(Above: Brandon in Vincent Fantauzzo's portrait, currently on show at the Archibald Prize at the State Gallery of NSW).
Hagiography is one of the deadliest sins in art. Whenever I see a portrait of Bob Brown in the Archibalds, I mentally begin to curl. And when I see a super realist portrait of the young star of Baz Lurhmann's monstrosity Australia, I genuinely flinch.
Australia is now with us on dvd - old news to pirates online who've got themselves a 720p Blu-ray rip long ago - and it's a salutary reminder of how News Ltd. picked the pockets of Australian taxpayers to make a turkey which will sit on video store shelves for years to come, as well as a not so silent monument reminding potential visitors that we are a country of laughable stereotypes. Forty million they made off with, like bandits, and taking the Tourism Australia for a waltz down the same garden path.
My mind drifted in this direction because reading Piers Akerman's latest column left me a little flat, and that's surprising for a News Ltd. headkicker who's always up for a bit of bashing of businesses who make off with our hard won tax dollars.
But after the hysterics and great fun to be found in his last outing - the story of rampant hideous bikies bringing Australia to its knees, with wild west Dodge City tamer than Sydney - in his latest outing Akerman, our very special fat owl of the remove, seems to run out of adjectives, to run out of apocalyptic visions.
All the more surprising because it's a nice fat juicy witchetty grub of a target he's chosen - the incompetent NSW Labor government, and the faceless trade union men who really run the state. Dead in the water and two more years of Labor to go, he calls it, but there's no baseball bat, no two by four, no knee capping. He almost sounds tired having to re-visit these wretched miscreants.
Sure the word count provides a few flashes of assault and battery. They're thugs, dedicated to acts of unprincipled bastardry, determined to vote against rational decisions like privatising the electricity industry. And NSW is the laughing stock of Australia.
But that's about it. The fat owl quotes statistics to show NSW is a basket case, and he does suggest the Labor shouldn't be allowed to own a credit card, let alone run a state.
Inevitably as his capper to the column, he bemoans the way we have to wait two more years to vote them out - two years too long. But surprisingly he doesn't run with opposition leader Barry O'Farrell's suggestion we introduce an American style recall system, so we can lobby to get a vote together to vote for a new election right here, right now (especially as we no longer have an activist GG like drunken Johnnie Kerr to order up an election for the frustrated Liberals).
Guess even the fat owl realises it's a really fatuous notion.
Indeedy, the only time I got a chuckle in the whole column was when Piers damned Labor for one of its egregious errors:
The failure of NSW to capitalise on the Olympic investment is one of the most dismal examples of the abject failure of Labor as a responsible government.
Goes to show economics isn't his main strength. It was just another bit of panem et circenses fat owl. It was just a bit of "quick, the economy's stuffed, we're stuffed, let's bung on a do". It was Bob Carr at his best, which is to say his infrastructure, forward thinking worst. Once the circus moves on, you're always left with a white elephant, in this case a cold and remote stadium, and bugger all else.
How are you going to capitalise on the Olympic investment once the Olympics have left town? Have you ever been to other left over monuments to the Olympics? Like the stadium in Tokyo? They're invariably tragic. Even Rugby League is unhappy with the ground it's inherited, with an atmosphere like a funeral most nights, and the crowd seated well away from the thuggee action.
That's what happens when you purpose build a stadium and hope you can re-purpose it, without ever actually thinking how.
So what to do? Well you bung on another circus, this time an annual V8 Supercar race around the former Olympic site, coming to this forlorn state in December 2009 anno domini. Yep, the state's stuffed, so let's forget about Eastern Creek, let's chop down a few trees and build another circuit (you see the poor chappies lost money last time they went to Eastern Creek, so let's bring 'em in to town and lavish cash on them).
Let's not reveal how much the state government will tip in to make sure the circus comes to town - confidential in Cabinet confidence of a commercially confident kind, don't ya know, confidentially speaking - but let's release some standard consultant blather (paid for at vast expense) about how the event will add anywhere between a hundred and a hundred and ten million to the economy, and attract up to 15,ooo visitors from overseas and interstate. Wow.
How much are NSW voters paying for this three day petrol head orgy, which will see $20 million spent on fixing up the site?
According to the NSW Legislative Council debate on the matter, it might be as much as a $30 million handout each time the event is staged annually for five years, with doubts about whether the amount is capped and how much more the promoter - News Ltd movie producer style - might be able to come back with bowl in hand to ask for ... more gruel please. (If you want to read the comedy routines that pass for parliamentary debates in the upper house, go here for the full day Hansard transcript for the 3rd December, 2008 to see the greens cop a pounding for their 'cultural bigotry').
Meanwhile, the Opera House - an international symbol for Sydney and Australia - withers on the vine without any freshening up, with Rudd sceptical, and Garrett having the cheek to turn up at an homage to its architect, smirking and smarming, and knowing that the place has a snowball's chance in hell of getting a fix up any time soon.
One things's for sure. I bet all the right wing lead foot, speed ticket attracting petrol head loons go quiet on this one. They can smell the fumes already, and they know the opposition to the race (apart from internal opposition from the major events people who can smell a dog along with the petrol fumes) came from the greens. Game, set and match to the party down dudes petrol heads.
Yep, forget about the state of the state. Forget about the state of roads, rail, education and health. Let's all have a three day circus. And they tell the blacks petrol sniffing is wrong.
Go back a week afterwards, and see where all the long term, structural, growth orientated economic benefits have gone. Up in smoke in the carefully tuned V8 cylinders of the gas guzzlers, and the track dismantled until the next year, when the gruel bowls come out again.
Now in memory of all the carpet baggers who come to Sydney to feast, and especially in memory of Laurie Brereton, who invented the idea of city transport expensively going nowhere in a circle, let's all sing The Simpsons song to the monorail (and remember you can always slip into the lyrics 'supercar race', or 'olympics' or any other special major event that attracts your fancy).
Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on Earth like a
genuine, bonafide, electrified, six-car monorail!
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Monorail!
Lanley: What's it called?
Patty and Selma: Monorail!
Lanley: That's right- Monorail!
(Crowd softly chants "monorail")
Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud.
Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.
Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?
Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.
Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?
Lanley: You'll all be given cushy jobs.
Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?
Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.
Chief Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.
Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man!
I swear it's Springfield's only choice!
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
Lanley: What's it called?
Lanley: Once again!
Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken!
Bart: Sorry, Mom, but the mob has spoken!
Everyone: Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!
Homer: Mono- DOH!!
Fat owl, you're always a disappointment, that's why we find you so endearing. The failure of state Labor to capitalize on the Olympics? Give us all a break. The mistake, if any was made, is to expect that handing over cash to carpetbaggers is the way to drive an economy forward.
While we're on the subject of hagiography and wretched grimaces and the dismal future facing the state, and the Opera House, how's this for a portrait of Peter Garrett? You won't see it in this year's Archibald, thank the lord, because it was entered in 2007 by the artist Michael Mucci under the title The power and the passion. Presumably the amp still provides the power, not sure what happened to the passion.
All the more reason to check out this year's Garrett-free exhibition. Just close your eyes when you come to young Brandon - it's not his fault, he does well in the film - and dream of being Rupert or a V8 promoter and making off with squillions from government.