban Meyer assistant on these lists. What can I say? The Ohio State boss can flat-out coach. So can all of his assistants from top to bottom, and Day is no exception. In addition to Meyer, the 39-year-old Day coached under Chip Kelly at New Hampshire, Steve Addazio at Temple and Boston College, and even got some NFL experience under his belt (with the 49ers and Eagles). Day could be an ideal fit at a lower-level Group of Five program that needs a shot in the arm offensively.

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Mike Elko — Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Elko has been a high-riser in the coaching ranks in recent seasons, and for good reason. His defenses have been among the most statistically impressive in the FBS. He worked under Dave Clawson at Bowling Green (2009-2013) and Wake Forest (2014-2016) before engineering an eye-opening turnaround at Notre Dame last season. Seeing Elko’s lasting success, Jimbo Fisher immediately hired him when he took over at Texas A&M this past offseason. The jury’s still out on whether Fisher is the long-term right choice for the Aggies, but Elko is likely to get plenty of calls coming his way this coming winter for coaching vacancies.

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Walt Bell — Offensive Coordinator, Florida State

There’s a lot to like about Bell, who cut his teeth under spread offense wizards like Larry Fedora (Southern Miss, North Carolina) and Blake Anderson (Arkansas State). In 2016, he was scooped up by D.J. Durkin at Maryland, where he made an offense hum for two seasons despite dealing with tons of injuries at quarterback. Seeing his potential, Willie Taggart tabbed him as his new coordinator this past winter in Tallahassee. If Florida State’s offense gets back to its lethal standard, watch out…

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Alex Grinch — Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State

The 37-year-old Ohio native is back in his home state after earning rave reviews for his revamping of the Washington State defense for the past three seasons. Grinch earned nominations for the Broyles Award all three years (given to the nation’s top assistant coach) and helped the Cougars improve dramatically in forced turnovers and yards allowed.

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Chip Lindsey — Offensive Coordinator, Auburn

Another Gus Malzahn disciple, Lindsey first got into the college game in 2010. Since then, he’s been a coordinator for high-powered spread offenses at Southern Miss, Arizona State, and now Auburn. Given Malzahn’s coaching tree and their track record, Lindsey will certainly be another name to watch in the near future.

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Manny Diaz — Defensive Coordinator, Miami

Remember Miami’s supersized turnover chain last year? You can thank Diaz for that. The well-traveled Florida native has managed to make an impact at every stop he’s been, starting with his first DC position at Middle Tennessee in 2006, followed by Mississippi State (twice), Louisiana Tech and Texas. He could be in high demand if the right job opens.

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Seth Littrell — Head Coach, North Texas

A former Oklahoma Sooner running back, Littrell has already gotten Mean Green fans as excited as they’ve ever been in the modern era. While a 14-13 record in two seasons might not sound earth-shattering, Littrell’s teams have featured explosive offenses, gone 10-6 in conference play and been to back-to-back bowl games. With another big season in Denton, the 40-year-old Littrell might be on Power Five teams’ radars.