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

Scott free

The rorting revelations continue, but who will be held properly accountable?

Image [detail] of Agency, by William Gibson

Days of future passed: William Gibson’s ‘Agency’

The cyberpunk pioneer’s latest novel continues his examination of the present from the perspective of a post-apocalyptic future

Image from ‘Extinction Studies’

Wildlife’s whispered traces: ‘Extinction Studies’

Lucienne Rickard’s durational art performance at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery reckons with extinct species

Image of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull’s legacy costs

The former PM’s promise to legislate a religious freedom bill has ensured the culture wars rage on


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

Untitled (Pollo Frito), 1982, by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Stopped in the street: ‘Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines’

Early death meant the work of these renowned artists never fully emerged from ’80s New York subcultures

Image [detail] of Agency, by William Gibson

Days of future passed: William Gibson’s ‘Agency’

The cyberpunk pioneer’s latest novel continues his examination of the present from the perspective of a post-apocalyptic future

Image of Gordon Koang

The king in exile: Gordon Koang

The music of the South Sudanese star and former refugee offers solace and a plea for unity

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Kills, frills and Kelly aches: Justin Kurzel’s ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’

The Australian director brings a welcome sense of style to the unusually malleable story


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 ‘Extinction Studies’

Wildlife’s whispered traces: ‘Extinction Studies’

Lucienne Rickard’s durational art performance at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery reckons with extinct species

Image of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull’s legacy costs

The former PM’s promise to legislate a religious freedom bill has ensured the culture wars rage on

Image from ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’

Party of three: ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’

Australian comedian Josh Thomas brings his unique brand of comedy to the classic American sitcom format

Image of Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott composing ‘Tao of Glass’

A dream within a dream: ‘Tao of Glass’

Theatremaker Phelim McDermott on his highly personal collaboration with Philip Glass


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