Friday, April 29, 2011

In which Lindsay Tanner's argument is amply demonstrated

Last night on 7.30, Lindsay Tanner broke the hearts all over again of people who couldn't for the life of them understand, back in 2003, why the ALP anointed Mark Latham as leader instead of him, no doubt for stupid faction mateship blah blah blah reasons. Imagine how different this country might have been, and might be.

Tanner was calm in the face of Leigh Sales' attempts to demonstrate the very point of his argument by putting on an attack-dog persona and trying to trap him into trashing the party 'because our viewers expect it', which translated probably means 'The suits in management are on my back to be more like a bloke.' She's not very good at it, because you can see her heart's not really in either aggression or stupid gotcha questions, and she repeatedly, quite shockingly and unacceptably, let Tanner make his case, develop his argument, stick to his point and finish what he was saying. Which means that apart from her opening question, the most suitable answer to which would have been 'Well, der', this interview is actually worth watching and listening to from start to finish.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Abbott a hero"

Mr Abbott drank shots with fly-in, fly-out workers, played pool with the navy and got a loud cheer when he told a blonde perched at the bar that she was "better looking than Julia".

Yep, that's the definition of a hero, all right. Stay classy, Tony.

I mean, why belittle just one woman when you can belittle two at one blow, like the tailor and the flies in the fairy tale? Full story here. Try not to look at the photo; Mr Rabid has managed to get himself photographed nekkid again and I'm here to tell you it's not a pretty sight, though the underwater distortion is an improvement. I'm sure the blonde perched at the bar was better looking.

Can you imagine Malcolm Turnbull being this misogynist and naff and crass? Joe Hockey? Brendan Nelson? John, God help us all, Howard?

No, neither can I.

This man might be our next Prime Minister. Move to New Zealand? I'll swim to New Zealand.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In which Christopher Hitchens fights the good fight

I read an interview not long ago with Christopher Hitchens in which the only point at which he became emotional and fragile about the fact that he has stage 4 cancer of the oesophagus was his description of how utterly shattered he would be if, as he had been warned he might, he lost his voice.

So I was sad to see at Pharyngula that he was forced last week to cancel an appearance at this year's American Atheists' Convention for that very reason. He did, however, write them an open letter to be read out.

Perhaps because I'd just been reading about the ignorant, bigoted and profoundly unChristian performance on Twitter today of Jim Wallace, the conservative head of the Australian Christian Lobby, I was feeling more than usually depressed and fearful about the way that organised religion of the most tub-thumping, flag-waving, anti-intellectual kind is taking more and more power over the lives of people like me who want no part of it, so I was particularly struck and heartened by this part of Hitchens' letter:
Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal; the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation.

April 25

Friday, April 22, 2011

Money talks

There have been some changes to the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, thus:

This year five awards will be presented in the following categories: fiction (the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction); nonfiction (the Nettie Palmer Prize for Nonfiction); poetry (the CJ Dennis Prize for Poetry); drama (the Louis Esson Prize for Drama); and young adult (the Prize for Writing for Young Adults). The winner in each category will receive a cash prize of $25,000. In 2010, the fiction and nonfiction awards were each worth $30,000, while the poetry, drama and young adult fiction awards were each worth $15,000.

Sad as it makes me to admit it, if you attach dollar values to different literary genres then you are sending bright red neon signals about the other, less tangible ways in which they're valued. Sort of like paying women a smaller amount of money to do exactly the same job.

So it's excellent to see that poetry, drama and YA writing are now up there alongside the traditional big guns. Monetary value aside, it's an instant game-changer in that literary genres are now no longer being classified here into first-class and second-class citizens.

Monday, April 18, 2011


So, that thing that felt like a permanent lump in my throat? The one that (as an ex-smoker in her late fifties) I was starting to get vair vair jumpy about?

It's not a lump of any kind. It's just a non-serious and easily treatable condition.

Not only that, but I rang the practice last Thursday and they gave me an appointment for today. Even more astoundingly, I found a good park straight away in a part of town not known for ease of parking. The ENT dude was only running ten minutes late, the examination was about a quarter as unpleasant as I had been expecting it to be, the diagnosis was straightforward, and the clever young doctor was a sweetie.

