Sunday, May 29, 2011

' ... ourselves as other see us ...'

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) is a London-born, London-based novelist and screenwriter who has worked on, among other things, Doctor Who. He has a new novel out, Moon Over Soho, featuring the young, mixed-race (yes it's relevant, AS YOU WILL SEE) Detective Constable Peter Grant, the first trainee wizard in the Met for 50 years, for the Second World War wiped most of them out.

Born some time in the late 1980s (oh, shoot me now), DC Grant was introduced to us in Rivers of London, the first novel in this series, and discovered for himself not only that he was capable of doing magic (his current theory is that it has something to do with quantum physics) but that the Met's venerable Thomas Nightingale is also a wizard, and must be his instructor. In the course of these excellent urban fantasies we learn a lot about Ben Aaronovitch's perceptions of the world. Here's what he thinks of Gillard's, and formerly Howard's, Australia. Given that he seems to expect his readers to get the joke, obviously this is a pretty widespread view.

My dad says that being a Londoner has nothing to do with where you're born. He says that there are people who get off a jumbo jet at Heathrow, go through Immigration waving any kind of passport, hop on the tube and by the time the train's pulled into Piccadilly Circus they've become a Londoner. He said there were others, some of whom were born within the sound of the Bow Bells, who spend their whole life dreaming of an escape. When they do go, they almost always head for Norfolk, where the skies are big, the land is flat and the demographics are full of creamy white goodness. It is, says my dad, the poor man's alternative to Australia, now that South Africa has gone all multicultural.

Got that?

South Africa.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The rice pudding of life

British journalist John Grimond in The Economist has, like Bill Bryson, swept into Australia for five or six weeks and taken it upon himself on the strength of that to write about the country for the Poms back home to snigger at. I'm going to write a longer post about this but just one quick observation first: one of his remarks is to the effect that the current crop of Australian politicians 'couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding.'

In this, I fear he may be quite correct. Can't see Hockey able to do it, though he might just eat the whole thing skin and all. Abbott is plenty forceful but wouldn't be able to work out which bit was the skin. The Prime Minister (and most of the rest of Labor) would have to check what the Howard Government's rice-pudding policy had been, and then ask western Sydney if it minded. Julie Bishop would subject the rice pudding skin to the death stare and the playground insult and wonder why that wasn't working.

But I can think of one Australian politician who could and would pull the skin off a rice pudding immediately, delicately, elegantly, without asking anyone's permission and with no visible effort. Tragically, he is on the wrong side.

Waging biological warfare against women

I don't use the word 'evil' much. Actually I try not to use it at all. But sometimes there just isn't any other word that will get the work done.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On grumpiness

1) Had a birthday a week or two back. I am completely the wrong age to welcome birthdays.

2) Since I neither am nor have a mother, Mother's Day is never much of an occasion for sweetness and light either. As my birthday, my late mother's birthday and Mother's Day always fall within a fortnight, it tends to be a slightly churned-up time of year.

3) It's nearly winter. Sooner or later the time will come when those of us fortunate enough to own a house will have to mortgage same to pay the power bills. Thank Goddess that at least I live in Adelaide, and even here I spent half of yesterday wearing my Port Power beanie. Inside.

4) I am seriously over watching other people pirouetting in public over their own cleverness in re-inventing wheels that I was re-inventing 20 years ago, and watching other people get praised and rewarded for things that, 20 years ago, were frowned upon in my workplace as not suitable pursuits for an academic but that these days are, in the same workplace, encouraged and rewarded in various ways. Also, you kids get off my lawn.

5) I cannot believe that the world is still full of people who do. not. get. the fact that gender-wise the world is not a level playing field. See re-invention, wheel, 20 years ago, etc. If you are one of these people, allow me to recommend the excellent Finally a Feminism 101 Blog.

6) An intermittently alarming health problem has arisen that, though not serious, means life-arrangements uncertainty in the short term (when will this surgery take place, and what sort of shape will I be in after it? What about the deadlines? What about the cats?) and mild but permanent diet-carefulness and deprivation in the long.

