SHINE: Judging ‘The Australian of the 1990s’

As previously flagged, The Public Apology has shortlisted two contenders – rock god Michael Hutchence and cricketing deity Shane Warne – as it seeks to determine who was THE Australian of the 1990s. In Part III of this gripping four-part series, TPA features editor Ben Shine looks at how these two men, each a genius in his own right, measure up against the 90s ‘ethos’…

INTRODUCTION:

An old pal from my childhood, Dr Seuss, once remarked that ‘sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple’.

The old Doc was right about many things, however when it comes to determining who was THE Australian of the 1990s, he could not have gotten it more wrong. Indeed, the question of which Australian best encapsulated this vital decade is not only ridiculously complicated (or just plain ridiculous), but so is its answer.

As such, in order to answer this most vexing question I have chosen to abandon the criteria used by my fellow The Public Apology scribes. While I will maintain their absurdly-appropriate scoring system, whereby marks are randomly attributed to each contestant out of 600, like a rusty chainsaw through an overgrown thicket I will seek to forge a new path in this difficult debate.

Instead of scything through the dense foliage, I will casually meander down a circuitous path to make a convoluted, yet spirited argument, so please stick with me because I think the final destination is going to be pretty close to Truthville, USA.

So let’s begin. If we are to judge the Australian of the 1990s, we first need to figure out what the nineties was all about, its essence, what it stood for, and the qualities that helped defined the period. Then we need to see how these two options, Hutchence and Warne, measure up against the nineties’ ethos.

Then, and only then, can we assess who was the Australian to best define the period 1990 to 2000.

*  *  *  *  *  *

So, the nineties… Ten years which saw the Berlin Wall torn down, the internet enter the mainstream and the American President cop a famous jobba in the Oval Office.

The decade also saw the ratcheting up of globalisation, free trade and democracy on a scale surpassed only by the increase in pornography accessed in jpeg format.

"Sup baby"
“Sup baby”

But what was the vibe of the nineties? Is it possible to define a decade by the cultural phenomena that captured the world’s attention? If so, would it be slap bands or silk shirts? Grunge music or hip hop? Goatee beards or undercuts? Backstreet Boys or the Spice Girls? Ecstasy or heroin?

The nineties are all of those, and at the same time they are none of those.

Perhaps the best study on the ethos of the nineties is from a cultural institution from our current decade, the TV show Portlandia – a show which pays a certain homage to the nineties and most aptly describes the decade as a time when:

“People were talking about getting piercings and getting tribal tattoos… they were singing about saving the planet and forming bands… when people were content to be un-ambitious… They’d sleep ‘til 11:00, and just hang out with their friends… I mean, they had no occupations, whatsoever… maybe working a couple hours a week at a coffee shop”

http://youtu.be/FE_9CzLCbkY

In the eyes of Portlandia, the nineties embodied that mid-20s crash-on-your-friends-couch-for-a-couple-of-months malaise.  An era defined by people’s lack of ambition, the feeling of never wanting or having to grow up and face real-life responsibilities, and of course a penchant for doing weird stuff like getting eyebrow rings *tips hat to Drazic from Heartbreak High*.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Of course Hutch and Shane had ambition. Both men’s success was not only down to luck. They worked hard, had dreams of being on top of the world and realised those dreams. In spite of their sizeable ambitions, it’s clear that both of them often went about their careers in a less than professional way.

Hutchence was a performer in the true sense of the world. He is better known as an on-stage hunk (a nineties term) oozing sexual magnetism, not as a diligent musical artist spending hours perfecting his craft. Indeed, while some artists prefer to guzzle salt water before they perform, Hutchence was more likely to guzzle a smorgasbord of drugs prior to taking the stage.

And while Warne (probably) didn’t imbibe as many illicit substances as Hutchence pre-performance, there’s just something so ‘nineties’ about being one of the world’s best professional athletes while at the same time fighting a public battle with weight, cigarettes, baked beans, alcohol and fidelity. It’s so innocently amateur. Almost as if his craft was secondary to his other interests.

beans

Both of these gentlemen excelled at doing weird stuff.

