Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shock, horror: atheist witches not hypocrites

In what parallel universe does it qualify as "news" that the Prime Minister and the Governor-General didn't go to church?

Can you imagine how the joyful, nay, orgasmic cries of 'Hypocrite' would have rung round the walls of The Australian's offices if Julia Gillard, who once, when asked by some journalist, readily agreed that yes she was indeed an atheist, had fronted up at church? They must have been really disappointed that she wasn't there.

What next, a trial? As Kate Grenville once said, the test is, if they drown. And if they don't drown, then that proves that they are indeed witches, and you get to burn them at the stake instead.

Reasons: a poem

Long time no blog
Cos I'm sick as a dog


Normal services will be resumed eventually.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What a surprise

This is as close to rage meltdown as I think I've ever seen the Prime Minister come, which is to say not very, but you can see it churning away there under the pastels. She's clearly not happy, and if I were Tony Abbott I wouldn't want to run into her on a dark night. He could have put Mark Latham on his arse fairly easily, but I don't like his chances with an enraged Gillard one bit.

I assume that as we speak he's gleefully dancing around giving Crabbe and Goyle and the rest of the Slytherins high fives, like the schoolyard bully he is.

Surely, though, she can't be surprised. It's not as if there's no precedent, from that quarter, for weathervane behaviour, spoiler behaviour, plotting, scheming, lying and deception.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Finished this week's copy with time to spare; lots of good ideas for the statue-of-Colonel-Light chapter of the Adelaide book that I'll be getting on with writing later this evening; new Kate Atkinson novel to read over dinner and again before the light goes out; positive loving conversations with five different people over the last 48 hours; spaghetti and pesto and a lovely big cold glass of Pike's Riesling for tea.

Oh, and the jasmine's out.

Asylum seekers: it's not rocket surgery

Founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis, blogging at the Wheeler Centre (where you can read the whole thing), makes a statement that could not be clearer, simpler or more true:

In the past, I have naively thought the facts would bring an end to the fearmongering – by explaining to people that we receive just a few thousand asylum seekers each year, and that they pose no threat to our way of life or sustainability. I want to explain that 99.99% of people who entered Australia last year did so by plane; that Australia takes just 0.03% of the world’s refugees and displaced people; and that there are 76 countries that take more refugees than we do, based on wealth.

These days, I talk about a much simpler truth: the moral responsibilities that come with living in a free and democratic country, and what it means to be an Australian. This means we have a moral duty to act and show compassion to vulnerable, innocent people who are fleeing for their lives.

Being Australian should count for something greater than pandering to baseless fears.

Can't give them away with a pound of tea

I've been trying intermittently to become an official organ donor for nigh on twenty years. Anyone who watched the 7.30 Report last night won't be surprised to hear how difficult and frustrating this has been. Twenty years ago some of my organs might have been worth something, but I doubt it now, although I bet my lungs are in better shape after nearly 21 years off the nicotine.

But apparently now you really can do it online. That is, if you're prepared to register in order to use their online services and wait while they post you your password by snail mail. Which might entail ringing them up to make sure the postal address they have for you is current.

Also, whoever organised that segment managed to time the running of it so that it coincided with a period of maintenance at the Medicare site.

But if you're still interested after all that, the website is here.

Apparently Australia has an unusually low number of organ donors, but my guess is because it's been so hard to register as one. Every time I filled in a card for my wallet or opted to have 'Organ Donor' put on my driver's licence, someone would immediately assure me that it didn't mean a thing. My family has discussed this kind of stuff many times and we are all in furious agreement about the virtues of organ donation, but that decision is one burden I would like them not to have to carry if it came down to it. Hence the online registration.

But I'm wondering if there are other reasons. So by way of novelty I'm going to use Blogger's poll gadget to actually do something useful and get some information on reasons. Do feel free to play.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

City of Light

Listen to your Auntie Pav

Yes, it's Agony Corner. I haven't even been asked a question, I just feel like dispensing some good advice.

