Here’s The Thing: a new ranty column by me

This entire area could really be a lot better, peace-wise

This entire area could really be a lot better, peace-wise

Look, I rant a lot and often I need more space to rant than any sane person would let me do in a column.

So now I’m taking things that I want to screed about in a larger format to Here’s The Thing, my new column at TheVine, and brilliantly named by my better half who pointed out how freakin’ often I use that phrase.

The first one is all about my nonthusiasm regarding our involvement in Iraq. SPOILER: it’s a terrible idea.

Hope you like it.

Yours ever,

APS

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The first week of the new column, and other things

Let’s have a little look-see at the way the week’s panned out.

Morning, the Internet.

I may work from home these days, but at least I'm maintaining the stringent strata-based filing system that has historically made my desks so easily identifiable.

Former officemates will be relieved to note that I’m maintaining the stringent strata-based filing system that has historically made my desks so easily identifiable. Also, that Eagulls CD is really good.

Well, it’s been a week of the column at the Sydney Morning Herald’s site (and the affiliated national mastheads, about which I’m terribly excited). It’s a heck of a feeling to be writing for the SMH – and gotta say, it’s been very, very, VERY nice not having to get up at 5am to do so.

If you’ve missed said columns thus far, they went a little bit like this:

Sunday 21: Yeah, racist attacks may not be the best anti-terror strategy

Monday 22: John Howard was right, says John Howard

Tuesday 23: Will Palmer United become Palmer Untied?

Wednesday 24: Scott Morrison’s Holiday in Cambodia

Thursday 25: ASIO to hide your freedom so the baddies can’t get it

and all my stuff is gathered here.

Also, it was very sad to hear that the King’s Tribune has ceased publishing: another source of independent journalism vanished. The last thing I wrote for them was my review of treasurer Joe Hockey’s biography Not Your Average Joe. Spoiler: it was not positive.

There’s quite a few SMH pieces out there, but also I had a chat with Jimmy Barnes for the Guardian, and reviewed the excellent new Sounds Like Sunset album for Mess+Noise.

In other news, there’s a fair whack of my stuff in the next issue of Time Out Sydney, including a feature about the surprising rise of country music in the city, and this week I’ve been pumping out stories for Voyeur and Australian Guitar that will be printed in the coming months and make it look like I’m sort of writin’ machine.

Next week will have the launch of my new column at TheVine, entitled Here’s The Thing, which will be like my longer 10 Things entries where I’d get completely sidetracked and go deep into the history of an issue. I’ll no doubt be making a song and dance about it on Twitter and stuff, so feel free to follow me if you don’t already.

Speaking of which: I won’t bother you too often because I treat Twitter less like a communication medium and more like a bus window out of which I occasionally yell. So if you’re planning on having a Twitter war with me, apologies in advance: I generally don’t bother. It’s a great medium for insults but terrible for proper discussions, so maybe screed it up on my Facebook instead.

And now, back to the word mines. See you at the SMH on Sunday evening, friends.

Yours ever,

APS

There’s a new column in the world’s column-place!

And the nation celebrates the launch of another opinion screed by some dude in Sydney!

And the nation celebrates the launch of another opinion screed by some dude in Sydney!

As promised, last night was the triumphant launch of my new column What’s Going On at the Sydney Morning Herald, the column that one commentator accurately described as “like 10 Things”. And yes, that’s pretty much it.

Just to quote a bit of m’self doing what experts call “managing expectations”, or possible “setting agendas”, here’s how I’ve described it assuming you can’t be bothered clicking on a nice easy internet link:

In order that there be no confusion about what follows, I should make clear that I’m a big fan of the notion that we humans are pretty great, that we do all our best stuff when we work together, and that we could all stand to be a bit kinder to one another. I realise that these are not notions that are at all popular with our current government, or indeed with the internet as a whole. And to a large extent it’s not a philosophy that’s getting a lot of traction around the world, from Nigeria to Ukraine to a decent slab of the Middle East.

However, I still reckon that “how’s about we stop acting like dicks for a bit and see how that shakes out?” is an idea worth trying, since the alternative seems not to be getting great results.

