April 2014

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

John Howard & Uri Geller

When it came to ruining cutlery, Uri Geller was the world champion. By the early 1970s, the former Israeli paratrooper had become internationally famous for his ability to bend spoons using only the tips of his fingers and his unique powers of telekinesis. So great were these powers, given to him by extra-terrestrials, that he could not merely deform tableware but also start stopped watches, read minds, cause keys to droop like limp spaghetti and detect mineral deposits by psychic prospecting.

Long after Geller’s paranormal abilities were discredited as being no more than well-known conjurers’ tricks, people continued to believe that he possessed secret gifts. These included the directors of Zanex, an Australian mining company. In 1985, Zanex paid Geller $US250,000 to fly over the Solomon Islands, mind-probing the jungle below for buried diamonds, and to intuit potential gold deposits at Maldon, an old gold-mining town in Victoria.

On a commercial fight to Brisbane in October that year, Geller was noticed by another passenger, an up-and-coming politician in his mid 40s. John Howard was the new Liberal Party leader and the father of three young children aged five, eight and eleven. He sent the celebrity illusionist a note, asking if Geller could provide an autographed photograph for his kids.

“We duly met and I bent a spoon for him in the usual way,” Geller wrote later, adding that he took the opportunity to predict that Howard would one day be leader of the country.

John Howard’s rise took more than the prophecy of a prestidigitator, however felicitous the forecast. It was just over ten years later, after two leadership bouts and a lost federal election, that he finally succeeded in making Labor vanish from power. In that time, and the decade that followed, he proved himself more of a master magician than could ever have been foreseen. The Great Winston, he made things disappear in plain sight, sawed his opponents in half, switched the contents of locked cabinets, and delivered the cold spoon treatment to the ambitions of his treasurer.

Zanex, meanwhile, terminated its loss-making operations in the Solomons, citing poor management. Geller dropped his supernatural claims, became a close friend of Michael Jackson, sued Pokémon for filching his image and took to calling himself an entertainer. This didn’t stop a British tabloid reporting that he’d been enlisted to use his “remote viewing” skills in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

John Howard’s children must have appreciated the autographed photograph. In 1997, he was declared our Father of the Year.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

April 2014

From the front page

Integrity on ice

Experts fear the PM’s new anti-corruption agency will be a toothless tiger

Image from ‘La Passion de Simone’

Performing philosophy: ‘La Passion de Simone’ at the Sydney Festival

The creatives behind this Sydney Chamber Opera production on the extreme empathy of Simone Weil

Still from I Used to be Normal

Female fandom and Jessica Leski’s ‘I Used to be Normal’

They’ve been dismissed and patronised, but Beatlemaniacs, Directioners and other fangirls are very self-aware about their boy band ‘affliction’

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Activists of a certain age

Meet the septuagenarian fronting a new generation of protesters


In This Issue

The triumphalism of Tony Abbott

The Liberals' winner-takes-all political payback

© Lisa Tomasetti

Sydney Theatre Company and the Australian Defence Force’s ‘The Long Way Home’

The lives of returned soldiers

Oil, gas and spy games in the Timor Sea

Australian scheming for the Greater Sunrise oilfield has a long history

© Cybele Malinowski

Sally Seltmann’s ‘Hey Daydreamer’

The fourth solo album from the Sydney singer-songwriter


More in Arts & Letters

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Les Murray’s magisterial ‘Collected Poems’

How to approach a 736-page collection by Australia’s greatest poet?

Image of a bushfire

Fair judgement without surrender: Chloe Hooper’s ‘The Arsonist’

The author of ‘The Tall Man’ tries to understand the motivations of a Black Saturday firebug

Still from Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski’s perfectly formed ‘Cold War’

Not a moment is wasted in what could be the Polish director’s masterpiece

Still from I Used to be Normal

Female fandom and Jessica Leski’s ‘I Used to be Normal’

They’ve been dismissed and patronised, but Beatlemaniacs, Directioners and other fangirls are very self-aware about their boy band ‘affliction’


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

Chips Rafferty & The Monkees


Read on

Image from ‘La Passion de Simone’

Performing philosophy: ‘La Passion de Simone’ at the Sydney Festival

The creatives behind this Sydney Chamber Opera production on the extreme empathy of Simone Weil

Image of Craig Kelly

Protecting Craig Kelly

Saving the MP from a preselection battle was another fine display of muppetry

Images from ‘Colette’ and ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

Fake it so real: ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ and ‘Colette’

Two new films examine female writers who masquerade for very different reasons

Illustration

Editor’s Note December 2018 – January 2019


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