Stamp Enthusiasts Betting Big on Black Caviar

Australia’s national treasure Black Caviar has been immortalised in a set of stamps designed to commemorate her twentieth consecutive win. And stamp enthusiasts are quietly confident that the superstar mare’s high profile will reinvigorate the flagging hobby, which has understandably faded in popularity since the post-depression era.

The history of stamp collecting in Australia stretches all the way back to the 1850s; however, our first commemorative stamp was issued in 1927 to mark to opening of Canberra’ first parliament house. In the interwar years, seminal cricketer Don Bradman was celebrated in a range of iconic stamps, while the first Australian multicoloured stamps appeared in 1956 as part of a Melbourne Olympic Games commemorative issue. Indeed, stamps of sporting icons have proven to be the most popular ticket items for keen philatists – with an orginal 1948 Bradman stamp now estimated to fetch some A$5,000 in today’s currency.

However, since the internet burst onto the scene in the 1990s, the institution of the Post Office has faded in relevance – and, as a result, the antiquated hobby has taken a dive in popularity. Emails, texting and tweeting have almost completely usurped snail mail, with the old fashioned handwritten letter now only employed by tech-illiterate pensioners and the occasional ironic hipster.

“We all go to different schools now, but keep in touch via letters!”

But the Black Caviar tribute stamp is looming as a saviour for the embattled stamp industry. In fact, leading philatist Ernie MacArthur predicts that Australia’s Great Brown Hope will propel the hobby back into the mainstream and pique the interest of a new generation of children.

MacArthur boasts an impressive stamp collection, in anyone’s language. Fingering through his enviable stamp album, he points proudly to his 1927 original of US aviator Charles A. Lindbergh as “my all-time favourite;” with the throughly modern, limited edition 2012 Diamond Jubilee minature set (marking 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne) “a close second.” However, he is clearly besotted by Australia Post’s new range of Black Caviar stamps, describing them as “a collector’s wet dream.”

“The exceptional detail in this stamp truly captures the majesticness of the beast – it manages to simultaneously articulate its brutal, primal muscularity with a soft femininity, the pride of Australia and a true winner,” he says.

A proud philatist

“I think this is what [philatists] have been waiting for. This could really kickstart the hobby again.”

MacArthur points to the Shane Warne stamp collection, ‘The Artistry’ – four specially commissioned oil paintings by Australian artist Phillip Howe for the West Indies Government of Grenada – as evidence that commemorative sports stamps retain a place in the collective hearts of modern society.

“From what I’ve been told, the Grenadians flocked to their local Post Office to get their hands on the Warney set. Sure, Grenada is yet to have any form of broadband infrastructure and they’ve got two TV channels – so there’s obivously fuck all else to do there all day – but the fact is they sold out of ‘The Artistry’ range in about two hours. I mean, shit, they went faster than Splendour tickets this year!”

But despite MacArthur’s high hopes, University of Sydney sociology professor Gary Potter says that children these days – with attention deficit diagnoses skyrocketing over the past three decades – simply lack the patience and attention to detail required for stamp collecting.

This kid lacks the patience for stamp collecting

“It was probably the end of the 1940s when stamp collecting began to lose its status as the number one hobby in Australia and the US. The 1950s brought with it a street-based youth culture, with social activities like dancing – as evidenced in the film Grease – and the rise in punk kids loitering on street corners also beginning to gain traction,” he explains.

“As the twentieth century progressed, there was greater emphasis on home-based leisure and recreation, with radio, television, video-players, hi-fi sound systems and personal computers all taking their place in society. As a result, kids flocked from the more cerebral activities [like stamp collecting] towards immediate gratification: collecting was seen as a long-term investment, and therefore uncool.”

Admit to collecting stamps and you’ll get your ass handed to you at school

In 2012, the idea that stamp collecting could take off again appears absurd at first glance, but Potter says it could emerge once more – if it sheds its antiquated image. “There’s actually an app that allows you to collect stamps; if we can get kids involved that way, maybe it will take off. I hear that the 1930 Phar Lap stamp comes up really well on the new iPad’s HD Retina screen.”

It’s yet to be seen whether Australia’s stamp collecting scene can again reach the dizzying heights of the interwar period. For the hopes of an industry rest simultaneously on the sturdy shoulders of tabloid darling Black Caviar and those of the Apple fanboi generation.

By Dave Edwards



Extreme Overhaul: From Fat Kid to Sydney Scenester

A young man who was constantly teased as an overweight boy has had the last laugh after an attractive woman publicly acknowledged his “awesome rig.”

23-year-old Steve Du Bois was once a promising young striker who starred up front for his under 8 soccer team. But in 1997 he was forced to quit the side after a series of on-field jibes from teammates left him in tears and vowing never to play sport again.

After a difficult adolescence, which included various rejections from girls way out of his league, De Bois discovered that the key to increased self-esteem lay in getting “massive” in the weights room. “I was fat and lazy; I ate Cheezels all the time; I was addicted to Super Nintendo; I jacked off way more than I’d like to remember,” admits De Bois, who now holds down a well-paid yet mindnumbingly inconsequential job at one of Australia’s ‘Big Four’ banks.