Michael Hutchence’s penchant for weird sexual shit is well established. There was strangling Paula Yates mid-coitus, then the alleged wank/suicide. I am sure there is more, but I didn’t watch the second instalment of Never Tear Us Apart, so you’ll have to do your own research there. What matters is the guy was universally admired as a fantastical sexual pest/god.

In comparison Warne’s sexual indiscretions are slightly less severe. His sexcapades have not resulted in any deaths that we know of, although being set-up by an English tabloid with two prostitutes and taking it in your stride when the pictures are published is pretty good. Bagging Liz Hurley also warrants mention.

Where Warne excels is in the other weird shit.

He wore a single Nike earring in one ear during the nineties, a period in which the ear chosen supposedly represented your sexuality and yet nobody could remember which one was which – a risky manoeuvrer indeed, and one that speaks to Warne’s flirtatious streak.

Warne consistently failed to give up smoking cigarettes, and was once caught smoking in public days after pocketing $200,000 through a sponsorship arrangement to do so. And then there was that time he performed fellatio on a scotch and dry at the races.

Incredible technique
Incredible technique

 

He’s also messed around with his mate’s band… well, not really, but he did make an excellent cameo in Jimmy Barnes’ hit-single ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’ from the seminal 1991 record Soul Deep (1:00 mark), which I highly recommend viewing.

Most recently (i.e. Just last week), Shane Warne has announced that he’s penned a song that he’s trying to get produced, in the same week as he denied being in a relationship with a 20-something Sydney hairdresser.

The beauty of Warne is that he will keep on producing these hilariously childish, life imitating art moments, and that why the nation loves him.

*  *  *  *  *  *

To borrow a quote from my childhood companion again: “adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.” While Dr Seuss could be accused of underplaying the complicated nature of answering difficult questions, in this one sentence he got the vibe of the nineties. It was a time of lethargic rebellion, and young adults refusing to become obsolete children.

'Reality Bites' captured this 90s lethargy quite well
‘Reality Bites’ captured this 90s lethargy quite well

And two Australians who danced on the world stage – but never grew up – perfectly embodied this ethos.

Hutch and Warne were just two big kids having a good time, refusing to accept adulthood and all its pitfalls, indulging in whatever they chose. And that’s why they were both so perfectly suited to the nineties.

But when both men embody this ethos so comprehensively, how does one choose the best Australian of the decade? Arbitrarily, of course.

Michael Hutchence’s greatest contribution to the INXS discography, Kick, sold 490,000 records in Australia, so he will receive a score of 490 out of 600.

Only marginally ahead is Shane Warne, who took 708 wickets at Test level – the second highest of all-time, so he will receive a score of 708 out of 600.

FINAL TALLY: WARNE 708/600, HUTCHENCE 490/600

WINNER: WARNE 

By Ben Shine

PREVIOUSLY:

EDWARDS: Judging ‘The Australian of the 1990s’

MCCLINTOCK: Judging ‘The Australian of the 1990s’.

 

 

Why These New White Socks Are The Best Thing To Happen To The Socceroos Since Guus Hiddink

In case you missed it, the Socceroos today unveiled the uniforms they will be wearing at this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

As far as football jerseys go, they are nice, although yellow (or gold, if you can call it that) is probably not the best choice for removing the bloody stains sustained while getting smashed by superior footballing sides.

Colour, design and Napisan considerations aside, the exciting thing about the new uniform is the return – after a 21-year absence – of white socks.

It is fair to say this is the most important development in Australian football since we convinced Guus Hiddink to coach the national side.

First of all, white socks just look good. They are virginal, pure and in certain contexts denote class. They also pick up dirt easily, which can serve as a good indication of a player putting in a good shift.

