Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How homophobia works

This afternoon the local ABC radio drive shift host was interviewing a 'rock historian' -- never heard of him myself -- about AC/DC. The bloke was responding in monosyllables and poor old Grant Cameron was audibly hanging onto his good humour, of which he has almost too much as a rule, when the conversation (such as it was) turned to AC/DC's name. Yairs. They got it off the back of a vacuum cleaner. Or possibly a sewing-machine.

(With hindsight, this was the most interesting bit of the conversation. What were the feral AC/DC boys doing in the vicinity of such very girlie home-making appliances?)

Cameron enquired delicately whether the band's name might not also have possibly been some indirect allusion to the possible bisexuality of one or two of the band members?

The interviewee audibly woke up. 'Naaaaoooouwwwhhhh,' he said, his voice freighted with scorn. 'Look. Every one of those boys was hard-working, and straightforward, and they all knew what they wanted and went after it. So nooaahhh, nothing like that.'

So there you have it. Bisexuality equates (presumably) with laziness, evasiveness and lack of focus. God knows what he would have said about somebody who was actually full-on one-way gay or lesbian. Dyslexic? Bad cooks? Kitten murderers?

Next time I'm whining about the bad press that straight independent middle-aged women with no children get, I'll think back to this moment and shut mah mouth.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Adelaide's Audreys at the ARIAs

Pic from here, plus a lot of other good stuff

Here's something I wrote in a local-tourism column about pubs around Adelaide back in December 2004 when The Audreys were still a well-kept secret:

'By mid-afternoon, as a leisurely birthday lunch at the Stanley Bridge Tavern in Verdun reaches the post-coffee stage and we are now the only group left in the dining room, a slender young woman with short dark hair and an equally young man in a very cool hat come through the door lugging a cargo of amplifiers and instruments. They turn out to be Taasha Coates and Tristan Goodall, one half of The Audreys, and by the time they’ve set up for their pre-gig sound check and sung a few bars of this and that, it’s clear that they are very, very good. Taasha and Tristan are now Thursday night regulars there, playing audience-interactive acoustic sets that show off their lyrical, disciplined musicality, their collection of neo-folkie ‘toy-store instrumentation’, and their extensive repertoire up at the folksy end of rock, the classy end of country and the bluesy end of, well, blues.'

Sure enough, last night The Audreys won an ARIA for Best Blues and Roots Album. Am I a deadly talent-spotter or what? The album is Between Last Night and Us, and here's a taste, from Track 4, Pale Dress.

A colony of whatever they are

And in keeping with the elevated tone of that last post, here's a word from the ever-classy Senator Heffernan, a man with good sensible views on biodiversity: platypus schlatypus, kill them all!

The public has a right to know

I see Derryn Hinch has been suffering from unspecified health problems that have cause him to have a near-death experience he apparently couldn't resist using for self-publicity. But he ain't sayin' what caused it.

Given how much too much information we already have about Derryn's inner workings thanks to the horrid All-Bran ads, I can only assume that there's something wrong with his gut which if disclosed would give rise to cruel jokes about the product he endorses.

But hey, the public has a right to know. Cue loudmouthed shock jock burrowing through unsavoury sources. A little sauce for the gander.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Further thoughts on Werribee

I remember Werribee. In 1980 and 1981, before I learned to drive, I caught the train between Melbourne and Geelong a lot. Going through Werribee (as through any town) on a train was instructive, at once depressing and intriguing. Backyards tell you a lot. Houses backing onto the railway line tell you more.

My guess is that none of the Werribee gang grew up near the railway line; this story seems more akin to the one that came out of Sydney a few years ago about private schoolboys forcibly sodomising each other with large wooden objects. But the 'wrong side of the tapestry' effect of what you see when you ride on a train through a town is sticking in my mind.

Barista has posted a link to, and some thoughts on, the Today Tonight follow-up segment on which, at the request of the victim's father, some edited grabs from the notorious DVD were screened. If your stomach can stand it, it is quite instructive. Check out the POV: who has the camera? Isn't there some uncertainty there, a kind of hesitation about the gap between events as planned and events as they unfold? What does he choose to focus on?