“Then a few years ago a girl I liked told me that I was ‘fat and gross’. I thought, ‘shit, I better do something about this, otherwise I’ll be a virgin for life’. And not in a retro-cool Gen Y asexual way, either, but literally as in a guy who, despite his best efforts, can’t get laid, ever.”

Du Bois, knew that urgent steps needed to be taken

During his first year of a commerce degree, Du Bois discovered the internet and joined a number of “health forums,” digesting all the various techniques on how to get “totally jacked and ripped.” He also subscribed to a number of style, health and fitness magazines, ranging from GQ and Men’s Health to Flex Magazine, more commonly known as the ‘Bodybuilder’s Bible’. In addition, he began to exercise his literary mind, purchasing a copy of Neil Strauss’ epic mantra, The Game, in a bid to truly understand the female psyche.

“All of a sudden I’d joined a community of people dedicated to getting awesome. And not just physically too, but mentally. I learned how to manipulate women in a way I never thought possible, which I thought might come in handy some day,” he says.

Du Bois, who had blown out to some 120 kilograms in 2006, set himself a two year body fat goal – to go from 40% down to 8% – and to maintain a year-round weight of around 75 kilograms, a more appropriate number for a 5’10” adult. And 24 months to the day, he achieved his fitness goals, celebrating the victory by himself with a low-fat hommus platter and a glass of vodka, soda and lime (for the zero calories).

“Now, all I had to do was go out, get a job, buy a completely new wardrobe and exercise everything I’d learnt from Neil Strauss – and the revolution would be complete,” he says.

Striding into his job interview at the aforementioned bank, Du Bois now had the confidence of a seasoned Sydney scenester. Two paychecks in and he was dripping head-to-toe in Hugo Boss (or Amarni, depending on the occasion). With the body, job and wardrobe all ticked off, now, he was ready to reveal “the new Steve” to the opposite sex.

“So I was out one night, chilling with my buddies in the corner of an elite boutique bar (and I’m not even going to say the name of it because you wouldn’t have heard of it), and this girl came up to me, out of nowhere, and told me I had a ‘really good rig’,” he recounts. “So I fucked her.”

“It was as if I’d come full circle. The transformation was complete – I was now one of those guys!”

Since then, Du Bois has topped up his look, opting for biweekly waxing sessions and a regular spray tan appointment, and befriended a large group of equally vacuous workmates, who he goes out at least three nights a week with. “Through these guys, I’ve been able to hone my ‘don’t give a fuck’, faux-misogynistic approach to women, which [in Sydney] they totally dig,” he adds. “I also have no dramas getting psyched up enough to speak confidently with cocaine dealers – which is something I could only have dreamed of as a fat, sexless 20-year-old.”

From fat kid to Sydney scenester, success!

But despite his impressive physical and mental overhaul, Du Bois has no intention on returning to the sporting field to show those former teammates just how far he’s come.

“Yeah, I’d be an absolute weapon now if I tried, but that’d mean I’d have to give up the Friday night blowouts, man. I’m just not up for that. My sport is, and will always be, the gym.”

By Dave Edwards








Metta World Peace earns Guildford nod

Another month marred by good behaviour, solid on-field performances (apart from Parramatta) and athletes being faithful to their spouses – for shame!

At least one bloke was putting his hand out for a Guildford, or more accurately, his elbow.

April’s Guildford Award goes to….

Metta World Peace! (Yes, that is his name)

The artist formerly known as Ron Artest; the man who had the presence of mind to use an NBA championship moment to promote his new single, and who made headlines last year for changing his name to the somewhat obscure Metta World Peace, has been reborn… as pretty much the same bloke, it would seem.

A controversial figure both on and off-court, MWP might be best to known to Australian pundits as the bloke who ran into the crowd at the end of an NBA game to beat up a fan who threw a drink at him. A mass brawl between fans and players ensued and the legend of the “Malice at the Palace” began. Ron Artest, as he was then known, was suspended for a record 86 games, and it was later revealed he had actually attacked the wrong fellow in the crowd – smooth move.

Several years later, a Championship ring on his finger, and years of charity work under his belt, Metta World Peace, as he was now known, seemed to have put those troubled years behind him, but you know what they say? Once a Guildford Award candidate, always a Guildford Award candidate (it’s true, heaps of people say that).

Spittin' some gangsta rhymes

Last month in a match against Oklahoma City Thunder, Metta (a Buddhist term for loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolenceand good will, and “love without clinging) elbowed opposition guard James Harden firmly in the head after celebrating a neat dunk late in the first half. It resulted in an immediate ejection from the game, and Harden also being taken out of the action.

Not all that benevolent, but certainly worthy of a Guildford Award for a brain explosion that exposed the inner core of the man.

A seven match suspension followed, as did an apology for his “unintentional” elbow, and several Tweets claiming Harden was a “flopper” (the NBA equivalent to and NRL player who stays down i.e. New South Welshman). Apparently remorse and accountability have no place in the MWP doctrine.

So congratulations Metta World Peace for winning the April Guildford Award and for being such a dick. Changing the packaging doesn’t change the shitty cereal moulding away inside.

By Al McClintock