Sunday, January 30, 2011


Sometimes if you're lucky there's a moment, when you're working on a first draft, trying to turn it into a second draft, that comes when you're slogging away at micro-level and suddenly, without warning, you see clearly and exactly what needs to be done at macro ditto.

It's not quite as heady as the moment when you look at a paragraph you've just finished writing and think Holy schlamoly, where did that come from. But it's pretty good.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shoot me now

From today's Crikey:

'Iran's cover up. Baroness Ashton, the EU Foreign Minister, has been given a more modest neckline in Iranian newspaper coverage of the talks in Turkey over Iran's nuclear program. Who said that what women politicians wear does not matter?'

Monday, January 24, 2011

Taking the veil

This is Crikey's Video of the Day today.

As one of the many feminists around the world bedevilled by the question of Islamic dress codes for women, I was hoping, really hoping, that this woman was going to explain the rationale of wearing the whole enchilada in a way that I could understand and sympathise with. Because I've read a number of pieces by Moslem women on this subject and frankly none of them have made a lot of sense to me.

Most of this woman's arguments about why the French ban is wrong do carry some weight. But all she says by way of actual explanation of the wearing of the garment is that she wears the niqab 'because of my spirituality towards God'. Which means nothing to me. 'Spirituality' yes, no argument from me. Even 'God', yes, I at least get the idea. But it's the word 'because' that defeats me. How is one's spirituality towards God expressed by hiding one's body, hair and face, which one presumes she believes God to have made? Does anyone know?

A little faffing around online reveals among other things that the face veil is a pre-Islamic garment worn in the desert to keep the flying sand out of one's eyes (on a literal if presumably not a metaphorical level). Which is the kind of explanation that does make sense. But you have to wonder how often there's call to keep the flying sand out of one's eyes in France -- again, on a literal if not a metaphorical level; France has quite a lot of metaphorical flying sand when it comes to putting pressure on women about their looks or pestering them sexually in public, and two reasons often given for wearing any level of hijab are to prevent unwanted attentions from men and to be able to stop fretting about how you'll be judged for the new wrinkle in your forehead or the fact that you've put on a few kilos.

Goddess knows both of those things make perfect sense to me.  What I want to know is why it should be held the woman's responsibility to prevent them. And why you can't express your spirituality, whether towards God or not, just as easily by singing a madrigal or growing a tomato or cooking a meal for people you love.

Friday, January 21, 2011

You can do a feminist reading of anything

I just followed a link someone had put up on Facebook to watch the original trailer of Antonioni's The Passenger, a movie I've always loved.

Here's a quotation from the voice-over: 'The brilliance of Jack Nicholson; the beauty of Maria Schneider; the vision of Antonioni.'

That movie came out in 1976.


(Trollitude will be ruthlessly excised.)


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


are all I'm good for at the moment.

* Am up sharp pointy end of Adelaide book, lurching from one paragraph to the next as deadline looms. One's student days come back to one at times like this: have vivid memory of sitting on my bedroom floor in 1971 crying over Philosophy 1 essay requiring all-nighter (FAIL) and of the four other long-essay all-nighters -- on Trotsky's Literature and Revolution, American Southern Gothic, medieval church music and psycholinguistics (not together, though it's an intriguing interdisciplinary proposition), and all the all-nighters writing lectures over the years, and wondering why the bod won't do that any more, just because it's in its late 50s and I don't feed it properly or give it enough sleep and exercise. Text yesterday from younger sister: 'Don't make yourself sick. Better the wrath of your publisher than the wrath of Mother Nature.'

* Wonderful piece by John Birmingham on what the Brisbane floods are telling us about human nature here.
Delicate, porcelain-skinned little vegan girls in bonnets with flowers muscled their way into the thickest, filthiest torrents of river mud next to bogan footballers, Army engineers, and tough-looking tattooed lesbians. This being West End there were travellers, too. Three French backpackers somehow managing to make their accumulated filth look stylish. A couple of Americans who'd come to Australia to surf and instead found themselves running wheelbarrows of grey, stinking ooze down to the water's edge from where it had come.

* New post at Read, Think, Write on second-guessing the publication process if you're interested.

