09 December 2009

Seaside Rest


It's only now as we're about to leave the Eastern Suburbs that we're exploring it a little. Recently we visited Waverley Cememtery, possibly one of the best photo opporunities I've ever seen. Although I didn't do the place justice, please enjoy the small fruits of my labours...


The headland above


A-ha, there it is (after our long walk!)



Rock fishers, waiting to be swept off. I have no idea how they got there.


So muh money once spent on monuments now neglected...



Not a bad view for all eternity




Suburban conformity can last forever


Or the vaults - the Eastern Suburbs' finest real estate for the deceased



An unexpected, and unexpectedly touching, memorial to the 1981 Irish Hunger Strikers

Sorry to end on that melancholy note. Wine anyone?

07 December 2009

NSW: Let's Keep Things In Perspective


Like many in NSW, I could only roll my eyes and groan last week as the Sate Labor leadership spill took place. This, I thought, is just getting ridiculous. Nathan Rees finishing out the term was the best prospect Labor had. In different circumstances, he could have been wildly popular; a garbage collector from the Western Suburbs who also has a degree in English literature. I wasn't a raving fan - the damn Metro is foolhardy and unnecessary, and this coming from someone who loves the inner west and trains - but he was trying to clean up the factional system, and for this he gets the toss. When will this bunch of clowns get their act together, I wondered.

Then I saw this cartoon in the Daily Telegraph, and I had to wonder some more:



What can anyone have suffered at the hands of the NSW government which would possibly justify that sort of reaction? I too have had to wait hours for hospital treatment, been stuck on the train, despaired that the train journey from Sydney to Newcastle now takes longer than it did in the 1930s, been inconvenienced by World Youth Day, seen DF (and all other nurses) earn the lowest penalty rates in Australia, been harrassed by the transit police over tickets, glowered over the electricity privitisation proposal, been frightened on the train at night when there were no transit police to be found, watched freeways get built, rail lines get cancelled, my old high school yet to be rebuilt nearly six years after it burnt down, and been glared at in State parliament for kissing (okay, maybe the last one was understandable).

So, okay I'm mad. But to want to boil people in oil and tie them to the rack? Can't we just send 100,000 letters to the Governor asking for an early election? Torture isn't a joke. I think people are just getting a little bit precious here. I've heard the NSW government decribed as the worst and most incompetent on Earth, which would surely come as a surprise to the people of Burma. Can we all get a little perspective here? We all still live in a warm, peaceful state with a low crime rate, plentiful attractions and a soft stand on sedition. This Government which we all hate so much will be gone in sixteen months regardless. But some of us are never happy. Richard Glover points out that there's nothing Sydneysiders love more than a whinge. People don't complain about the Gvoernment in Newcastle as much as they do in Sydney, I've noticed. Maybe when Labor is finally gone - then we'll really know what it is to be unhappy.

05 December 2009

In Praise of St Erma



Today I tracked down two Erma Bombeck books I'd not read before in a Newtown bookshop, and my squeals of delight were such that DF insisited on purchasing both for me.

I've read and enjoyed Bombeck before, but read her work with a special poignancy now I'm about to be married and start a family myself. It's a different era now. Ms Bombeck was born the year after my grandmothers, her children are the same age as my parents, so how come so much of what she writes hits home to this feminist in 2009? Bombeck has been attacked by feminists before. A supporter said "Did these women think, come the revolution, that husbands would stop watching football, or that socks would stop getting lost in the machine?"

It's Ms Bombeck's - Erma's (I want to call her that, she feels like a friend) - ability to poke fun at all this that points to why she is still relevant. It can be hard to laugh sometimes. Around our place, DF pays the bills and I run the place. "Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter-productivity." In our house it's mostly my treadmill. Not because I'm a woman and he's a man, but it's just the way things are.

Growing up, I'd hear of women despairing how little housework their husbands did and I thought "Not me, I'll marry a man who takes on things as an equal". But then...I left home very young, so I had years to get the empty-pizza-boxes and sink-full-of-cups urges out of my system before I realised I like a clean house. When DF came to join the Xander and Nico crew, he'd never really run a house before. He's a bit messy as well. Nothing too bad.

But his mind just doesn't work like that. The man is a health professional, with a degree and all, which is more than I have. He devises instant systems to solve any puzzle or game. He's a tremendous wit. But if I'm going out and he's following later, I have to remind him three or four times to lock the windows. It's dicey as to whether it gets done or not. He gets worried he won't do the laundry "right". It's not an excuse - he will do it, but asks me for a quick refresher on washing machine settings each time.