But anyway, this is my column. Thanks for popping by. You’re looking well. That haircut suits you.

And it does. It really, really does.

Anyway, that’s the first one. There’ll be many, many more. Presumably.

 

 

10 Things: and that’s a wrap

Yes, after two years of early starts today I’ve handballed 10 Things at the Vine over to my pal Amy Gray, who is amazing and will do amazing things with it. And I’m missing it already because it’s been a huge part of my life. Between that and leaving Time Out it’s been a real time of… um, leaving objectively good writing gigs. That should have been a better metaphor, really.

However, the reason that I’ve stopped doing 10 Things is a good one – I’m still writing for TheVine (and for Time Out, for that matter), but I’m delighted to announced that my new column What’s Going On will debut on SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER on smh.com.au. Yes, my weird lefty ranty take on current events is hitting the mainstream!

(I believe it’ll also be on all the other Fairfax sites and mobile devices, incidentally.)

I am incredibly excited about this, not least because it involves not getting at up 5am. Oh, that is going to be BLISS.

In the meantime, here’s the last little while of 10 Things. Remember the good times, friends…

Joe Hockey: Not Your Average Joe review

Originally published at the King’s Tribune, September 2014

What made Diamond Joe change from jovial, avuncular goof into angry, sulky goof? We asked Andrew P Street to read the Joe Hockey biography so that you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome.

Biographers, more or less by necessity, have to fall in love in with their subject. Writing a book is a nightmarishly long ordeal and Stockholm Syndrome must kick in at some point out of sheer self-preservation.

So it’s no surprise that Not Your Average Joe’s author Madonna King is clearly a fan of Joe Hockey and goes that extra mile to spin his successes as mighty victories and his failures as being the fault of lesser men (and always men) who either lack Hockey’s peerless vision or are jealous of his incandescent talents.

The problem is that it all comes across like that friend who talks about the awesome new guy they’re dating, but every single story makes the guy sound like a bullying jerk.

You can just imagine King dishing over a coffee: “Joe was criticised by feminist groups on campus during his election campaign for the University of Sydney Student’s Representative Council, so when he became President he immediately closed the Women’s Room! Isn’t that hilarious?”

“Um, actually, that sounds like he was, at best, being dickishly ungracious in victory and at worst putting women at risk by eliminating a safe space for them on campus,” you would hesitantly reply.

“Oh, you just have to get to know him!” King would presumably respond with a dismissive guffaw. “It’s just his sense of humour! Like when he claimed he’d signed up 80 new members to the local branch of the Liberal Party on the North Shore and now admits that he mainly just added the names of dead people to the register and was never caught – I mean, what a caution!

These days this cover is the entire dictionary entry for "hubris".

These days this cover is the entire dictionary entry for “hubris”.

Not Your Average Joe is not just a collection of heart-warming tales of revenge-misogyny and voter fraud; it’s also the story of how one deeply insecure young man grew up to become the most deeply entitled and self-aggrandising treasurer Australia has ever known – which, in a field that includes such avowed Paul Keating fans as Paul Keating, is no small achievement.

Then again, most of the evidence for Hockey’s inflated sense of his own glorious significance is not contained within the covers of the book, but in the fact that there’s a book with covers within which to contain said glorious significance.

Put bluntly: why the ever-loving fuck would a man in the first year of his job say yes to the writing and publication of his biography unless he was a) utterly assured of his importance and felt there was a genuine need to capture this historic moment, or b) knew in his heart of hearts that no-one was going to remember what a Joe Hockey was after the next election, and possibly by mid-way through the current government?

The answer, told time and time again in the book, is a). Joe Hockey wanted to be PM since he was four, we’re assured. Everyone – from his unshakably supportive father to his indulgent schoolteachers to his mates on the rugby field – repeatedly and unceasingly assured him that he would be PM. The fact the wanted it when he was a preschooler indicates that his desire for the role predated having any idea what that role actually meant. This is primal gimme-I-want stuff, not a cool-headed dedication to public service.

