New deal not cricket. If you are very good at a sport that is played seriously in only 10 countries, can you honestly claim to be the “best in the world”? Isn’t it a bit like saying Prime Minister Tony Abbott is the fittest man in cabinet? This thought crossed my mind when I read an article last week in The Economist entitled “Playing for Themselves“, about recent changes in the game of cricket.

Cricket is only played in countries that used to be British colonies, and it includes a set of arcane and ridiculous rules that make gridiron look like Snap. There are a grand total of 10 members of the International Cricket Council — England, Australia and India are the big three, with daylight between them and the other countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The article says administrators from England, India and Australia recently thrashed out a deal that “would see almost all executive power in the game shared out amongst themselves”. They have also changed the touring program so the teams of those three countries won’t have to go on “uneconomic tours” to out-of-the-way (and really, really hot) places like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. On top of this, Test cricket will be re-organised into a two-tier system, with the big three immune from relegation from the top division.

Pakistani cricketing legend Imran Khan has described it as “colonial”, which is a polite way of “we’ve been shafted”.

If only 10 countries play serious cricket, on the law of averages we are bound to win occasionally — so why is it clogging up our television screens for the entire summer? On that basis, we should have blanket coverage of something we really do excel in: two-up.

Twenty minutes for a beer. Australia really is a workers’ paradise, with recent research showing that a worker on a minimum wage only has to toil for 20 minutes to afford a beer. Roberto Feldman and Ritchie King from the Quartz website, have produced a graph called a “beer indicator”:

They calculated this by combining minimum wage data from the International Labor Organisation and the average price of a domestic draft beer, sourced from website Numbeo.

On their figures, Australia and Luxembourg are the equal second best place in the world to live, just behind Puerto Rico (12 minutes). The worst places for the working man and woman to live are Georgia (15.1 hours) and Bangladesh (13.4 hours). While the price of beer in Muslim Bangladesh would probably be affected by scarcity, Georgia, a former Russian satellite, has no such restrictions.

The article assumes that 500ml of a standard draft beer in this country costs $5.38, while the minimum hourly wage for a full-time worker is $16.37. Cheers.

And a lifetime of coffee. From beer to coffee — coffee appreciation is rapidly moving in the direction of wine, with aficionados talking in terms of “varietals”, “body” and “terroir”.

The “devil’s cup” is one of the world’s most popular beverages, with about 2.25 billion cups consumed every day. Up until a few years ago we drank a fairly generic product, but these days serious coffee drinkers are learning more about varieties such as Colombian, Java and Cona.

On the weekend Rootstock, the Sydney food and wine festival,  presented a coffee masterclass entitled “The Impact of Varietal on Taste”. There, “chief coffee curator” Dylan Johnson explained that there were three species of coffee plant: Liberica, Arabica and Canephora (also known as Robusta). Within these species, there are about 40 commonly farmed varietals that form the bulk of the global coffee harvest, which produces more than 8.5 million tonnes a year. However, the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia, has maintained species diversity and has thousands of coffee varieties growing all over the country.

Dylan, from Sydney’s Paramount Coffee Project in Sydney’s Surry Hills, organised for us to taste five of these “boutique” varieties, all of which were sourced from a single 300-hectare organic farm in Northern Colombia called Hacienda El Roble, which has a separate experimental garden containing 72 different coffee varieties.

We drank these varieties, which had names like Gesha, Wush Wush, HR 61 and HR 62, without milk or sugar, and were soon writing tasting notes like “floral” “citrus” and “chocolate”. Drinking it hot and then waiting for 10 minutes brought out the different “notes” in the aromas, just like the changes in a perfume.

Judging by the beards, most of the participants were baristas, although the rest of the class were probably just addicted amateurs for whom, like French writer Honore de Balzac, “rocket fuel” is an indispensable aid to work. After drinking coffee, he wrote, “forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink — for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder”.

Larrikin exhibition. The fascinating Australian Vernacular Photography exhibition is currently on show at the NSW Art Gallery, featuring works from the 1960s to the present.

Gerrit Fokkema, Blacktown Man, 1983

The works in it, by Anne Zahalka, Gerrit Fokkema, David Moore and Trent Parke, among others, showcase the unique sense of humour or larrikinism often seen as typically Australian.  The people in the shots range from leathery sunbathers, beer-drinking blokes and hippies to bikini-clad beachgoers and student protesters, shedding light on the sense of liberation and self-recognition that arose during this period.

Anne Zahalka, The Girls, Cronulla Beach, 2007

In style, the photographs range from the more conventionally photo-documentary through to later works with a more artistic consciousness.  The exhibition is on show until May 18.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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