Then there's the sequence of events. Nobody in it seems to quite know how this story is supposed to go. One of the perpetrators even comments on this fact. Nobody knows where they are supposed to be looking. 'The Victim' is clearly not the focus of their attention. The focus of their attention, insofar as they have one, seems to be the camera.

While I watched this weird anti-spectacle, I felt two things, both seen many years ago and long forgotten, scratching at the back of my mind. One was a wildlife doco about hyenas: approach in packs, circle, hang back, rush in and snatch or snarl and then back off again. The other was Peter Brook's 1963 movie of Lord of the Flies.

I remembered a story our English teacher told us about the filming of this movie. You could see her wondering, while she was telling us, whether she ought to be doing so. Apparently the perfectly nice stitched-up 1960s middle-class schoolboy cast went increasingly feral as the filming progressed. One night one of the on-location adults went to investigate a commotion in one of the bedrooms and found the boys chucking freshly-caught lizards into the blades of a full-speed electric fan.

Still from Lord of the Flies, 1963

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle rides again

In a desperate last-ditch effort to turn into some kind of tidy person in my later years, and if you could see the kitchen or indeed any other room in this house you would know just how Herculean a task we're talking about here, I have started a collection of housewifely mantras of tidiness, which I should like to share.

'I don't like to have one day spill over into the next' -- my mum, on why she wouldn't go to bed if there was anything at all left in or on the kitchen sink.

'Every time I bring something new into the house, I get rid of something old' -- my friend L. I can see how this one might stop the hallway from filling up with books and forcing me to start getting into and out of the house through the roof.

'If you don't make a mess, you won't have a mess to clean up' -- L's mum. Easy for her to say, I'm sure.

'Never walk from one room to another with empty hands' -- my friend D. This is a beauty. The house is much tidier since I heard her say this.

'Clear as you go' -- Mrs Beeton.

'Put the cats' meat in the fridge' -- You-Know-Who.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Creative Writing 101: and now a word from the cats' meat

From today's online Australian:

Edited transcript of Sheik Hilali's speech
This is an edited transcript, by SBS translator Dalia Mattar, of Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali's speech

October 27, 2006

" ... when it comes to adultery, it's 90 per cent the women's responsibility. Why? Because a woman possesses the weapon of seduction. It is she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on make-up and powder and takes to the streets, God protect us, dallying. It's she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then it's a look, then a smile, then a conversation, a greeting, then a conversation, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay jail. ...

"But when it comes to this disaster, who started it? In his literature, scholar al-Rafihi says: 'If I came across a rape crime – kidnap and violation of honour – I would discipline the man and order that the woman be arrested and jailed for life.' Why would you do this, Rafihi? He says because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn't have snatched it."

"If you take a kilo of meat, and you don't put it in the fridge or in the pot or in the kitchen but you leave it on a plate in the backyard, and then you have a fight with the neighbour because his cats eat the meat, you're crazy. Isn't this true?

"If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem.

"If the meat was covered, the cats wouldn't roam around it. If the meat is inside the fridge, they won't get it.

"If the meat was in the fridge and it (the cat) smelled it, it can bang its head as much as it wants, but it's no use.

"If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen.

From The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (eds Preminger and Brogan, 1993):

'The most revered form of simile is the epic simile, a lengthy comparison between two highly complex objects, actions or relations.'

The epic simile is a bloody hard thing for a writer to sustain successfully because every element of it has to make sense. It's like a sort of fable or short allegory -- think Animal Farm where every creature and action and all the relationships among them are standing in for the 'real' situation. Each substition or comparison -- Snowball=Trotsky, sheep=Teh Masses, farm=Russia etc etc -- has to fit logically with all the others, if you want to create a coherent narrative and second tier of meaning.

Never mind, for the moment, Sheik Hilali's demented world view; let's have a look at his speechwriting abilities. For a start it's not even an original image; he's paraphrasing al-Rahifi. But has he chosen well here? Is it a good, successful, rhetorically effective figure of speech?

If the women are the meat, then all those sexually incontinent men must be the cats, right?

So here's what I want to know. If the women are the meat and the men are the cats, then who are these cat-owners and neighbours? Is there some sinister extra dimension to this little fairytale that I'm not picking up? Or is it just incoherent as well as repulsive?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Something warm to put your feet on in the morning

From a comment thread at the SMH blog All Men are Liars:

'Most of my girlfriends, like me, like a bit of the chase ourselves. Guys that run around you doe-eyed and sleep beside your bed so you have something warm to put your feet on in the morning (ok i am exaggerating here) are a complete turn off.'