I don't know what it is about flower arranging that sets the mind to wandering, but, following a particularly leisurely train of thought as I tried to coax a bunch of curly-stemmed nasturtiums into a champagne flute, it occurred to me that I know not just one but two stories -- both told to me by reliable sources, about people I know personally -- of people being told they are no longer required by their employers. These people have, in a rage, gone straight to the computer and deleted all the records -- in both cases, indispensable, unique and sometimes irreplaceable records -- relevant to their (former) jobs.

In both cases, the dismissal was unexpected, and was not entirely kind or fair. One can understand what prompted the hitting of the red button. It's all very well having internalised excellent life rules like 'Don't slam the door on your way out', but sometimes the red mist simply descends of its own accord and then all bets are off.

But Reader, do not do it. Do not. Ever.

Because if you do, nobody will ever forget it. It's too good a story -- Shakespearean, really: power, drama, revenge, you know the kind of thing -- and you will carry it round your neck like a dead albatross for the rest of your working life. If you have any more working life. Five years, ten years, fifteen years after you do it, people will still be standing at the kitchen sink putting the first nasturtiums of Spring into champagne glasses and thinking Gee, I wonder what happened to whatsis/ername, you know, the one who deleted all the files.

Monday, September 13, 2010

That can't be right

The aircon service man came when he said he was going to, serviced the units without incident, said the whole system was in excellent shape, charged me less than I was expecting, and left no mess behind him.

After he left, I managed to diagnose and fix the problem with the computer, and was consequently able to diagnose and fix the problem with the wireless network.

Then I rang the council to try to solve the mystery of why the recycling didn't get collected last week and the phone was answered immediately by a person who was not only real but also polite, intelligent and helpful, and who organised for the truck to come by today or tomorrow.

All this and it's not even eleven o'clock yet. There's obviously something dreadfully, dreadfully wrong.

UPDATE: It gets worse; the bin-emptying dudes turned up and emptied the bin, before noon. I've already touched wood, but I might have to burn some sage and lavender oil and have a cleansing ceremony.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Seeing the future

Listening to first Tony Windsor and then Rob Oakeshott deliver their verdicts in this afternoon's press conference was a really interesting experience. I was driving home, so heard it on the radio rather than watching the teeve, of which I'm now glad, because I gather from various online commentary thus far that the media pack behaved like a bunch of hyenas: restless, noisy and disrespectful. And like them, and like, I'm sure, the rest of the country, I spent the first two or three minutes of Tony Windsor's speech champing at the bit thinking Oh for God's sake get on with it already.

Then it dawned on me slowly that this really was a fairly historic moment in the history of Australian parliamentary democracy; it deserved its little bit of theatre. More, the Independents deserved to be allowed to explain themselves in detail -- not least because they know they will be carved up by the Murdoch-dominated press and filleted by their own electorates.

Windsor probably drew the long straw; speaking first, he had the luxury of being able to announce his decision halfway through his speech, knowing the press and the country would have no choice but to keep listening. It was harder for Oakeshott, who knew that the minute he announced his decision they would all stop listening to him and he therefore had no real choice but to leave it till the end. Which was, anyway, the only possible choice, given the degree of theatre the occasion deserved and got.

In terms of one's own personal development (and the more I see of certain people in their 70s and 80s, the more determined I become never to abandon the effort to be Better), what I found very educational was my own childish impatience for instant gratification. As Windsor got into his stride, I began to ask myself exactly why I just wanted him to hurry up, when what he was saying was actually content-rich and very interesting. I seemed to myself to be a toddler squalling for her dummy. I began to be a bit ashamed, and switched to Mindfulness mode.

Which stood me in good stead when it came to Oakeshott, who set Mindfulness a bit of a test. But I don't know why a certain sort of commentator (on the Crikey liveblog, for a start) is whingeing about there being no substance to his speech. There appeared to me to be plenty.

