I was walking north along Kent Street when a man of Indian appearance
wearing a dark suit approached me humbly, as if he were lost and needed
directions. He had a big black Filofax in his hand and I took him for
said, I can see you are a kind person and a possum of high intelligence.
Do you know I can tell you what the future holds.
a small piece paper out of a notebook perched on his Filofax, folded
it into a tiny square and asked me to hold it tightly in my paw.
was this was leading, I wondered, vaguely annoyed.
I will ask you some questions, most becile Sir. What is your favourite
away and thought about it. Silly question really; so many colours. Then,
the little inner voice of cynicism whispered a warning to me. Mauve
I replied, perversely.
are how old?
what country would you most like to travel?
that. I looked away again, as one does when considering a toughie. So
many countries, so little time.
I replied. He was jotting my answers down in his notebook.
the paper you are holding in your paw. Blow on it like this, and touch
it to your forehead.
as he asked.
give me the paper, he said.
it over. Holding it, he showed me my answers as hed written them
in the notebook and after a bit of business shuffling his notebook and
Filofax he opened the folded paper and passed it back to me. Scrawled
on it was: Mauve. 58. Iceland.
quickly while he thought I was off balance.
I will tell you your future. You will soon have a promotion with a big
rise, and you will live to be very old. I am seeing maybe 100. My happy
advice is worth some money please Mr Possum. Ten dollars it is worth.
it is worth. I hate mauve, Im actually 57 and Iceland is bottom
of my holiday wish-list. Plus, I work for myself. Im a private
dick. Nobodys gunna give me a promotion and no possum I know ever
lived to be 100, I replied, and proceeded down Kent Street to
the hell did he do it?
magic tricks, its part psychology and part sleight of hand. In
the first place he relied on natural goodwill towards strangers to catch
me offguard. He offered something we all prize, knowledge of the future,
and then distracted me with the folded paper and questions rigmarole.
The tough questions induced a normal behavioural response,
which is to look away or close your eyes while considering your answer.
While I did that, he jotted down my responses twice, one copy
on a small pre-folded square of paper masked by his notebook cover.
followed the obscurantist business with the blowing and touching.
the paper was unfolded to prove to me that he had already known all
about me before we met. But heres the giveaway: I didnt
unfold the paper, he asked me to give it to him and he unfolded it.
Actually what he did was to dispose of the blank piece of paper Id
been holding by simple sleight of hand and substitute the piece on which
hed written my responses.
he moved in for the payoff, hoping to trade a worthless prediction of
something wonderful (the promotion) and an unknowable (lifespan), for
gratitude expressed in hard cash.
remember this tale, when youre trying to figure out what John
Howard is up to, because the man is our finest political prestidigitator.
tells a very leaky gathering of his party that this time around he cant
pull a rabbit out of the hat, it might be just another trick.
came to power using the old dog whistle routine. He suggested
to gullible xenophobes that, if they elected him, nobody would ever
again censor their paranoid views about an asianisationof
the country favoured by the politically correct, cappuccino-sipping
elites and chardonnay socialists. He told the silly
buggers he was listening to them. They thought he was saying thered
be no more Asian immigration, but, of course, hed said nothing
of the sort. There never was any way in which, with Australian capitalism
utterly dependent on trade with East Asia, he was going on an anti-Asian
rampage. What he was going to do was introduce a GST.
his erstwhile supporters, got into power, and then with a flash and
a bang, he pulled a hapless Arab Muslim out of his hat and screamed
triumphantly: Ive gottim, Ive gottim. The silly
buggers loved it. They never noticed the deft switch. The East Asian
migrants kept coming, and a tiny harmless minority, something like 1.5
per cent of the population, became the focus of redneck fear and ignorance.
next election he wowed them with the children overboard
illusion and the one after with the good old interest rates will
rise under Labor trick. He got back in again, interest rates went
up and the suckers got Work Choices.
illusionists, the man is a legend.