All of which is how come long time no blog. I expect to snap out of it shortly. I expect to drop a few dress sizes, too. Watch this space.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Once upon a time ...

I don't usually even send on those emails that do the rounds. But I've just received one I like so much I thought it belonged here.
Jennifer's wedding day was fast approaching. Nothing could dampen her excitement - not even her parents' recent nasty divorce.

Her mother had found the perfect dress to wear, and would be the best-dressed mother-of-the-bride ever!

A week later, Jennifer was horrified to learn that her father's new, young wife had bought the exact same dress as her mother!

Jennifer asked her father's new young wife to exchange it, but she refused. "Absolutely not! I look like a million bucks in this dress, and I'm wearing it," she replied.

Jennifer told her mother who graciously said, "Never mind, sweetheart. I'll get another dress. After all, it's your special day."

A few days later, they went shopping, and found another gorgeous dress for her mother.

When they stopped for lunch, Jennifer asked her mother, "Aren't you going to return the other dress? You really don't have another occasion where you could wear it."

Her mother just smiled and replied, "Of course I do, dear. I'm wearing it to the rehearsal dinner."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

And if you were still in any doubt about the decline of newspapers as we know them ...

... then you obviously haven't seen the subject line of today's online update of The Age that just arrived in my mailbox:

Nixon, teen had sex: report

Showing my age, I responded initially to this as though it were some sort of long-repressed "news" about the behaviour of Richard Nixon. (Remember Richard Nixon?) Then I thought Gee this looks like the headlines I used to give my first-year Rhetoric students to re-punctuate in order to teach them how vital punctuation is to meaning.

(Nixon: teen had sex report
Nixon teen had sex: report
Nixon? Teen had sex! Report

For those of you not up with these vital matters, the headline refers to one of the AFL's more high-profile serial sleazes and that girl who publicised those photos of Nick Riewoldt's willy, and who cannot, apparently, help herself to stay out of the news.

Osama bin Laden is dead. President Obama's chances of winning the next election are up through the roof. The Tories have just had a similar boost in Britain. (Now that really would be news: 'Millions of Brits look happy!') Victoria has just had its state Budget announced and the federal ditto is just around the corner. Global warming is on the rise, as is resistance to it, and countries in the Middle East are falling over one by one like dominoes. Africa continues to horrify. Greece and Portugal have gone broke. (Just typed 'borke': that too.) Which reminds me: the sacking of subeditors by Fairfax is major news in the sense that it marks a major stage in the decline of, erm, yes, oh right. And so what's The Age leading with? 'Nixon, teen had sex.' Given that subeditors are responsible for, among other things, writing headlines, perhaps in some cases their decline might be ever so slightly less of a bad thing, but not much.

You know what really drives me crispy about this one? (Apart from the decline of, etc etc.) That word 'teen'. Anyone who has ever seen any p*rn with actual words in it knows that 'teen' is right up there with 'panties' (EEWWWW) as far as the lubricious p*rn vocabulary goes, which Goddess knows is not very far but that only makes it worse.

I Do. Not. Care who had sex with whom, in any context, and I never ever want to hear about it ever again ever. Shag your socks off, people, with whomever or whatever you choose: just make sure it involves a nice hot cup of STFU at some point, and I mean for everybody.

And I don't want to hear it about anybody at all, much less Ricky Nixon. Being faced with the image this headline conjures up is not what I require from my broadsheet newspaper. But the whole notion of a 'broadsheet newspaper' is now a thing of the past anyway.

Monday, May 2, 2011

More on "beauty" pageants for children

Retired police officer Meg McGowan, on the 'Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants' Facebook page (my emphasis):

I am a retired police officer who spent many years working in child protection. It's fairly easy to spot paedophiles at these events (and at the dance recitals held for children where they are also dressed and encouraged to behave as sexualised adults). Look for a man who is alone with no apparent connection to anyone in the competition... and carrying a video camera. The more sexualised the behaviour of the contestants the more enthusiastically he'll be filming. They see this overtly sexual behaviour as confirmation of their view that children are 'sexual' and they find this type of public display extremely exciting. It's also sometimes possible to catch them masturbating over their videos in the public toilets or their cars. Anyone still want to put their daughter in a pageant?