So yeah...it is easier, much of the time, to just do it myself. Should I complain? DF works full time so I can study what I love. He budgets, because I cannot face it. But sometimes it all gets a bit much, and I turn to St Erma for wisdom.

There's plenty to be found. Erma said it's okay to not be perfect. She said of motherhood: "I've always felt uncomfortable about the articles that eulogised me as a nurse, chauffer, cook, housekeeper, financier, counsellor, philosopher, mistress, teacher, and hostess. It seemed like I always read an article like this on the day when my kid was in the school play and I ironed only the leg of the pants that faced the audience, knitted all morning, napped all afternoon, bought a pizza for dinner and had a headache by 10:30." As I hang DF's shirts in the shower so the steam means I don't have to iron them, I laugh in recognition.

Yep, she was two generations removed and had some views I really don't agree with. So what? She also devoted herself to fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment. And none of it alters the warmth, love and humour of her writing. Please go enjoy some of her quotes. I'm off to cook dinner. DF can wash up - I'll talk him through it.

22 November 2009

Looking for a New Feminism


According to the "Things You Should Know By Now" column in today's Sunday Life magazine, "you'll never catch a husband" if, as a young lady, you cannot hem a skirt.

I asked my husband-to-be-in-two-months if he loved me any less because I can't hem a skirt. (I don't even iron). The answer was no, he couldn't possibly love me any less. Seriously though, the question was demeaning to both of us. Where the hell did this new conservatism and desire to return to traditional gender roles come from?

There's been a creepy anti-feminism backlash going on for a few years now. Lady Gaga shared this gem withv the world: "There's a stigma around feminism that's a little bit man-hating. And I don't promote hatred, ever". She doesn't want to be known as a feminist, you see. She's all about the empowerment, in this case by writhing around half naked, singing about taking a ride on a disco stick.

Seems today you can iron your man's shirt or you can pose for FHM but the one thing you can't do is claim your rights as an equal member of society, independent of male approval. It seems not to occur to Lady Gaga that she could in any way reclaim feminism. Feminism = bad. Where did it all go wrong? My guess is with the idea that women already have everything they need and the women still bleating about feminism just want to get rid of men all together. It's not true...everything in this post is as current today as when I wrote/copy and pasted it nearly six years ago. We still need feminism and we still need to say what that feminism really means.

Instead we have girls decking themselves out in Playboy merchandise, and brides still being given away by their fathers, completing the transfer of ownership from one man to another while decked out in faux-virginal finery. Feminism isn't about the middle ground here - it's about forging a new path entirely. But how do we get it back?

13 November 2009

Parking with Kevin Rudd


So, the Rudd government looks set to veto the ACT same sex civil union legislation passed in the ACT parliament yesterday because it is contravenes Australia's heterosexist Marriage Act. Still, not quite as bad as the Governor of Rhode Island, U.S., who has vetoed the right of gay couples to be buried together.

