Thursday, February 24, 2011


Guv here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On crying

I hate crying. Not only am I one of those people unable to cry prettily (red-eyed, blotchy etc) but it doesn't even help, as it is popularly supposed to do; on the contrary, it makes me feel exhausted, headachy and stupid. One of my favourite 19th century characters (he was a real person), one Reverend J. Haweis, is quoted somewhere as saying -- to me quite unforgettably, so I don't need to look it up -- 'A good play on the piano has not infrequently taken the place of a good cry upstairs.' Give me a good play on the piano any day.

Here in the second half of my fifties I'm horrified to find that if anything I cry more instead of less. I remind myself more and more of Waker, the emotional twin in J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters -- 'Tell Waker it looks like rain and his eyes all fill up.'

It never takes much, and the minute it starts I feel split in two as neatly as an apple, with one half blubbing away and the other, cool and scornful, observing this intemperate creature and thinking Oh for God's sake, what is it this time? It's usually not about 'being upset', more something that seems both glancing and visceral, like being accidentally knifed by someone who wasn't even aiming for you. It reminds me, in fact, of that great line of Dorothy Dunnett's: 'Music, the knife without a hilt.'

It is indeed most often something to do with either music or animals, which brings me to my real point, which is that one of the reasons I'll feel very pleased to have finished this book about Adelaide is that I might stop crying so much; not only is the writing of it an unexpectedly emotional exercise, I think probably closely akin to a form of auto-psychoanalysis, but in the reading for it (yes, I'm almost finished, but one keeps finding new things while checking the old things), I keep coming across stuff that gets me going, like the item about the War Horse Memorial in Simon Cameron's lovely little book about Adelaide's statues, Silent Witnesses.

It's a granite horse trough inscribed WAR HORSE MEMORIAL 1914-1918. Not an actual horse to be seen. On the contrary, what it evokes is the poignant absence of horses. It hasn't always; it was originally situated in Victoria Square and connected to the water mains for the use of the working horses of the Central Market. The memorial was moved to its present site on the south-east corner of North and East Terraces, next to the Light Horse Memorial obelisk, in 1964 when Victoria Square was redesigned. It's got an inscription on it from the Book of Job.
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength. He goeth on to meet the armed men, he mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted, neither turneth his back from the sword.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Print media watch (online edition)

What, offhand, would you say was the subliminal message behind this conjunction of text, image and caption?

I want to know who chose that photo to illustrate that story. I want to know why he (or she) (hah) chose it, and from how many available images. And I want to know how many people it got past to make it online, and I want to know who they were, too.

And then I want to know how many of these people have wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends or daughters, and I want to know how they'd feel if one of these women were sexually assaulted by a mob, and if there were a press story about it, and if that press story were accompanied by the most revealing photo of the victim that could possibly be found.

And if anyone says 'Oh they're just doing their job to sell their product,' I will remind that person of the phrase 'Nuremberg defence'.

UPDATE: The photograph originally used to illustrate the article to which I've linked has now been removed. It was a large photograph of the journalist from the waist up, looking particularly glamorous in a white evening dress that showed a great deal of tanned cleavage. I assume the Age got a lot of flak about it. If so, good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

South Australian Labor: same old same old

Memo to Premier Mike Rann and the Labor Party of South Australia:

1) If you want things to change, you have to change things.

2) Slightly more than half the voters of South Australia are women. Only slightly, but in the two-party preferred system, 'slightly' might as well be the whole enchilada.

In today's news that the SA Treasurer and Deputy Premier Kevin Foley has resigned after a series of unfortunate incidents, here in alphabetical order are the names of those affected by these changes: those who have been promoted, or reshuffled, or are struggling to hang on to their current portfolios and positions.


This situation didn't happen overnight. Much of it is the behind-the-scenes doing of a second Tom, whose attitude to women is well known. And while the recruiting of one token high-profile woman (as part of a wider strategy of nobbling charismatic Adelaide outliers so they'll be inside the tent) and then keeping her in cotton wool may not have worked out so well, that's no reason not to have another go.

I could understand it if, in the wake of the scandal last year over the Premier's long-ago fling with a pneumatic blonde waitress whose husband subsequently, at a public dinner, beat him about the head and shoulders with a rolled-up wine magazine (and oh my, that's a pure Adelaide detail I'll never get sick of), Rann had decided to simply cut his losses with women voters, knowing that's ground he will never make up. But hey, if ever there were an occasion for whipping up a bumper sticker saying I HAVE A VAGINA, AND I VOTE, now would be the time. Except that I'm sure it's been done.

Lots of luck in 2014, dudes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

At a what now?

A few posts back I got taken to task by a commenter for questioning the meaning of pronouncements by a Frenchwoman in full niqab. This commenter, like several others, mistook my questioning of her rationale and my feminist difficulties with the idea of 'protecting' women (from what? And whose responsibility is it that they should require protecting? Methinks it's not the women who need swaddling and muffling) for an attack on Islam. I can sort of see where this misreading is coming from, but it's fuzzy thinking at its worst and paranoia to boot.