Oh, I don't know. I could struggle along with one of those.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Guardian of the garden

I lived in Victoria for almost twenty years, and whenever I drove over to Adelaide to see my family, my mother and I would take a ceremonial walk around her big garden and she'd give me a running commentary on how everything was going: what was doing well and what badly, what was blossoming, what had new shoots, what needed dead-heading or de-bugging.

Whenever something in the garden died, she took it as a personal affront. Her particular euphemism for 'died', as applied to the garden, was turned up its toes. (None of this 'RIP Phlox, fell asleep 25/12/06' type molly-pandering for my Ma, although she did occasionally also say that some hapless bit of vegetation had gone to God.)

Readers lucky enough still to have both parents and not to be estranged from either will not yet be aware that you go on talking to them after they die, and that the line between the dead and the living is nowhere near as clear as you think. So this morning it didn't seem at all strange to be reporting to my mum, wherever she is, that the self-sown oregano growing up through a crack in the path has for some unknown reason, and overnight, turned up its toes and gone to God.

As I formulated this thought I heard her voice as clear as day. Well, hurry up and take a couple of cuttings and pot them before it's too late.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I don't believe in evil ...

.. but that resistance gets tested anew, and more violently, every day.

My friend D would argue that these boys are like this because they have disadvantaged backgrounds / bad parenting / not fully responsible for their actions / failure of society to nurture them properly / etc etc.

And I am usually prepared to go a fair way with her on this (though we haven't discussed the Dianne Brimble case, and if we did it might shake the old friendship tree a little too hard for comfort) -- partly because this bit of evidence from the linked article so strongly supports her view: 'parents of the boys who produced the DVD laughed it off as "just a bit of fun".'

Subcultural, familial and peer-group ignorance and cruelty are behind a lot of unspeakable behaviour; look at the Brimble gang, or the Ocean Grove footy team officials who were so bewildered that anyone might think the team members' hurling of drunken anti-Semitic verbal and physical abuse from a bus at a pedestrian and his children might be regarded as a bad thing. Strikes me there are close similarities in all three cases -- and that the common element is a group of not-very-bright young males. Der.

But when it comes to pissing on a girl with a 'slight developmental delay', sexually abusing her, setting her on fire, and making a DVD of it -- nope. I don't give a rat's arse how they got like that. Sorry.

And there is, of course, no excuse for Channel Seven at all.

Getting better

What is it about a brush with mortality and a few days of submergence in the weird underworld of hospitals, doctors and industrial-strength drugs that brings out the very best in bloggers? First there was this classic Barista post, and now my friend Stephanie, in much the same newly-convalescent condition, reflects over at Humanities Researcher on her own experiences.

I remember from my academic days someone giving a research seminar on pathographies -- 'narratives of illness and cure'. Maybe one reason such writing tends to the dramatically good is that narrative and illness have similar trajectories: up or down, depending on genre, and punctuated by what the writing dudes call plot points, the moments of crisis where things will turn one way or the other. The very nature of the experience gives the writing a natural shape.

Maybe blogging is a particularly good mode for such experience; bloggers can write it and readers can read it almost in real time, recording and following the trajectory of the experience as it happens, and very likely even in an interactive way -- so that the act of blogging itself is therapeutic, and the responses from concerned and attentive readers maybe even more so.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Brilliant creatures

It's a very good thing that SBS is currently screening reruns of RocKwiz, because otherwise, not having seen it the first time, I would tonight have missed the always brilliant and gorgeous Deborah Conway singing that wonderful duet on Love Hurts with Tex Perkins, who was looking (the three-day growth may have been partly responsible for this) like an older, funnier and way badder Australian Viggo Mortensen.


Friday, October 20, 2006

I say potahto

I note, with icy disdain, that the word 'ass' to mean 'backside' is becoming common in Australian usage.


Always has been, always will be.

Surely the spread of 'ass' (so to speak) is just one more indication that under this government we have become little more than a pathetic puppet of the US. Does this freeze anyone else's blood, or is it just me?

