Sunday, November 25, 2007


For those who, like me, don't find the new Prime Minister (elect) as radical as we wish he were, think about it this way: it's not so much that we've gained a Kevin, it's more that we've lost a Rodent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Politics as if it mattered

There's been some talk lately around the bloggy traps, from Mark at LP and others, about the regrettable nature of psephology's tendency to reduce election-time politics to horse-racing metaphors and mindsets, at the expense of more complex things.

One way of responding to this, and many bloggers (and good journalists) do it on a weekly if not daily basis, is to examine those developments and trends and trajectories in individual lives that are determined by government policy and practice: to see whether this or that person's life is better or worse than it used to be, and whether that's measured in terms of money or peace of mind or something else altogether.

After eleven years of a Howard government, business-minded Caucasian males are doing very well. Who'd have thought.

Workers, women, asylum seekers, Aboriginal children and such, however, maybe not so much. Those of us who value ideas, egalitarianism of class and gender and heterogeneity of thought and belief aren't doing all that fabulously well either, although that's more the effects of repressive tolerance; it would be stupid and wrong to deny that we have, in Australia, been fortunate enough to preserve (despite our various national failings) a kind of independence and scepticism of mind and heart, and that that has been possible partly because even our conservative governments have been relatively liberal. Not only are we are not Myanmar or North Korea or Zimbabwe, we are not even, thank God, the US.

But we've now had eleven straight years of a government that has stayed in power by shamelessly playing to our weaknesses and our worse natures: self-interest, literal-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, fear and greed. And after eleven years of fear and greed being indulged, reinforced and rewarded by policies (and their accompanying rhetoric) in, especially, economics and immigration, you have to worry about what it's done to us as a people: positive reinforcement is a powerful thing, for better or worse. We all take it for granted that it is we who create the government, but that relation is actually a complex two-way street, involving the re-calibration of personal assumptions and the re-setting of social norms.

Politics really matters, all right. And one of the things about it that matters most is what it does to you as a human being. How amazing, if for once we were to stop asking ourselves 'Am I better or worse off than I was eleven years ago?' and ask ourselves instead 'Am I a better person?'

UPDATE, 22/11: Or, to put it another way ...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Experience is the best teacher, part 4,594: washing instructions

What they say: 'Handwash separately in cold water.'

What they mean: 'Handwash separately in cold water.'

If God had meant this to happen, he would never have invented sub-editors

From the Adelaide Advertiser's TV liftout:

Judge John Deed: Silent Killer.
Deed is asked by the wife of a former Iraqi minister to help her sue the British government for the deaths in her family. (Includes Lotto draw.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Through a glass darkly, or do I mean smoke and mirrors?

As we crawl groaning through the eighth day left before we can finally trudge down to the ballot box and get it over with, does anyone else have the feeling that this runup has, on both sides, been so comprehensively air-brushed that there's really nothing much to look at, apart from the meta-campaigns?

Almost nobody believes Howard now, not even his own side, when he desperately promises to throw money around on things we all know he doesn't believe in. As for Kevin07, so successful has he been in his refusal to be wedged (and I'm not blaming him for that; it was the only intelligent response) that we don't really know what he actually thinks about anything much -- although as a secular feminist, a South Australian, and a profound mistruster of people who seriously want to make a lot of money, I'm not fooling myself that Kev is exactly my man either.

The liveliest conversations have been about the campaign itself: the Overington/Ecuyer/Newhouse circus; the Garrett and Abbot jokes and quotation marks; the Coalition's ill-hidden determination to get rid of the only electable potential leader they have; the bloody endless graphs and polls and number-crunching, the obsession with which which strikes me as partly a symptom of the popular but narrow- and literal-minded belief that 'science' trumps everything else and can provide all the answers; and, finally, the question of whether or not Julia Gillard owns a skirt.

(I can't decide whether this is more outrageous or less outrageous than the fruit bowl incident or the ongoing fuss about her hair; really it's all part of the same nauseating sexist mindset. Guy Rundle had a very funny Byron parody on the subject of Julia's trousers and the preoccupation therewith in Crikey's early election edition this morning, though I can't believe he missed the more obvious and, in its own quiet way, profoundly erotic Herrick poem.*)

I don't care about any of these things. I want something done about Iraq, water, hospitals, education and grass-roots social reform with a view to a healthier society with fewer crims in it. I don't give a rat's about any of this other stuff.