So let me repeat: I am not anti-Islam as such; I am anti-sexist and anti-patriarchy. And that goes just as much for Christianity. So just to prove that one is an equal-opportunity organised-religion-basher, and heartened by the bracing opinions on the subject expressed by Billy Connolly, whom I saw last night and will post about, much more cheerfully, in a minute, here's something from this morning's news that I find utterly dismaying.

Following closely the faster-than-expected recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from the experience of being shot in the head by a lunatic (when was the last time you heard, BTW, of a woman shooting someone in the head, apart from those who shoot partners who have been assaulting, torturing and bashing them for decades?), I saw a headline this morning about her, or rather her husband, and clicked on it to read more.

Seems the astronaut husband has decided to go on his planned mission with the next space shuttle, having been reassured that his wife is progressing well and is in good medical hands. And fair do's, I get that part just fine. If I were an astronaut and I'd been at my injured husband's bedside for weeks and weeks and he was getting better every day and being well looked after then I would probably go back into space as well (and imagine, if you will, the opprobrious epithets that a wife would cop from the conservative press for that). No, here's the bit that had me reaching for the bucket:

"Every day, she gets a little bit better and the neurosurgeons and neurologists tell me that's a great sign, the slope of that curve is very important," Mr Kelly said at a national prayer breakfast in Washington.

A national prayer breakfast? In Washington?

It gets worse. Although the phrase is not capitalised in the article, it occurred to me that it might not be any old national prayer breakfast but some sort of particular one. So I googled it.

If you look at the dates you'll see that that's the one all right, and you'll also note that this cute little event began at the height of McCarthyist paranoia, the year the Rosenbergs were executed and the year before J. Robert Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance.

You'll also note that one of the purported purposes (sorry) of this event is for attendees to 'meet Jesus man to man'. Seems to me that leaves the ladiez free to point and mock.

Frankly I don't know why Islam bothers the Americans so much. They seem hell-bent on erasing the separation of church and state quite as thoroughly as even the most evangelical Islamic fundamentalist.

Let's hear it for Australia and the female atheist in charge.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Running away from the Beast

This is a brief, spontaneous and miscellaneous post written only because I have just noticed that the number of posts here is currently 666, or will be until I hit POST.

While I'm here, however, I'd just like to prove that the Beast is indeed present, for the moment, by saying that Mark Latham's venomous little spray about the Prime Minister not being a mother, to be found in the current Spectator, is pathetic; that Tony 'Dr No' Abbott's attempt to shift the blame for his frightfully timed gaffe about raising money for a campaign to destroy the flood levy is an added layer of disgracefulness; that the people slagging Ian Thorpe for doing what he does best and wanting to be paid for it are almost certainly men with modest incomes and no athletic ability who don't have the capacity to be happy with that and who are living in some big plastic bubble of pure envy; and that the next person who says to me cheerfully 'Oh, but you work well under pressure' or 'Don't worry, it'll all be wonderful' is going to get a smack upside the head.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And as TC Yasi approaches the North Queensland coast, the man who almost became our Prime Minister speaks

And this is what he has to say.

Observe the precision of his judgement, and the exquisite subtlety of his timing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Four-fifths of the way there

Longtime readers might remember this post of four years ago, in which Papa Cat turned 80 and said, having blown out his candles, 'Right, now I'm striking out for 85.'

At 8 this morning, knowing him to be an habitual early riser, I decided it wasn't too early to ring him and sing Happy Birthday. He had already had breakfast, read the paper, showered and shaved, done two loads of washing and watered 'what's left of my little garden in the heat', and was now settled down to watch the news on breakfast TV with the cat.

It was sad, he said, about the beans and tomatoes that he'd lost when they fried in the 40 degree heat the day before yesterday before he'd thought to put some shade cloth over them. 'But then I thought about those poor bastards in Queensland, and that put it in perspective.'

Yes, that will help a lot

Julie Bishop was on the radio last night blithering about how the government, which has chartered a special Qantas flight out of Cairo for stranded Australians, wasn't doing enough and was 'too slow' to react. I would have found this marginally less irritating if I thought either she or her leader could organise themselves out of a paper bag, much less hundreds of countrymen out of Cairo.

Whenever anyone says anything like this there's always a chorus of 'Oh but the job of the Opposition is to oppose!' Is it? Is it really? Is that its only job? And if it is, what kind of idiotic half-arsed world are we living in, where all society-regulating structures are oppositional and adversarial (the justice system gives me the heebs in this respect as well) and that is deemed only good and right? Is it really the Opposition's job to obstruct and whinge and quibble about every single thing a government tries to do, even something at this level of detail and transience? If they're going to oppose, why don't they oppose, say, the choice of budget sacrifices to the levee levy (no argument from me on the levy as such), nearly all of which seem to be to do with climate ch-- Oh, wait.

Kevin Rudd's in the paper (I wonder when we'll stop saying 'the paper' about something we read online)  this morning defending the government's actions on Cairo. Talking to the media about this stuff in response to Bishop's self-righteous whingeing took up time he could have spent doing something actually useful, and I bet nobody's more aware of this than Rudd himself.