Two brilliant things about marriage, from two new(ish) books

I was enjoying this morning until now. 'Not before breakfast,' I say. I do not add, 'You know I can't handle it this early in the day.' I've added that before; it's only had an intermittent effect. After this long together, both of our heads are filled with such minor admonitions, helpful hints about the other person -- likes and dislikes, preferences and taboos. Don't come up behind me like that when I'm reading. Don't use my kitchen knives. Don't just strew things. Each believes the other should respect this frequently reiterated set of how-to instructions, but they cancel each other out: if Tig must respect my need to wallow mindlessly, free of bad news, before the first cup of coffee, shouldn't I respect his need to spew out catastrophe so he himself will be rid of it?

'Oh. Sorry,' he says. He shoots me a reproachful look.
-- Margaret Atwood, Moral Disorder

Julia believed no outing was worth its while unless it ended up with tea and cake. He knew everything Julia believed. He could have gone on one of those Mr and Mrs quizzes and answered eveything about her likes and dislikes. He wondered if she would be able to do the same for him ...

For Jackson, words were functional, they helped you get to places and to explain things. For Julia they were freighted with inexplicable emotion.

'Afternoon tea' itself, of course, was one of Julia's all-time favourite phrases ('Good enough words on their own, but together perfect'). Afternoon tea usually trailed a few excessive adjectives in its wake -- 'scrumptious', 'yummy', 'heavenly'.

'Warm Bakery Basket' was another of her favourites, as were (mysteriously) 'autumn equinox' and 'lamp black'. Certain words, she said, made her toes 'positively curl with happiness' -- 'rum', 'vulgar', 'blanchisserie', 'hazard', 'perfidious', 'treasure', 'divertimenti'. Certain scraps and lines of poetry -- Of his bones are coral made and They flee from me that sometime did me seek sent her into sentimental rapture. The 'Hallelujah Chorus' made her sob, as did Lassie Come Home (the whole film, title to closing credits). Jackson sighed. Jackson Brodie, the all-time winner of Mr and Mrs.
-- Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One way of looking at three blackbirds*

I happened to glance up through the kitchen window a while ago as I was assembling toast and coffee, and saw three blackbirds perched in a row along the fence a few feet away. One had its back to me and as it moved the direct sunlight hit its shoulders, which turned a shimmery glossy blue, green, purple and silver.

Three blackbirds in a group is something you don't see much. Also, they usually notice any movement at the kitchen sink and fly away. Today they all just went on teetering there. One had its bright-yellow beak open, also a bit odd. Then I realised the one with the open beak was visibly smaller and fluffier than the other two.

Flying lesson. Must be Spring.

* If you find this title cryptic, go here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

And just in case you still thought it had anything to do with talent ...

... just remember that Reigan's gone, Lavina's gone, Bobby's gone -- and Ricky Muscat is still there.

Masculinity under threat

Norway, it seems, is abuzz with indignation after a primary school headmistress, fielding complaints from cleaners that little boys kept missing the toilet bowl, suggested that said little boys should pee sitting down.

This has caused an uproar. She has been accused of trying to foil God's plan. It seems that to pee neatly is to pee like a girl, than which, naturally, there can be nothing worse.

I love it, perverse of me though it may be, when a certain kind of man's real hatred and contempt for women is exposed like this and they don't even know they're doing it. Grim though these truths may be, they have a certain Gotcha sort of thrill about them.

Re the boys' toilets, however, I have a solution that one would hope would please all parties. Let the little tykes pee standing up by all means, on one condition: that they clean up any mess they make. Immediately.

Radical, no? Teach little male creatures to clean up after themselves. Use positive reinforcement: permission to indulge in heroic masculine behaviour, like standing up to pee, is their reward.

Or is cleaning up after yourself, like peeing sitting down, just another one of those contemptible things that only girls and women do?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Idol thoughts, liveblogged

7.59 pm (CST)

I am as big a fan as anyone of Bobby Flynn's originality and inventiveness. But am I the only person in the world who thinks you really need to actually hit, oh, say, 19 out of 20 of the notes you attempt to hit, even if you only hit them a little bit, in order to deliver a performance that is not embarrassing?