Just like how Simon Katich earned plaudits for picking up dirt on his whites when batting, hopefully the Socceroos will be doing similar when going up against the likes of Spain, Holland and Chile in this year’s World Cup.

The Kat, putting in another honest shift
The Kat, putting in another honest shift

The adoption of white socks may also lead to comparisons between the Socceroos and the Chicago White Sox baseball team, who in 1919 infamously threw the World Series and in-turn inspired the baseball fantasy-drama Field of Dreams.

Given the standard of their opponents at the World Cup it is doubtful the Socceroos would ever be in a position to intentionally lose matches like Chicago did. It is also unlikely that, years from now, ghosts of current Socceroos players will seemingly randomly appear at a farmyard field to play a game of football while at the same time teaching Kevin Costner important life lessons.

A far more likely scenario is one of the Socceroos players being given the moniker of the 1919 White Sox’s star player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Doesn’t Shoeless Timmy Cahill have a great ring to it? Or Shoeless Jimmy Holland? Or Shoeless Carl Valeri? Maybe not so much.

All these considerations aside, the Socceroos wearing white socks makes the statement Football Australia has hitherto been unwilling to: They acknowledge the rich history of football in Australia.

The old Socceroos teams had always worn white socks. The first Socceroos team to play in a World Cup (1974) wore them, and so did the heroic sides of the 60s, 70s and 80s who toiled for their country, all the while their country sneered derisively referred to their game as, like Johnny Warren’s tome of the same name, a sport reserved for “Sheilas, wogs and pooftas”.

Then sometime in the 90s, kit manufacturer Adidas did away with the white socks, Harry Kewell and the English Premier League came along and suddenly it was cool to watch football again. We haven’t seen them since.

By re-introducing the white socks, Football Australia is rekindling a link to the game’s past. The white socks speak to our past, something which has been ignored by the FA – who have been hell-bent on breaking with the past, and probably with good reason given the ethnic divisions and poor quality that plagued the old NSL.

But just because the history of football in Australia is complicated by feelings of shame, xenophobia and marginalisation, doesn’t mean we should just ignore it.

Until now the FA has put forward the image of an ex-girlfriend trying to get on with their life after a break-up. Unwilling to identify the boyfriend by name nor discuss the past. Instead incessantly talking about the future. I’m ready for the perfect man to come alongFootball will one day be Australia’s biggest sport. As if positive self-talk will get you out of every problem in life.

Like the ex-girlfriend, Football Australia eventually has to acknowledge its past, warts and all, if it is to ever move on and find its soul mate/become a fully-fledged mainstream sport in Australia.

Wearing white won’t make you a virgin again, but it makes you look good, so it’s a start.

By Ben Shine

MCCLINTOCK: Judging ‘The Australian of the 1990s’

As previously flagged, The Public Apology has shortlisted two candidates – INXS legend Michael Hutchence and seminal spinner Shane Warne – as worthy of dueling it out for the title of THE Australian of the 1990s. In Part II of this thrilling (and obscure) series, TPA senior journalist Al McClintock crowns the individual he believes is most deserved of the honour…

INTRODUCTION:

It is with some trepidation I write this piece, which I assume one day will be viewed as an academic resource, for I have a little secret: I know fuck all about INXS or Michael Hutchence.

I know the bloke went out in the most unfortunate (yet heroic) of manners, and knocked about with ‘Our Kylie’ for a while, but that’s about it. Couldn’t pick an INXS song if it was on the radio, sorry. I’d probably think it was Chisel because I’d most likely be listening to Triple M, and Barnesy seems responsible for roughly 50% of that station’s content.

So there you have it. As someone who tries to pass himself off as a bit of a muso, it is perhaps poor form, but, given I only moved here in 1988 with an Irish family – and grew up in the cultural backwater that is Brisbane – it is not that surprising. We were somewhat out of the loop when it came to debauched Australian rock stars.