My dad will be ropeable about this result, but then he is permanently ropeable about everything these days, so it would be hard to tell. It saddens me that I won't be able to make him see the single biggest miracle in all this, grounded in the fact that as time rolls itself out, things happen that you could never have seen coming, and sometimes they are things that change the shape of what you thought were life certainties.

Via him, I come from a family that farmed barley, wheat and sheep on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula for four generations, and lived on that farm myself till I was twelve. I was very moved by Tony Windsor's clear statement that the two things he thought would benefit rural and regional Australia most were advances with broadband and climate-change policy, because I could imagine the people I went to primary school with, and their children and grandchildren, living in that landscape I know so well, having the benefit -- not just with regard to business, but also with regard to education and health -- of the NBN, and living in a country not in denial about climate conditions under which they will be among the first to suffer ruinously.

Climate change and the internet are two things that my father's generation - indeed, my generation -- could never in a million years have seen coming. Action on both issues is currently down to the (comparatively speaking) progressives, who are, historically, anathema to the bush. But they are what will help to save it, if anything can, and Windsor and Oakeshott have had the vision to see that and the courage to act on it.

It had better be today ...

Waiting around to see who won the election has been edifying. Half the country must surely be better educated in the nature of the Westminster system and the democratic process than we were two weeks ago.

But most of us, I believe, are over it. The Independents are now saying we'll know by early afternoon, so let's hope they mean it. I'll be in a meeting, so I hope someone in the building is keeping tabs and will come and let us know.

When Howard won in 1996 (just mosey on down to the end of the porch there where the other rocking chair is and fetch me mah Zimmer frame, sonny, if ya would), I remember thinking that it was actually quite interesting to have a clear ideological enemy in charge of the country, and that I knew exactly what I would be resisting and why. But he and his mob looked as though they could at least run the country with a modicum of competence, and in spite of the horrible though predictable way they systematically ran down education, health and women's rights among other things, got us into wars we didn't have much right or reason to get into and white-anted our better natures by playing to our basest prejudices and fears, they were. Competent, I mean.

This time round I am a-beggin' and a-prayin' that the country boys will (unlike practically every other politician in the country, but in accordance with the way they have been talking) focus that long-paddock gaze to see beyond their own immediate self-interest, and go with the least worst option. Back in '96 when Howard got in, I was not a happy rabbit. But at least I wasn't scared.

UPDATE: 11.04 am, hitting 'refresh' on the ABC's 'Just In' news still yielding no result so far. Fair enough; they said this afternoon. But if I were a betting woman, I'd say we're in for another election.

UPDATE #2: 3.27 pm. OH THANK GOD!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


We're now into September (we're almost a week into September; gah) and that means that I'm getting up towards the pointy end of the deadline for this book about Adelaide. It's time to get serious. Actually I was already pretty serious, but it's time to get more serious.

To that end, I'm hoping that making a public commitment en blog to a daily minimum of work on the book, a commitment that will shame me into actually doing it.

So here it is: starting today, and working around the regular four novels a week reviewing gig, I must also do a minimum of either (a) writing 500 words or (b) two hours of work (writing, researching, self-editing, faffing around with the biliography) per day. Whichever comes first. Or both.

And not just during the working week but every day. 7/7. It works like flexitime: I can save up for a day off, or make up time afterwards. If the latter, it has to be within that working week. I'll use the appropriate blog to report back, and to shame myself publicly if need be. Perhaps the best place for updates is the readin' and writin' blog; with any luck they might spur me on to keep that a bit more alive.

(You thought this post was going to be about Relationships, didn't you. Hah, sucked in. I'm too old for that sort of malarkey. Talking about them publicly, or indeed at all, I mean. Nobody is too old for having them.)