Dean South Africa hits all his notes, and then apparently hits a small child with a guitar pick. I don't like the guy (Tom Cruise wannabe, which is both boring and scary). But I've got to admit he's pretty good tonight. Also, he can play his guitar, which I was not expecting. But can anyone explain his hair?

I've got a suggestion for the producers, re the screams of the hysterical children in the audience while the performers are trying to sing and while the judges Holden and Sandilands are trying from time to time to say something interesting and useful ...

Duct tape. A powerful disciplinary tool. (Sandilands yelling 'Oh shut up your stupid yelling' later in the show was funny and gratifying but not very effective.)

And speaking of incredibly irritating audience behaviour, could someone please pass a law against studio audiences, in any reality TV show involving music, clapping? On the beat like an oom-pah band? Except a little bit behind the beat, like a bad oom-pah band? I'm sure the performers would really appreciate it. They already have enough problems.


Chris Murphy sings a song that reminds one what a truly excellent composer of popular songs Paul McCartney actually was. Or, for all I know, still is, though he's had other things on his mind lately. This song has "Beatles" written on it in letters of fire, as the best of post-Beatles Lennon also does. Chris Murphy, like his brother, is already a successful professional musician and does not need to be in this show, much less win it.

Jess Mauboy, who is wearing amazing shoes, screws up her key change. Holden doesn't mention it, Marcia never gives any feedback of specificity and substance anyway, and Sandilands probably doesn't know what a key change is. [9 pm update: cruelly, they pick this painful moment to show at the end as a so-called highlight. If you thought there was something audibly painfully wrong there, it's that Jess was singing in a different key from the dozens of musicians behind her.]

Here comes the Irish dude, who has a lot of ground to make up after last week.

8.31 pm

Irish Dude sings Wicked Game and is completely stunning, revealing among other things with his breathtaking a cappella opening that he has perfect pitch. He (with Reigan) has one of the two best voices, musically speaking, to make it to the top 12 -- Jess and Lavina are freaks, vocally speaking, but not totally in control.

This Chris Isaak song is so cool that the audience actually claps in time and on the backbeat. It is as if the song has forced them not to be tone-deaf dags in spite of themselves.

Now that Damien has delivered one of the great Idol performances, he will probably get voted out tomorrow night.


I'm in the camp that thinks Ickle Princess Lisa is, in fact, gorgeous, and I'd far rather listen to her voice than to the horrible melismatic yowling of the so-called divas (!). She's an okay guitarist and I find the vulnerability and openness hypnotising so I'm with Holden on this one. Also, I thought the clothes were perfect.

But does anyone know what language she's speaking when she talks?


I can hear from here that Ricky Muscat is the weak point in this group as currently constituted. But we already knew that.

8.55 However, the Holden/Sandilands trashing was unnecessary.

I think Dean will win. Which will be boring.

I have a deadline first thing in the morning, and there are an awful lot of unsavoury things I will do in the name of avoidance behaviour. Hence the Idolblogging. I mean, really.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Quote of the week

There can't be a thinking woman in all of the West who has not wondered, at some point over the last five years, what manner of woodwork could possibly have disgorged the teeming swarms of men who hitherto could not have given a rat's moth-eaten backside about the freedoms of women, but who have suddenly come over all pecs-flexed and po-faced about how dreadful and shocking it is that some Muslim women are denied certain liberties and rights. But I have never till now seen it expressed so well as Tigtog does here. (So it took me twelve days to catch up with it -- but the passage of time has only added to its lustre.)

"... Blob forbid that we should discuss the semiotics of gender segregation, especially amongst Christians, without some fella attempting to shut us up by pointing at the poor oppressed Muslim women.

Feminists were discussing oppressive Islamic practises long before the War on Terror began, and none of you oh-so-caring lot gave a stuff back then."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

John Howard, intellectual giant

"Well, I don't believe that Johns Hopkins research, I don't."

Oh good, then it can't possibly be true. That's all right then.

Shoot me now, part 2

Worst drought ever, tips Costello.

Yes, that's right, the Treasurer's become a climate expert. Useful really, given that half the country is already on fire less than two weeks into October and all my old Curramulka Primary classmates on Yorke Peninsula are bracing themselves today for the total destruction of their already drought-ridden dwarf barley crops after today's hot winds.