That theme – unshakable entitlement – is what comes through time and again through the book. When he’s successful, he gloats. When he fails, he explodes.

An illustrative example is that before he was the first to be eliminated in the three-horse Liberal Party leadership spill in 2009 – the one that toppled Malcolm Turnbull and installed Tony Abbott as leader in opposition – he was so assured of his own victory that he didn’t even bother to call MPs and lobby them for their vote, as Abbott was comprehensively doing.

“That feeds the view that he has this destiny thing where he should get things easily,” said one unnamed ‘senior Liberal’, echoing the opinions expressed elsewhere by John Howard, Peter Costello, Peter Dutton, Nick Minchin and practically everyone else.

Needless to say Joe sees it rather differently.

He didn’t lose the vote: he was betrayed by Turnbull, who assured him he wouldn’t run (despite having declared his intention to do so on television a mere two days before the vote, and who gently suggests in the book that Joe’s version of events exists entirely in his own head) and by Abbott who had pledged to support Hockey (who changed his mind after they argued over giving a free vote for the Turnbull-and-Kevin Rudd-endorsed Emissions Trading Scheme).

Among the other people that Joe accuses of betraying him – in a book written by a sympathetic author who even fills several pages singing the praises of the universally loathed WorkChoices – are the following people:

Howard (for giving him bad advice about pushing for a free vote on the Emissions Trading Scheme), Costello (for not supporting his desire to be finance minister), Minchin (for backing Abbott after earlier supporting Joe), Rudd (for asking Hockey’s advice on how to be opposition leader and then applying it), Ian Macdonald (for criticising Hockey as senior tourism minister), Family First’s Steve Fielding (who agreed to a free vote on the ETS, according to Hockey, and then announced on TV that he didn’t), and pretty much everyone else.

He also gets some stories in about cool Terminator-like quips he made to the faces of Howard and Turnbull during arguments, which both men politely deny ever happened, lending weight to the idea that Hockey is first and foremost a fabulist convinced of his own greatness.

It’s at times a genuinely sobering read: much of the first act of the book covers Joe’s childhood and education, painting the picture of an isolated little boy carrying his self-made immigrant father’s dreams of greatness on his shoulders, teased for his size through school (gaining the nickname “Sloppy Joe”) and looking for camaraderie through sport, cadets and finally politics.

It’s also implied that Joe wasn’t exactly a hit with the ladies. It doesn’t help that his wife, Melissa Babbage, comes across in the book as the least sympathetic spouse since Lady Macbeth.

The enormously successful and mightily wealthy investment banker met Joe at a Young Liberals function and every quote in the book suggests that she quickly assessed him as a sound, if undervalued, investment and engineered a matrimonial merger, speaking of their courtship and marriage as though they were necessary obligations to be overcome rather than the glorious unfolding of a love to last through the ages.

Mind you, he did allegedly propose to her while accompanied by a violinist playing music from The Phantom of the Operawhich suggests that romance and creativity aren’t big concerns of Joe’s either.

The art of the hubrisography is a rich and noble one – why, right this minute I have two music bios on my shelf, David Barnett’s Love and Poison: the authorised biography of Suede and Tony Fletcher’s Never Stop: the Echo & the Bunnymen Story, both of which have penultimate chapters in which the respective bands express their boundless optimism for their rosy, hit-filled future which are followed by an immediate pre-publication epilogue essentially reading “…and then they split up.”

In a similar spirit, the book ends with King mentioning that Joe was photographed having a cheeky cigar with finance minister Mathias Cormann just after delivering his first triumphant budget, and then suggests, as though in passing, that it remained to be seen how it would be received – which is sort of like writing a biography of Austria that ends in 1914, mentioning that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had just been assassinated in Sarajevo and idly speculating as to whether there’d be any sort of official response.

One of her closing sentences, though, was meant to reiterate how much Joe and Tones are BFFs these days, but now has a somewhat ominous tinge as they both grow increasingly testy over who is failing to win the nation’s hearts and minds: “Barnaby Joyce, who like Hockey is one of the government’s best retail politicians, says the two will rise and fall together.”

That may prove to be the most accurate line in the entire book.