* Garden spider that spins its gorgeous orb directly across path from front gate to verandah every non-wet and non-windy night is twice the size it was on Christmas Day when my friend R came to dinner and as she was leaving I had to take the torch out to show her why she needed to avoid the path and jump off the edge of the verandah in order to get to her car. Goddess knows I too have put on a kilo or so since Christmas but doubling in size in less than a month is awesome. I know for a fact that the insect pickings in that part of the garden are pretty good; the other night the web snared an entire moth. (No doubt the spider equivalent of a tub of Sara Lee Irish Cream and no I can't believe I bought it either. I'm as shocked as you are.) It's all a bit red in tooth and claw out there.

* Speaking of claws, the tortoiseshells are well, as is Papa Cat, who will be 84 on Feb 1. I'm told that for the birthday dinner we're having Chinese, which my adventurous ma taught him to like at the Silver Dragon Restaurant in Rundle St, Adelaide, circa 1955. Sadly she is now long gone, but his pleasure in Chinese food lives on.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Queensland: an ethics question

In a disaster situation involving both chaos and shortages, which is worse: looting, or charging ten bucks for a loaf of bread?


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why people have cats: an occasional series

I'm just starting to recover from a very nasty little episode a few hours ago that could have been any one of the following: (a) food poisoning, (b) caffeine poisoning, (c) codeine poisoning, (d) less than five hours' sleep, (e) a three-way dose of stress, or (f) (the most likely diagnosis) all of the above.

Anyway, as I lay there semi-conscious on my bed of pain, grateful that the room spins seemed to be getting slower, the neck knots looser and the head pain gradually less, I felt a thump and heard a 'Prrrrt?' as the bossy tortoiseshell hit the bed, and a few seconds later my head was enveloped in soft warm fur and my fevered brow was being rhythmically soothed by a rough and raspy tongue. Wash wash wash wash wash.

It really did help quite a lot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Be Prepared

In the wake of assorted local, national and international natural disasters last summer, I was sufficiently freaked out to pack a small emergency kit. I think I was thinking mainly of unforeseen disruptions to infrastructure -- power, water, maybe roads somehow; what was mainly on my mind was fire.

Whatever it was, I assembled a zip-up carry-bag of the following: large plastic bottle of water, small first-aid kit, assorted energy bars and little packs of trail mix, tissues, wet wipes, small kit of travel-sized toiletries, candles, matches and a torch (and battery).

Somewhat to my surprise, family and friends were unanimous in their approval; obvs I'm not the only nervous Nellie in town. And after spending yesterday and today glued to the intertubes, I'm glad I've got that kit sitting there and will update it when I get a minute to spare. There are some things I plan to add: photocopies of essential documents (including prescriptions and cat vaccination certificates; nobody will board them without), two favourite novels, spare reading glasses and a large box of Nurofen Plus. A very large box.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In which Tony Abbott uses the bereaved, the unhoused and the traumatised for political gain

You've got to hand it to him though; he's 100% consistent. One relied upon him to make some response of this calilbre, and one has not been disappointed.

I have been giving some thought to Abbott's bizarre attitude to the NBN. I think it's to do with egocentricity and solipsism: with believing that if you personally don't understand something, then it can't possibly be important or true.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I am a woman, not a test mouse!

Don't listen to this at work unless it's all right for you to be LOLing at your desk.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Points will be deducted if your answer is based on neither faith nor prejudice

Today the national broadcaster makes its contribution to the ever-growing pile of human ignorance and stupidity by encouraging the populace in the belief that there is no difference between opinion and fact, and furthermore that everyone's opinion has the same value and anyone who says it doesn't is one of those horrid inner-city tertiary-educated latte-sipping leets. I give you the ABC's article on the mysterious mass bird deaths occurring around the world, complete with comments thread: 'What do you think killed the birds?'

It only took about two seconds for someone to turn up and say it was God's wrath, too, though this chap gets shot down in flames in short order and just as well. Fortunately quite a lot of the commenters aren't buying it, in fact, as you'll see. Suggestions as to the bird death cause include 'Stephen King' and 'Lord Voldemort'.

And look on the bright side: at least it wasn't structured as a quiz with opinion options A-D, or, worse, A-B, like those pernicious things all the MSM sites run from time to time that go 'Do you think [insert name of person involved in sub judice case here, totally inappropriately, destructively and quite possibly illegally] is guilty? YES/NO.'

Every time a mainstream media site asks one of these cunningly phrased yet inane questions the populace gets just that little bit more confused about the nature of truth and just that little bit dumber. What do you think blood is made of? What do you think NaCl means? Who, in your opinion, is the Prime Minister? What do you believe two and two adds up to? What colour do you think the sky is? Do you think it's turtles  all the way down?