Here's my favourite bit of the Costello article:

'In a speech the previous night to the Energy Supply Association of Australia, Mr Costello, while endorsing Government policy on global warming, added a strong personal view that reducing it should be a priority along with economic growth.'

That's it, Cap'n Smirk, you take a clear, firm, unambiguous stand. Bold lad.

Are they bastards, or are they just f*ckwits? You decide.*

Either way, shoot me now.

* These categories are not mutually exclusive

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This'll be the fault of those damn Maoist educators

Headline from today's online Age:

Nats try not to be cut from the heard

Crashing illiteracy, or staggeringly lame pun? You decide.

But either way, shoot me now.

Monday, October 09, 2006

On not doing the 'I Told You So' dance

Fans of Will and Grace might remember the episode in which Grace does the 'I Told You So' dance. This involves jiggling on the spot, doing Bobby-from-Idol type hand movements while chanting 'I-told-you-so, I-told-you-so, I told-you-told-you-told-you-so!'

While very funny to watch, it's not a dance I've ever felt inclined to do. If one feels close enough to people to be giving them advice in the first place, then one gets no particular pleasure out of seeing them fall on their faces, even if it happened because they went against one's excellent advice.

This does not apply, however, to job selection committees on which one's advice and opinions are ignored, and the person appointed then turns out to be a five-star, fur-lined, ocean-going psycho. That is the moment for the 'I Told You So' dance.

The dance I do rather enjoy performing, however, is the 'Good. Now You Know How I Felt' dance. It's a sort of flounce out of the room, accompanied by a flick of the hair.

Not that this blog is autobiographical or anything like that.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Trendy lefty pinko feminist marxist postmodernists poisoning our children's minds again

Like the Prime Minister in his Australia Day speech, reading very slowly and carefully when he got to the bit about postmodernism in case he got any of it wrong, Julie Bishop this week looked very shaky and uncertain when detailing the alleged specifics of what was wrong with the schools system. The gospel according to Chairman Mao, eh? Who knew?

When Bishop accused the state education departments of 'hijacking' curricula, that hit-run verb implied a violent, illegal departure from some virtuous norm. What was this virtuous norm? Ratty's fond memories of primary school in the 1940s?

There was also a spectacular flaw in Bishop's 'logic': first-year law students need remedial English classes, therefore one must get rid of pinko trendy lefty bullshit like studying 'texts' (whatever they might be) at once. Spot the hole in that one and then drive a truck through it, amusing yourself the while with a vision of the classroom chaos that would ensue if you sat 2006's kids down in silent rows and tried to teach them formal grammar.

I assume the subtext and real import of Bishop's speech was 'education is run by the states and all the states are Labor so it just must all be vicious destructive trendy lefty crap and we're going to fix it'. Much mirth about 'texts', much insistence on Shakespeare, and no mention at all of the fact that if you're going to push for a higher and higher school leaving age (not because all students can cope with being in school for that long, but because we are in the middle of a technological revolution more extreme in its upheavals than the Industrial Revolution ever was, and with more ramifications for those it puts out of work), then you need to provide subjects that will be of a bit of use to these and other students when they get out into the world, and might stop them, for the moment, trashing the classroom, raping the teacher, blowing up the library and burning down their old primary schools after one too many failed attempts to get through a page of Titus Andronicus. Which Ratty and his henchpersons have, of course, all read.

But no. Put Henry V Part II back on the syllabus at once, you naughty naughty pinkos, or we will *chuckle* take away yet more of your funding.

It wasn't until I took up blogging that I realised in what contempt the humanities, as studied at school and especially at university, are held by a certain kind of person, usually male, who holds that the 'hard' subjects (and there are no prizes for guessing where, as a term of approbation, that adjective might come from) are the only ones worth knowing anything about. This is the problem that bedevils the feds at the moment whenever they try to talk in public about 'soft' stuff like history, language, so-called values and such. In order to talk intelligently (or even just intelligibly) on such subjects -- for example, to know what postmodernism and marxism actually are, much less to understand why they're not only not synonymous as Howard and Bishop seem to think but are, au contraire, pretty much mutually exclusive -- they are going to have to bite the bullet and consult someone who knows the answer. Not some bolshie up-himself right-wing journalist: someone in -- shudder -- the humanities.