And it isn't even raining. Some days just work out nicely.

The facts, ma'am, just the facts

"People have not got over her knifing of Kevin Rudd"

No, and they won't, either, for as long as formerly respectable and responsible journalists like Michelle Grattan continue to use flamboyantly loaded language like this in what is supposed to be a reporting of facts.

Grattan is not a fool and she is a very experienced journalist, so the only conclusion it's possible to come to is that she is being disingenuous, pretending to report the facts in a neutral fashion while at the same time reinforcing prejudices and preconceptions with grossly prejudicial language like that.

I'm very ticked off with Gillard myself at the moment, but I am also actually a bit shocked by this shoddy bit of journalism. I used to expect better from The Age, and I still do expect better from Michelle Grattan.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Edit edit type type think think think.

Except when I go out with friends, I'm living on rabbit food and microscopic servings of lean protein, and have now lost two of the three kilos I put on over the summer while I was finishing the Adelaide book, so it's not like it's not working, but oh my goodness how I hate dieting. It makes me want to maim and kill.

Madam has just managed to somehow take her collar off over her head. The collar she's been wearing for, like, ten years. No, I don't know how she did it either.

Far too late in the process of hanging out the washing a little while ago, I discovered a redback in the peg bag. I found a much bigger one in the laundry the other night (this is a very old and, erm, unreconstructed house, and the laundry is a shed out the back) so sprayed about half a can of Baygon in there and shut the door for a day or two. When I put my hand in the peg bag today to grab out a couple of pegs to hang out some washing with, I thought, Gosh, I hope there's not a redback in there, har har, better check (for I was once frightened nearly to death by a three-inch gecko that suddenly scuttled out of there and over my hand), so I had a quick look and saw nothing. But then, after I'd rummaged around in there a few more times for more pegs, I accidentally dropped the whole thing on the ground, and out staggered this rather little but unmistakably scarlet-blobbed critter who had obvs been affected by the spraying and had crawled into the bag for protection -- clearly with some success, for it must by then have been the only living insect, yes yes all right arachnid, in the laundry. Lucky for me it seemed too sick to want to sink its fangs into anything much. I put it out of its misery sharpish, which helped a bit with the whole maiming and killing thing. But anyone who touches either of the humungous pet Golden Orb Weavers who have taken over my little front garden, or either of their even more humungous Golden Orbs, is going to be in very big trouble. (Maim, kill etc.)

Edit edit edit read read read.

One of the many horrid side effects of all the rain is that there are now at least half a dozen hitherto unsighted species of weeds in the back yard, as if it wasn't already bad enough.

Now that I'm at the stage of answering my editor's queries about the manuscript, I can see that yet another trip to the sodding library is inevitable, in order to re-borrow some of the books I finally took back.

I thought the movie of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was much better than people have been saying. Much much better.

Type type, work work work.

Now excuse me while I chew off my own thumb and eat it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Because this is what women are for

Journalist Jacqueline Maley in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Although the sex between the two air force cadets was consensual, the alleged collusion of the group of male cadets in broadcasting it against the knowledge of the female cadet was sinister and disgusting. ... It is hard to imagine anything more degrading than being unknowingly broadcast having sex, and it's unsurprising the alleged victim was physically ill on reading the witness statements of the men.

Certainly is unsurprising; I've been throwing up in my mouth a little bit myself, just reading about it.

I have now seen or heard several different men being surprised by the fact that I and other women have reacted so strongly to this case. To my horror, these men seem to think it's either minor or normal, or both. In the case of setting up a woman to have sex with her and film it without her knowledge, I've heard, among other things, 'But there are much worse things' and 'But everybody does it' and 'But it's normal.'

If any (much less all) of these things is true, then the situation is much worse even than I thought.

Something I've not seen commented on yet is the overtly homosocial but presumably subconscious homoerotic dimension to all this; why is it, exactly, that this young reptile wants his little mates to see him naked and f*cking? What's that about?