*Whenas in silks my Julia goes
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free;
Oh, how that glittering taketh me!

Said it before, say it again: Red Symons is a genius

I think this is the best one so far. But be warned: it's incredibly depressing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More wrongful detention: some wondering

I wonder how hard the government has been trying to suppress the story of Tony Tran. (UPDATE: quite hard, apparently.) Here's the transcript from Lateline, which broke the story on Monday night.

I wonder what Tony Tran was thinking while the Vivian Solon and Cornelia Rau stories were in the news.

I wonder what kind of bafflegab and b*llshit Kevin Andrews has/will come up with this time, and whether this story will make his nose and ears go all red on the teeve, as telltale a sign with Andrews as the shoulder twitch is with Ratty. You'd think Makeup would be Awake-up by now.

I wonder where most people would rather see their taxes go: to compensation for Tony Tran and his son -- or to the subsidy of other people's "choice" of private schools for their children?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Election notes

1) News Ltd journo Glenn Milne, he of the unbuttoned physical attack on Stephen Mayne at the last Walkley Awards presentations, hit a new low in barrel-bottom scraping and general insinuendo yesterday when this snide little exercise in violently subjective, connotative language dredged up some tenuous, nay, gossamer fifteen-year-old scuttlebutt about a former lover of Julia Gillard's, hinting that she was complicit or worse in said former lover's irregular financial dealings.

Memo to Ms Gillard: stay away from men called Barry, Brian or Bruce. Just ask me.

Memo to Glenn Milne: which part of 'desperate' don't you understand?

2) I just saw a lovely bit of footage of Ratty wittering on today about 'Australian families' during which Cossie was caught on-camera yawning without even bothering to cover his mouth. Is this a man (loyal, well-mannered, sophisticated, alert ... not) we want in charge of the country?

3) And speaking of Australian families, personally I'm a self-employed independent. And if I hear the idiotic and meaningless phrase 'working families' one more time, from either side, I'm voting Green. I swear.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lying Rodents: What They Say and What They Mean

'I beg your pardon?' = 'I don't care what you said, you wanker'

'Excuse me' = 'Get out of my way'

'Thank you' = 'Ew, what's this rubbish?'

'Please' = 'Hand it over before I rip your arm off'

'How do you do?' = 'I don't care if you're bleeding from the ears'

'Lovely to meet you' = 'Someone get me away from this psycho'

'Peace' = 'War'

'Black' = 'White'

'Sorry' = 'I'm not sorry, and this is not an apology.'

UPDATE: Stephanie has sent me this wonderfully illustrative Nicholson animation.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wednesday Claytonsblogging

Lest anyone (employers past, present and yet to come, this means you) get the wrong idea, let me begin by saying that late last night as I waited for the beta cat to finish her dinner so I could let the alpha cat out of the bathroom and go to bed -- they have to be fed separately, as alpha-cat bolts but beta-cat eats hers in instalments, three or four dainty snacks stretched over half an hour; if they are fed together, alpha-cat simply eats her own and then bumps beta-cat away from the bowl and eats that as well -- as I waited, I flicked through the current Women's Weekly's massive survey on women's lives deciding what my answers would be if I had the energy to get up off the sofa and get a pen.

There are pages and pages of multiple choice in this quiz and my answer to every other question was NONE OF THE ABOVE, but then I found a question with an answer option that exactly fitted my case:

Q. If you are currently employed, which of the following statements most accurately describe your feelings about work?

A. I love my job; it gives me great personal satisfaction.

It's not exactly a job qua job, since I'm self-employed and much of my work involves regular or one-off tasks of various magnitude. But there is an unprecendented number of said tasks on concurrently at the moment, a situation it's possible to survive only if you work on each one in strict rotation for an hour or two at a time, thereby not getting irretrievably behind with any of them. ('If it's 1 am, this must be the proofreading.')

Which means that blogwise I am resorting to the very last, erm, resort of bloggers (and, before them, columnists) everywhere: write a blog post about why you're not writing any blog posts.

I'd blog about the garden but at the moment I'm not spending any time in it and thinking about two major problems out there gives me panic attacks but there's no time to do anything about it.

I'd blog about politics but I don't have time to read or watch the news.

I'd blog about music or theatre, but I don't have time to go to any.

I'd blog about work, but I'm too busy working.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gotta love spell-check ...

... which has just "corrected" a slight misspelling in the title of J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians in order to re-title the entire thing Waiting for the Birdbrains.