I would love it if somebody did something to address the problems in schools, and the states are by no means off the hook here. If the conversation of my friends in teaching is anything to go by, then there is a huge disconnect between departmental rhetoric and classroom reality.

So maybe they should address some of the most serious problems first, like the fact that there are kids in schools and classes that are torture for them, and they respond by making it impossible for the other kids to learn, or the teachers to teach, anything at all. LIke the fact that parents now expect the schools to teach their kids life skills on top of everything else, largely because the parents now need two salaries in order to keep a family going and that means less time with the progeny. Like the fact that there is not enough government money in most state schools and far too much in the private ones, and favouring private schools in the name of 'choice', as a response to the financial reality of most Australian families' lives in 2006, has about it a whiff of insanity.

And I wonder whose fault that could be.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Overheard in the supermarket

'But I don't want to try something different! I want what I want!'

Hmm, sounds like a fellow-Taurus to me. A woman after my own heart, either way.


I can't believe I've been doing this for a year.

And a big hello to all my bloggy mates, with only two of whom I've ever come face to face (hi Cristy, hi Elsewhere) (though it's more than possible, indeed it's likely, that ThirdCat and I have been in the same Adelaide room without knowing it), especially the ones who provided feedback and help early on: Laura; Zoe; Kate; Fyodor the Great but Blogless, who was my first-ever commenter (how's that for class); and most of all Elsewhere, who alerted me to the existence and the potential of blogging in the first place.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's always nice to see the meeja getting its priorities right

'Little Steve Irwin' cries for stolen lizard

A seven-year-old Port Melbourne boy is still in tears today after a burglar stole his pet blue tongue lizard yesterday.

The lizard, named Harry, was taken from a fish tank in Ethan Payne's bedroom. A rare violin, made in 1764, was also stolen during the burglary.

Cop that for the headline quadrella: Steve Irwin, children, animals, and a rilly rilly mean burglar. (240-year-old violin? What 240-year-old violin?)

Apparently Rupert hasn't got a monopoly on this kind of thing, because the article is from here.

My Week, by Pav

Wednesday 27/9, 9 pm
Give up in despair on any hope at all of finishing 1300-word book review whose deadline was yesterday before I catch plane in morning -- preparing for Sydney meeting has been several days' work. Check off packing list, a pointless exercise as before I go to bed the following night I will already have longed for some dental floss, a pair of nail scissors and my hairbrush, none of which I've packed, but I don't know that yet.

Wednesday 11 pm
Ring taxi company, get into bingle with bitch on other end re booking cabs at peak hour after she asks 'What time does your plane leave?' which always gets my back up, having had several near-missed flights in the past when I've been stupid enough to tell them. ('Well, we can't guarantee it'll be there.' 'But that's why I'm calling tonight, to make sure.' 'It wouldn't matter if you called last week, we can't guarantee you a cab at that time of day.' Silly me, wanting to go somewhere at 7.50 am.)

Thursday 28/9, 8.30 am
Get double frisked at airport security -- 'It's random, just random checks,' the poor woman whose job this is keeps telling me. Clearly, many have freaked.

Thursday, 1.30 pm
Work meeting at Sydney U begins.

Thursday, 6 pm
Meeting repairs en masse to restaurant and continues, albeit in more relaxed vein, till 9. Then consider finding my way to The Clock and grogblog happening thereat, but am too tired to cope with any of the looks I usually get when people who for some reason were expecting me to be a 25-year-old, 175 cm, 50-kilo blonde find out the ludicrous truth, which is that those numbers all go in a different order. Not strong enough for one of those encounters tonight. Repair to hotel to sleep the sleep of the knackered.

Friday, 29/9, 9.30 am
Meeting resumes.

Friday, 5.30 pm
Meeting concludes.

Do the Catch a Plane Home from Sydney on a Friday Night thing, the one where if you book the sensible flight you will almost certainly be delayed and miss it, and if you cautiously book the last plane home for the night then you will have no delays and a smooth run to the airport, where you will then mooch for two and a half hours.