UPDATE, 10.05 pm: three and a half hours' worth of reading/research/restructuring/faffing, which included writing 357 words. The question is, how long can I keep it up?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing, technology and memory

Lo these many years ago when I was writing my PhD thesis, I frequently voiced a wish that someone would invent a form of sentences and paragraphs that worked not in two dimensions, but in three: that had the structure, not of a straight line, but of a mirror ball, so that the sentence, the paragraph, the thought, the Thing would be constantly turning, revealing its different facets, and whoever was reading/looking at it could see how those different facets related to each other.

Which is how grammar itself works, really, and why Yoda funny is, but that's for another post.

I wanted this three-dimensional discursive artifact to be invented in order to be able to circumvent the problem of trying to write about something that couldn't really be understood until something else -- something tangential, or something that happened later -- had been explained. God had gone some way towards solving this problem when She invented footnotes, but there was still a long way to go.

Great leaps and bounds in this direction have been made since, of course, in the form of hyperlinks. I remember the moment when I first realised what hyperlinks were and how they worked: my first conscious thought was Damn and blast, if only these things had been invented before I tried to write my thesis.

The problem of linear chronology remains, of course, in that consciousness and its apprehensions are inescapably linear because of the way that time works, or at least time the way we understand it. You can still only read one thing at a time, and decisions must be made about the order in which you will read them. All the same, it would have been an enormous help to have been able to send my examiners (for who else ever reads PhD theses?) off at a hypertangent in order to find out extra things about the topic before proceeding further.

If I had the patience to read (and the brains to follow) Stephen Hawking, I might have a better handle on this, but life is short.

And because I am now trying to write a book, a book about Adelaide, for which I have a magnificently liberating -- and, for that reason, terrifying -- brief from the publisher (although since it's a book in a series and I'm in the fortunate position of having several earlier volumes to supply a context, it's less terrifying than it might have been), I have been thinking about ways in which technology might come to my aid.

What I need is a form of technology that will automatically record everything you're thinking as you're thinking it: some sort of microchip that reads your mind and has an Autosave function.

I'm sure it's possible. In fact someone somewhere has probably already invented it, and is merely having trouble with the patent. If so, I'm guessing the problem won't have been solved before February 1, the date the manuscript is due, which is a shame. And God knows I have wished to have one of these gadgets implanted many times before today.

But how else to record, without having to race to take notes to keep up with the brain when the brain is actually working this fast, which happens so seldom you have to grab it while it's happening, for who knows when it will come again -- how else to record the suddenly obvious solution, which came to me in the middle of dinner, to the structural problem of where to put the story of the sudden closure of Adelaide's Radio 5KA in 1941, when the government thought 5KA was being run by German sympathisers who were broadcasting in code was because said station managers were Jehova's Witnesses? For it belongs, it obviously belongs, in the section on Weird Adelaide.

What's more, as the radio station closure is all about the mood of Adelaide in wartime, I can tuck in, under that story's wing, my dad's recollections of being a 15-year-old ARP bike rider in 1942, pedalling up and down the streets of Adelaide's eastern suburbs knocking on the doors of people whose blackout curtains were not sufficiently closed -- recollections I was determined to shoehorn in somewhere but had not yet found a place for.

But I had to leave my dinner half-eaten and rush to the computer to write all this stuff down, because otherwise it would have whooshed past like a car in the rain and been lost to sight. I just wish inventors would invent things before I need them.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


This is the First Freesia of 2010.

Not only are freesias beautiful and strong -- they very rarely get chewed to bits by snails and bugs or battered by the weather, and they pop reliably up and flower every year without any help from me -- but they also smell divine. It's probably only a matter of time before we can blog smells as well, but in the meantime you'll have to imagine it.

Back to the future

I've just written an email to my very oldest friend saying 'I see from your daughter's Facebook page that you've hurt yourself -- are you okay?'

However we may have imagined the future, back in 1967 as we lolled around in our school uniforms on the lawn at lunchtime, we could never have imagined the possibility of formulating a sentence like that.