I know it's been a bad few days in the news, with uncontrolled testosterone well to the fore – killing swans by throwing rocks at them (yes there were a couple of girls involved there, but I said 'testosterone', a hormone women also have in some degree, and anyway they were not among the rock-throwers, and hey, look on the bright side: all that stuff about raised oestrogen levels in the water is clearly a crock), shooting a dozen or so schoolchildren to death (if they're going to kill themselves anyway, why don't they just do that first?), beating up a grieving ten-year-old boy because he's been on television and in the paper for losing his mother and brother in the Queensland floods (because that follows, doesn't it? I mean, of course you and your gang would bash a kid years younger than you for, erm, being on TV and in the paper, I mean, erm), murdering your only daughter because you hate her mother (though the youngest child, one of two boys, would have been a great deal easier to lift up and hurl over the railing to his death), and now the setting up of an 18 year old girl to provide unwitting entertainment and titillation for the sniggering hordes – but I'm beginning to wonder if there is any common ground at all between men and women on the subject of sex.

That marathon thread down the page a bit would seem to suggest there isn't, even between intelligent people of goodwill. We will always, to paraphrase something Helen Garner once said about something else, be left speechless with our mouths hanging open, gazing at each other in disbelief.

Helen Garner, again:

The barman went out the back to look for the Campari, and she picked up off the counter one of those little four-page bulletins on duplicator paper which announce the results of inter-pub darts and pool competitions. There was a joke at the bottom of the page. She read it.

'Gynaecologist to dentist: "I don't know how you can stand your job, smelling people's bad breath all day."'

Her legs surprised her: that old, almost forgotten sensation, as if all the blood were draining rapidly out of them, leaving them fragile and chalky, unable to support her. They do hate us, she thought. The weight of disgust that loaded the simple joke made her bones weak. She thought, I can't bear it, I can't. She thought, I should be able to bear it by now. It has just caught me off guard. She thought, Dexter would think it was funny.

-- The Children's Bach, 1984.

Got that? 1984. Last century. Almost 30 years ago. Doesn't seem like 30 years, does it.

And before anyone turns up here trying to either deny or defend, as it seems they are bound to do, here's the reason I think you do it: you do it because at some level you know that what we say is true, and fear to believe it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dear Mark Latham,

Perhaps she just doesn't like your children.

Lots of love,
Pav xxx*

*See? Kisses! Love! Warmth! Empathy! And yet...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On having more time

As of Friday morning when I filed my weekly copy a day and a half late, I have more free time than I've had since the beginning of December 2009, when I began a stressful, mammoth task that was completed three months later, when I began, the next day (a coincidence), another task three times as mammoth but marginally less stressful. Now the Adelaide book is written and the manuscript is with the editor, with whom I will be conferring for the next couple of weeks and after that it's out of my hands till I get page proofs, to which I must not make any but tiny essential changes, on pain of death.

So what have I done with my time since Friday morning? Slept, faffed around online, had two lovely catchups with dear friends over Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast, and read most of a very good novel by Justin Cartwright about an old English banking family going belly up during the GFC. Of course that means there are still three and a bit more novels to read and write reviews of by the end of Wednesday, but I've been fitting that in around writing a book for the last year, so I'll probably be able to struggle along with it. Writing the book gave me all kinds of pleasures, some of them new and some of them fierce; it was an extraordinary experience. But I'm kind of ready for some nice familiar non-deadlined pleasures for a while.

Adders readers will know, if they saw last week's Adelaide Magazine, that the new tapas place on Semaphore Road (five or ten minutes' drive from my house) is the 'most genuine' in the city and fabulous with it. My friend R and I went for an early Friday night supper and had exactly the right number and combination of tapas for happiness and comfort, plus a glass of Sangria, also for happiness and comfort, and then went for a walk out to the end of the jetty, where we found a strange but harmless man in a beanie who wanted to explain to us why he was kicking dried seaweed back into the water, whence, presumably, it had come.

If you go at exactly the right time, you can listen to the waves shooshing underneath you and catch the little glints of light on the moving water out of the corner of your eye while you watch the sun set into the sea in gold and silver and deep pink and dark blue layers as you walk out to the end of the jetty, and then as you walk back you can watch all the gold and silver street lights and coloured signs and the lights in the windows of private houses coming on one by one against the indigo sky, along the shoreline and back up Semaphore Road. Hadn't done that for a very long time.