Tonight it's the latter, which, on the whole, I prefer. Qantas in Sydney now has no check-in facilities between the electronic DIY things that look like post-boxes and the Help desks for morons, of which there are only two and at both of which there is a very long queue. Am doing fine with postbox despite the fact that it has no instructions for people who have booked through a travel agency (which I was obliged to do, it being a university-funded trip) when staff member bustles up to "help". While he is "helping", machine times out, and will thenceforth give me nothing but a bit of paper saying Get in the Help Queue.

The Help Queue I am in is not moving. Decide to have another go at the postbox, from scratch, without "help". Nope. I go to the back of the queue I was in.

At the Help desk, there is a big to-do about my Hair Product and an altercation about my seat allocation.

Make a mental note never ever to fly with Qantas again ever, at all. Realise I have made this mental note before.

Flight is delayed -- 'We have a slight discrepancy in passenger numbers.' Assume this means they have routinely overbooked and that, to their horror, everyone has turned up. (Does anyone reading this know how that works?) More of a problem than usual, given it's the last Sydney-Adelaide flight for the night -- no putting people on a later flight. Underline mental note and draw a flowery border around it.

Friday, 10.40 pm
Flight touches down in Adelaide.

Saturday, 30/9, 8.30 am
Get out of bed by force of will and proceed to girly up for art prize presentation and exhibition opening at the Hahndorf Academy in the Hills. This turns out to be fab -- perfect weather, really good Art, lovely Hills lunch with best mate. Drive home. Have very long nap.

Sunday, 1/10
Read 300-page novel.

Monday, 2/10, 8 am
Write and file 1300-word review (see Wednesday, above).

Monday, 7 pm
Drive into city to read at one of poet Ken Bolton's regular Monday night 'writers reading' type gigs. Get home 10 pm, in time to be thrilled that the telecast of the Slowdown (old farts footy match, always hilarious) has meant that Criminal Minds has only just started so there's a whole hour of watching Mandy Patinkin.

Tuesday, 3/10, 8.30 am
Write and file 650-word review of the 300-page novel I read on Sunday.

Wednesday, 4/10, 8.30 am
Water garden in desperate bid to save glorious sweet-pea harvest from today's weather, 'hot and windy'. Consider erecting screens. Settle for tying up plants more securely, ditto tomato.

Wednesday, 9 am
Front up to page 1 of 350-page book of which 850-word review must be filed by tomorrow. Look past that to 8-10 min radio review/overview (must all be written down) of the wonderful Kate Atkinson, she of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, whose work I have only just discovered, deadline October 9.

Wednesday, 9.05 am
Cannot bear to neglect blog any longer, but brain refuses to produce any sensible remarks on global crimes, national lunacies or local sillinesses. Meditate on past week instead. Feel better, marginally.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


If at this time of year you spend a week trying (and failing) to get at least one of the four book reviews finished while you clean the house, pack for a two-day Sydney trip, prepare for the meeting that said trip is about, and prioritise above all else some time out for a fleeting visit from a distant beloved, and if you finally stagger out to the cab for the airport secure in the knowledge that you've ticked everything off the packing list (except your hairbrush; bummer) and that there are biscuits and coffee for your elderly father when he comes over to feed the cats and that there is enough money in the accessible bank accounts to get you through whatever staggeringly expensive Sydney events may arise (for Sydney absorbs one's money like blotting paper) -- if, as I say, you spend a week like this, too busy to go outside, then be prepared for chaos in the garden by the time you get home.

The ground cover will be choking the pansies and violas.

The bloody blackbirds will have pulled out all the loose soil from under the lobelias.

The lovely healthy Roma tomato plant will be nearly dead.

The evil bastard bougainvillea will be growing through the garage guttering again.

The sweet peas will have started to bloom, in a neon shade of tangeriney pinky red that clashes nastily with the last of the ranunculi, which are a neon shade of shirazzy pinky red.

A new family of honey-eaters will have taken up residence in the overgrown tangle of climbing rose, bignonia, jasmine and nasturtiums that's threatening to pull the fence down, so of course you can't cut it back till this latest family of fledglings has taken off.

The bugs will have eaten the basil, just like they do every bloody summer no matter what you do.

There will be weeds everywhere, including growing up through the pavers, because you can't spray them until there's a still, dry day with no deadlines in it, and we don't seem to have had one of those since about June.

So this morning I went out into the jungle, took a deep breath, did a load of washing, hung it out, and watered the garden. And it immediately began to rain.