Welcome to Chestbeating By Word. Writings on artists, experiences, entertainment and fiction.



Blaze rang me up the other day. He wanted to get hold of any empty shoeboxes that I might have. Odd request I thought. I can remember when I left home we used to use shoeboxes as a substitute for drawers just like planks of wood and scavenged besser blocks did very well as home made bookshelves.

Now days no one leaves home until they are at least 24 and therefore when they do lob into their apartment block or shared house   they usually own a VW Golf hatchback or a brand new ute, both of which are handy for carrying flat pack furniture from Ikea.

Blaze didn’t say what he wanted them for but given the surf was less than exciting and Blaze’s hobbies are often interesting diversions into alternate realities I grabbed a shoebox left over from The Artist’s latest purchase of, and I quote “summer strappy sandals.”

Blaze loves a bit of The Tea Party so I followed the music down around the side of the house to his work shed out the back where Blaze sat perched on a stool at his workbench. A stubby of beer was getting warm under a bright studio lamp and in the brief silence between album tracks I yelled “G’day.”

I swear he jumped six inches off the stool. “Fuckin hell, you scared the shit out of me!” he said as with a shaking hand he reached for the stubby before gulping some beer.

On the bench Blaze had laid a shoebox base, one of several piled around him, on its side and had obviously been busy building a diorama. This was pleasing because the whittling that has occupied Blaze for the last few months was starting to be a little annoying. Creating Nativity scenes using the alleged carved out figures of Brisbane Broncos players both past and present was kind of funny but since all the figures looked basically the same I had to take his word for it that this lump of wood was Allan Langer being Jesus and this lump was Sam Thaiday as one of the wise men.

A lot of the figures were now being used in the diorama and I had to admit the scene was, despite its complete lack of artistic skill, still strangely familiar.

“What do you reckon? Blaze said as he handed me a beer from the frig. “Recognise where and when?”

I knew.

“Your 21st in that house with the spiral stairs just as the fire started in the couch and your housemate tried to put it out with somebody’s bottle of rum and then there was that fight that broke the stereo turntable into a hundred pieces.”

It was rough but he had done enough for me to pick it. He had put in a spiral stairwell made of matchsticks, the couch and there were flames painted on the wall behind it. Suddenly I could remember the awful smell of the burning velour couch and the horrible hangover the next day from Blaze’s homebrew.

So what brought this on?” I asked.

“Hereditary,” Blaze answered, “a horror movie of some quality.”

There are different kinds of horror movies. Most people divide the subgenres up by the kind of bad thing going on e.g. crazed serial killer, Zombie, Vampire, demonic possession etc. but I prefer to go with how they make you feel i.e. the jump scare, unrelenting dread and disgust, unsettling something is not right here and ongoing endless terror.

Think of the differences between Psycho [jump scare], Day of the Dead [dread and disgust], It Follows [unsettling] and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [endless terror].

Or if you prefer it in political terms Tony Abbott’s budgie smugglers  [jump scare], Trump’s hair [dread and disgust], SCOMO’s baseball caps [unsettling] and Barnaby’s Akubra [endless terror].

Like Blaze’s haircuts over the years, all scary but all subtly different.

For me Hereditary falls into the unsettling subgenre and I don’t want to spoil it for people who like me have been a bit slow on the uptake but lets just say that it gets the job done. There is a surprise twist, Toni Collette is great and is the best actress around when it comes to portraying wilful stubbornness plus there is a feeling of destiny to it that makes it even more uncomfortable viewing. And the dioramas are much better than Blaze’s.

We are in such a fertile time for horror movies at the moment. All the terrors and social upheavals that the world is currently facing are perfect for the creation of better and more thoughtful horror. Sure the visceral fright counts but the underlying message can stick like spilt brains too. I can understand why a lot of people avoid horror movies because they scare them but I struggle with the reasoning that they won’t watch horror is because it is not “real”. Doesn’t seem to stop a lot of them from watching the obviously so realistic movies featuring James Bond or Jason Bourne.


Sadly the week hasn’t just been about movie scares. Sometimes the evil is real. Australia suffered a terrorist attack in Melbourne that injured two and killed one of Melbourne’s favourite sons. If you have never been to Pelligrini’s you might be struggling to understand the depth of sadness at the murder of Sisto Malaspina.  But this was an attack that by terrible accident instead of evil planning actually over achieved. Although low in skill, poorly executed and quickly stopped the acts of Hassan Khalif Shire Ali still managed to cut down someone who represented the soul of Melbourne more than a politician or a leader in entertainment or industry ever could.  It is simply a terrible tragedy.

Within a few days I saw a post on social media outlining that the biggest danger to Australia was not Islamic fundamentalists but men. And while I agree that the level of abuse and murder of women in Australia by men who are usually known to them, is also terrible and must be stopped, I do not like the comparisons and comments about who is the greater threat or who takes the most lives. I don’t see how that is helpful.

In both cases I think that publicly blaming and shaming or berating the wider communities of either Muslims or males about the criminal actions of minorities in each group is not productive. It just builds a greater climate of mutual disrespect and ignorance or worse fear and violence. On the other hand to not call the problem for what it is, is counter productive and ridiculous.

It is true there are men who are contemptuous of and violent towards women and there is also a dangerous radical element that exists within Islam Australia. I don’t see how acknowledging those things is either man hating or racist.

My personal opinion is that all organised religions offer far, far less than they take from the world and God doesn’t exist. If you see different well that’s ok. But this incessant need to spread the word and persecute the nonbeliever by fundamentalists of all creeds needs to be stamped out.

Also I can’t help but see that there is some commonality between the violence that males perpetuate against women and the extremes of organised religion. I think that a degree of rampant male entitlement plays a part in both.

And I agree that one important action in both cases is for other Muslims and for all men to support and model the good behaviour whilst calling out the bad. But sometimes it seems to me that we don’t want to recognise the established, “acceptable” forces within our society that are contributing factors to these crimes.

Important changes for the general good take time. That time could be decades if not generations whether we like it or not. Accepting things is not the answer but neither is a situation where supporters for change in different areas start climbing over each other to have their issue be acknowledged as the number one problem.

Pelligrini’s painting by The Artist in a private collection.


Six songs that said Melbourne to me.

Balwyn Calling – Skyhooks

Greg, The Stop Sign!- TISM

No Surprises – Even

Fathers Day- Weddings Parties Anything

She Set Fire To The House –Stephen Cummings

Die Yuppie Die – Painters And Dockers


Also really really good right now

The Smith Street Band

Courtney Barnett

Camp Cope

British India

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard

Three Cheers For Sport

Three Cheers For Sport

Make A Decision People and There Was Only One Freddie

Make A Decision People and There Was Only One Freddie