It’s a shame, because from what I’ve learned of the fellow over the past week, by reading my fellow contributors’ articles, he seems like a bloke I would quite like. I will never get into his music – that ship has sailed – but I have at least begun to respect the man. Well, more than the obvious level of respect he had already demanded in the immediate aftermath of that fateful wank back in 1997.

*  *  *  *  *  *

MASTERY OF CRAFT:

I do not know if Hutchence ever played Warcraft, but I can only assume he did not. It is likely he died before it came out, but there may have been a brief overlapping period.

Given Shane Warne loves Twitter and all things technological, it is safe to say he not only played the game, but played the fuck out of it. I’m talking Eric Cartman hold-the-bucket-for-me-to-shit-in-please-Mum played it. Perhaps that’s the real reason she gave him a banned diuretic? So he could take twelve months off and become a Level 36 Grandmaster Wizard!

A keen Warcraft fan, Warne was less enthusiastic about his eponymous video game
A keen Warcraft fan, Warne was less enthusiastic about his eponymous video game

Ok, I’ve never played the newer versions, so I don’t know if that’s a thing – or if it is, whether that’s even impressive – so I’m in the same boat as Hutchence here. He most likely only had the choice of being either Orcs or Humans and building his own little village to defend and then conquer.

SCORE: WARNE 100, HUTCHENCE 57

*  *  *  *  *  *

GLOBAL APPEAL:

Well this is a no-brainer. Shane Warne is only known and revered in cricket playing nations – and given there are only 10 of those to have achieved ‘test’ status, his global recognition is not that great.

Sure there are more than 10 cricket playing countries, but let’s face it, the majority of the world doesn’t give a fuck about cricket. Cristiano Ronaldo and Justin Bieber would struggle to walk down the street anywhere without being recognised, but it is safe to say Warnie could venture out in 75% of the countries in the world without anyone asking to see his ‘Wrong Un’ and not mean his penis. Although in fairness, in England they may still mean his penis.

But Hutchence was a rock star – and everyone loves rock stars. Even the Arabs. They live the way we all want to live, but aren’t brave/talented/lucky enough to do so, and often die as they live – young, high and hard/moist.

I can’t say whether there is a big INXS following in Zambia, but I can promise you if you asked a local Zambian if they would prefer a pudgy leg-spinner at their party (albeit the greatest ever) or a coke-snorting sexual athlete who can belt out a good bloody tune, they would dust off the old karaoke machine and ring up the local dealer every time.

Zambian parties really do 'go off'
Zambian parties really do ‘go off’. Gender ratios are pretty poor though

SCORE: WARNE 46, HUTCHENCE 91

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COMMERCIAL SUCCESS AND DOMINANCE/SEXUAL NOTORIETY, RELATIONSHIPS

(I have decided to combine these two categories, because I feel they intertwine and provide some curious paradoxes. As Tony Montana said, “First you get the money. Then you get the women. Then you get the power…”)

Shane Warne has to be in the top five most dominant sportsmen I have ever seen. He’s up there with Jordan, Andrew Johns, Messi, and yes I would put his partner in his crime up there, Glenn McGrath.

I actually think McGrath would have been far more revered if he was more charismatic off the paddock and less of a cunt more of a gentleman on it. Warney never spat on anyone though, unless perhaps in their mouth in a sexual act, so he remains that sweet level above.

On the other hand, we are speaking of a man who begged for sex. And I can’t imagine he was ever really dominant in the bedroom, more just a giddy participant, happy to do anything to get his end away. He dated Liz Hurley – a point in his favour – but was clearly the bitch, so he loses half a point.

There is also a picture of Warney in ladies panties next to a young lady armed with a giant inflatable penis, with which I can only assume she fucked him with, and such a thing must lessen his claim on dominance.

Grainy footage of Warney's romp; more proof that the internet is good
Grainy footage of Warney’s romp; more proof that the internet is good

Yet I also have it on good authority that back in the day, when on tour, the single Aussie cricketers (and some of the not-so-single), would partake in a thing called the ‘Fur Cup’. It was a chauvinistic, primal thing, in that it was basically a competition to see who could sleep with the most women on tour.

