Saturday, 15 November 2014


Recently the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, threatened to shirtfront the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. A shirtfront is a term used in Australian Rules Football, a game that originated in the southern states of the country and not Abbott’s hometown of Sydney, where the main winter sport remains rugby. Shirtfronting is actually not legitimate in Australian football, despite the beliefs of some followers of the game, nor it seems Tony Abbott, who clearly has little grasp of the niceties of the game, at all. An umpire could report you if the shirtfront was crude enough. A shirtfront is a brazen charge at another player, usually with the intention of knocking him down or even injuring him so he has to be taken from the ground. When done behind play it is completely outside the law. In Melbourne parlance, any player known as a shirtfronter is, by definition, probably a dirty player and someone to avoid on, and possibly even off, the field. It's about playing the man, not the ball, which is why Abbott's use of the term is so disgraceful. To threaten someone with a shirtfront is to amplify the fact that you don't care about the rules and will do whatever you like to hurt the opposition. No footballer would brag about shirtfronting because it is poor form and proof you don't know how to use your playing skills. Sometimes it's the resort of a coward or bully. That said, there are certain famous shirtfronting rough diamonds who were also greats of the game, including ‘Captain Blood’ Jack Dyer, ‘Mr Football’ Ted Whitten, and that model of deportment Leigh Matthews. None of those men ever won a Brownlow medal.

It needs also to be understood that most shirtfronts are, almost by definition, unpremeditated. They usually occur in the fast tempo of play when a player loses it and decides in a split second that it will be tactically more advantageous to knock this player over by brute force than go for the ball or manage a legitimate bump, which is a lot to think in a split second. This is why the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, a Melburnian and not someone from the rugby capital of Sydney, calls Abbott's threat of a shirtfront on the President of Russia a 'brain snap'. A shirtfront is always the result of a brain snap. Abbott, by using the threat, reveals that he doesn't even really know what a shirtfront is, but obviously its macho connotations appeal to him for some reason. A footballer in Melbourne who seriously threatened someone with a shirtfront would be treated as a laughing stock because it goes outside the rules of the game; the player would be cautioned, if he wasn't banned. This is why Abbott is a laughing stock in Melbourne. Politically speaking, he has made a fool of himself because he doesn't even know the meaning of the word 'shirtfront'. It also reveals that he is someone who speaks first and is advised later, rather than the other way around.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Vestige (Philip Hunter)

VESTIGE (2011) Philip Hunter


Although art historians and biographers claim expertise in this area, it is often difficult to say what is going on in his private life. He was shacked up with her but was meanwhile having it off with this other person, who was coincidentally (or not) a friend of his best friend at the time, only then, against all expectation, he leaves her, or in fact let’s face it them, and takes up with the disillusioned wife of another artist, that artist meanwhile discovering true bliss in the company of someone who was, up until then, a famous serial monogamist, the accountant, or perhaps secret collector, of the artist in question. All of this was some time ago, don’t we know it, and cause now more for amused information than the tears and bedlam it all caused at the time. It is hard to see this in the work, especially if it’s a landscape, but theories are bound to emerge. The artist keeps drawing voluptuous abstract lines across his works, reminiscent of the erotic contours of his several lovers, or else just outlines of a canola field. Various hieroglyphs and oddity shapes on the side of the painting could be code for the fact that he is having something on the side. Or maybe it’s all in the mind of the viewer, or the artist. Maybe he is not having something on the side, being too busy pressing delicately the fingers of his paint brushes against the soft firm skin of the next canvas, out in the open for everyone to see, somewhere out the other side of St. Arnaud.    


Curiously, it is once we get past conjecture into known reportage that the whole thing takes on the quality of a dream. The main art historian (some of them haven’t been born yet) sees no special need to merge work with life, though privately has always marvelled at the artist’s increased use of a lighter palette after he met his future wife. Biographers struggle with the flimsy evidence of hearsay anecdotes while overcoming his stonewalling statements along the lines of “I am a landscape painter, that’s about the sum of it!” or, “The handling of shades is best left to those with experience in these things.” More adventurous biographers venture into psychology, arguing that vestiges of the work must surely detail the reality of his home life, but then generally draw a blank. She with whom he was shacked up laughs it off as part of the folly of youth; anyway is not a reliable source. She with whom he was having it off now lives in the United States and can only be reached via her agent, though sometimes her face returns benignly to the artist’s mind in his dreams. The disillusioned wife pursued a whole new lifetime of illusions, with her own theories about the artist, his prejudices, his sleeping habits, his brush application, his private opinions, his football club, about all of which she is tight-lipped, except to her long time girlfriend. The other artist is busy commissioning his own biographer, who plans to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth from his client’s point of view: it promises to be hard-hitting. The serial monogamist has given up that pattern of existence as it’s just too much hard work. In fact, she’s given up on artists more or less, is jack of the whole pack of them and their narcissistic self-preoccupations. Including self-promotions. “Tell me about it!” she states stridently. If there is someone on the side no one is saying, though the artist is sometimes seen in Kyneton at unlikely times of the week for no apparent good reason. The children of these people have their own stuff to deal with, while some of their opinions of these ‘old fogeys’ are not publishable in respectable art journals. Avoid having anything to do with lawyers! 

Sunday, 5 October 2014


seventeen wye river haiku philip harvey wrote in october 2014

earplugged high above sea her bramble of wires play unheard-of songs

window jar of shells wait to be tipped back into years’ sheer swirl and crash

inside her novel of cathedral life she forgets, for now, bush beach

one stick of bangalore incense burns down: time taken on this haiku

brain finds words for ‘waves’: inexorable, folding, arched, blooms, final, first

one rounded weed above sludge and leaves: the green light to clear the gutters

hair-skin-bone roadkill on the boulevarde: everything moves for shelter

it’s like the fridge: you only get out of it what you put into it

it’s like rosellas: you have no control over it, they just show up

carefree dogs chase wave foam ahead of owners, dawdling with uncatched leads

winter’s storm wreck chaos is viewed through springtime’s upright theodolites

river ripples, only seen by moonlight, meet tide only due to moon

meals lifted by grace, memories, red wine, coarse clicks of the peppermill

thinking no one sees, green bowerbird picks her fill of white waxflowers

sun transforms morning rooms, only trace of night the black of candlewicks

that slim slip of black inch gone down between stone steps makes mind think skink, skink

dragonflies tangent above our heads as we stand in hard surf rush