There's also a market among paedophiles for footage of these little girls and recordings of pageants and dance events are one of the things that police search for when they execute a search warrant. I recently saw a dance performance in a local shopping centre where a group of seven year old girls dressed in fish nets and corsets sang 'Hit me baby one more time' while grinding about on chairs. What were they thinking!

Translations: tradies


It's supposed to be like that.


I don't feel like driving back to your house and fixing the thing I should have got right in the first place, and besides, you're a woman so I can probably con you into thinking there isn't a problem.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One of the things I really love about Melbourne...

... is that when toxic fuckwittery and mindless, destructive, dangerous shite like American-style "beauty" pageants (ie competitions) for lipstuck, fake-tanned, bumping and grinding six-year-olds (have a look at the one in the second photo, I mean just look at her) threatens to take hold in the city, they read its horrible cultural signs correctly and resist it for all they're worth. I love Melbourne for its thoughtfulness and its substance when I see this kind of thing. For some reason it's a city that contains a high enough ratio of ordinary thoughtful people (to, well, the other kind) for an effective number to dig their heels in and protest the house down when the more demented aspects of western culture show their faces. And it's right across assorted demographics and suburbs, from Northcote or Prahran where you'd expect resistance to Balwyn or Vermont where you wouldn't, so much. Go, Melburnians. Run this diseased crap out of town on a well-designed rail.

That's not a kiss

Can someone out there more clued-up than I in the ways of psychoanalysis give me some sort of explanation of the hysterical hype about The Kiss on the balcony after The Wedding? This, at least, was not only the meeja's fault. The crowd appeared to be howling for it as well.

The newlyweds have been shagging for the best part of ten years already, so it can't have been the novelty value. Did this (to my mind) utterly weird and not a little icky lustlust (as opposed to bloodlust) come from some deep unsatisfaction in the hive mind, a desire for vicarious untainted lerve – as opposed to the crowd's and, presumably, the journalists' own unsatisfactorily imperfect love lives? Are we all now so shaped by screen conventions and tropes that we think of a kiss as some sort of compulsory narrative climax? Was it just porn in acceptable form?

Or was it a remnant of the days when newlyweds hung the bloody sheet out of the window the morning after the wedding? (Look! A woman has been caused to suffer pain, shed blood, and prove that she is no-one's chattel but her new husband's, and therefore all is right with the world! Don't laugh, Diana was medically examined for virginity before her wedding to Charles could go ahead, a test Camilla could not have passed at the same age, much less by the time she married him herself.)

I really was a bit shocked, and more than a bit squicked, by the way the commentators in particular, and the print journalists afterwards, ceaselessly harped on The Kiss. They might as well have been shouting 'Give us the money shot!' But it seemed to me to go much deeper than that. Especially with the crowd. People are incredibly strange, she said profoundly.

At one point Camilla picked up her bridesmaid-granddaughter awkwardly under the arms and appeared to be about to dangle her over the balcony like Michael Jackson, which would have been far more interesting for journalists, you would have thought. And what are they going to do when Harry gets married? Encourage him to barf over the balcony onto the furry heads of the Grenadier Guards? (He looked as if he was going to, I thought, as he and William made their way towards the Abbey; he looked far more nervous than the groom, though it was probably just a hangover. And what's with the walk? Hasn't even the Army been able to teach Harry how to carry himself, or is it some sort of undiagnosed childhood hip wockiness?)

Speaking of Harry, I found this wonderful comment when, struck yet again by the total lack of physical similarity between the groom and his brother, I went image-googling and stumbled on this wonderful remark, by which I was completely convinced:

His glare/look is exactly the same of that of Prince Philip ... he does have that ‘I will tear you apart from limb to limb Mr Fox and drink your blood through a straw‘ look.

Would I trust Prince Harry to look after my Children’s pet rabbits and hamsters if we went away?

No I would not.
Anyway. All theories about the Kiss weirdness gratefully considered. And in the meantime, if I have to look at other people's kisses then I might go with this one, thanks.