I can’t imagine in the ‘Homework-Gate’ era – an era in which hack journalists attach the suffix ‘gate’ to everything because they are fucking morons – that The Cup still exists. Although coach Darren Lehmann may have very well reinstated it, which would explain the sudden on-field success.

But would there be a Shane Warne equivalent in the team? I highly doubt it. Warney was apparently banned back in the day for simply being too good. He won it every time and, according to my source, could talk his way into a threesome within 45 minutes of walking into any bar. These are impressive numbers.

And who cares if when they got back to the room the ladies loaded up a couple of strap-ons and went to town on him? I am sure they all had a wonderful time!

Now on the other hand we have Hutchence. A man who probably only ever begged for sex if he was so high he felt that very sexual act was key to the survival for mankind. He would have been taking one for the team. Good man. But I expect this was an anomaly. Usually he would have been the one being begged for sex, and I assume he was usually generous. He also had a series of high-profile relationships where he clearly wasn’t the bitch, so he takes the points on Warney there.

His commercial success was also quite impressive, given he made the U.S. top 10 numerous times in an age when you actually made money from single sales. But was he dominant? No.

"I'm Blue, da ba dee... etc"
“I’m Blue, da ba dee… etc”

Take me for example. I know fuck all about his music. This is not a reflection of my lack of musical knowledge, as some may want to suggest; it is because I was a part of the international market at the time, and INXS did not appear on my radar. Sure he featured in the top 10 in the U.S, but so did Eiffel 65’s Blue. Enough said.

SCORE: WARNE 87, HUTCHENCE 87 [SCORE TO BE DOUBLED IN FINAL TALLY]

*  *  *  *  *  *

JE NE SAIS QUOI

Well this is a tough one. I never knew Hutchence in his prime, so I can’t begin to guess what truly set him apart from the rest. The fact that I’m writing an article about him almost 20 years after his death certainly suggests there was something about him, though.

As for Warney, I know that his ‘certain something’ is his leg-spin, along with his ability to deliver regardless of circumstances. Yet I feel this is not so much je ne sais quoi as it is it just being an exceptional professional.

If he hadn’t continued to perform he would have rightly been written off as a complete cad. It was his ability to perform on the field no matter what was happening off it is what made him so great. He is a mischievous cricketing genius, yes, but a likeable enigma? No. He is a bogan. ‘Come good’ as they might say, but still a bogan.

SCORE: WARNE 73, HUTCHENCE 86

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LEGACY:

You could argue that Shane Warne changed leg-spin bowling and, subsequently, the role spinners play in international cricket – and yes for a brief moment it seemed that he had. Then it soon became apparent that no one will ever be as good as him.

So Warne’s ‘legacy’, perversely, has meant that Australia has churned through umpteen would-be spinners quicker than a ‘rare’ steak at a top restaurant, with blokes being dropped for simply not being the greatest ever.

Not entirely sure of the analogy here...
Not entirely sure of the analogy here…

Enter Nathan Lyon and finally some sanity (for now), and people have realised that perhaps all we should expect of our top spinners is the ability to take the odd wicket and not get carted. Thus, I would argue, that Warne’s legacy has actually been counter-productive (for now).

Hutchence, however, brought auto-erotic asphyxiation into the mainstream, and for that we should all be eternally grateful. As for his music, I do not know one contemporary band that lists INXS as an influence – apart from maybe Thirsty Merc, and let’s face it, they’re shithouse.

SCORE: WARNE 61, HUTCHENCE 79

*  *  *  *  *  *

FINAL TALLY: 454/600. HUTCHENCE 487/600

WINNER: HUTCHENCE. 

By Al McClintock

*I did not expect this result when I began the article

PREVIOUSLY: EDWARDS: Judging ‘The Australian of the 1990s’