It's just what we've come to expect from the Rudd Government. Over the last year or so, I've had numerous people say to me "You must be really disappointed by how Rudd has gone in government". Not really. I've lost the innocence and optimism I had at 20 when I believed every word Michael Moore said. I no longer expect that politicians will try to change public opinion rather than respond to it. Especially not a media tart (let's not deny it) like Rudd - who's always keen to take the most populist, knee jerk position he can manage. No, Kevin, Bill Henson is a bit creepy, not absolutely revolting. And as has been pointed out, Moses and Oskar Schindler were people smugglers, those "scum of the Earth" as you labelled them. At first he wanted to look tough about the passengers on the Oceanic Viking, now that some people are voicing concerns, Rudd is offering them a resettlement deal. God help us if there's ever a jihadist terrorist attack in Australia - everyone who's ever eaten a felafel will be boiled alive if talkback radio callers like the idea.

~~~~~

Meanwhile, good to see the guy who attacked a parking ranger in Sydney has been refused bail. Let him not turn into a folk hero. Parking violations are crimes, not brave acts of sticking it to bureaucratic councils - witness all the idiots who park across driveways, or on the corner, or in a bus stop with their hazard lights on so they can go into the 7 Eleven for a bottle of coke (I saw this last week). Me I'd love to be a parking ranger - I love rules and hate cars. So why have I never done it? Fear of attack.

10 November 2009

Please Don't Diet


It's ridiculous. It's heartbreaking. It's a joke. After weeks of extremely careful, no-fat, 1000 calorie a day dieting and an hour's exercise five times a week, I had lost 2Kg. Over the weekend, I ate two hamburgers and a big plate of spaghetti and gained a kilo.

It's karma.

There's a photo of me when I was twenty five. You could hang fine art on my stomach. A strong breeze would have swept me to Victoria. I had no discernable bosoms to speak of. All this required no effort whatsoever; in fact, I didn't like it and tried to eat more to gain weight.

Okay, since then I've turned thirty, quit smoking and quit treating my body like a receptacle for hazardous chemicals. But how did I end up being nearly twice the woman I used to be, by weight? Oh, I love my food. But I always did, and it never turned on me like this before.

So what with getting married in a minute, I decided to lose some weight so I don't need to pay a surplus on my wedding dress for excess fabric. But it's not going so well. I already knew what's been proven - moderate levels of exercise do little for weight gain. I could walk for hours in comfort before I started dieting - apart from my thighs rubbing together of course - and I was still fat. It was going to take tougher measures. No bread, no fat, no red meat, no pasta, no chocolate, no lollies, no chips, no reason for living and no way you haven't gotten the point by now. The first few days are okay. You feel sort of good, even. Then you find yourself sending your dinner guests out on a post-meal walk so you can eat their pizza crusts in secret*.

None of it has worked. I'm starting to wonder what to do now. Meal replacements? They are expensive, but no more so than anything else these days (if you've ever wondered how you pay for a wedding, it's easy; just drain your bank account each fortnight on payday and walk down the street handing gobs of money to every person you pass. You'll never see anything for it, but the wedding feels the same way). I can't wait till I'm actually married, and I can let myself go, and also make the long awaited switch to "married hair" - the famous phenomenon where off come the long locks and wash and wear is the word of the day. Don't tell me about keeping the spice in my marriage. Lord knows there's little enough spice in my diet right now.

* I really did this.

26 October 2009

Sydney vs Melbourne


Those of you with disturbingly long memories may remember this post from a few years ago, when I wrote of how desperately I needed a holiday. Earlier this month, I finally got away.

It was just three days, and DF and I only made it to Melbourne, but after waiting so long anything would have been an epic journey. Anyway whenever anyone from Sydney or Melbourne visits the "other" city, they're obliged to make comparisons. Sydney-Melbourne rivalry is the national sport. Just today this article from the SMH website posited that Sydney comes up short to Melbourne in terms of intellectual vibrancy.

Truth be told we found very little difference between the cities. Being in Melbourne's CBD felt no different to Sydney's, tram tracks and sunshine aside. Where in the city you live has more to do with it; a resident of Fitzroy would have more in common with the lifestyle of a resident of Newtown than either person would have with people who lived in the outer suburbs of their own cities.

That said, there was one thing. Many attractions in Melbourne announce that they are Australia's Most Superlative. You see a lot of this as a Novocastrian, too - everything in Newcastle is Regional Australia's most superlative, just as things in Australia trump themselves as the biggest/best/most ostentatious in the Southern Hemisphere. It does rather come across as needy and desperate for validation. You don't see it much in Sydney. Sydney has more of a sense of "Fuck you, we're Number 1 and no need to prove it".

Why can't they be satisfied with being Australia's best Sydney and Melbourne?

02 October 2009

Down In The Park


Now that we've all made it to Friday, I think we deserve a trip to Centennial Park.


Just a few of the many black swans



In the Column Garden



The infamous, though very pretty, Busbys Pond



Unable to find any clues in the recent murder, we staged our own re-creation



See? I don't hate all birds




In fact, I got up close with the geese



Sunset studies, that slightly melancholy time and never a better way to finish

30 September 2009

Child Protection - Let's Think Again



NSW has just banned smoking in cars with child passengers, several years after smoking was banned in pubs. That should tell you everything about the importance we place on children's safety - at least at the hands of their parents.
The Department of Community Services (DOCS) mandatory reporting line, where those dealing with children on a professional basis are required to report suspicions of abuse, receives over 1,000 calls a day. To deal with this, rather than hiring more workers, mandatory reporting has been changed from "children at risk of harm" to "children at serious risk of harm". Can we try a third way? Can we make it clear to parents that they have to stop abusing their children?

Government intervention is never resented so much as when it involves one's own family. Even the UN Declaration of Human Rights declares that "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." We live in an age of strict safety standards and child protection laws for every other aspect of a child's life, yet parents have the right to do more or less anything they want to their children. Parents are only rarely prosecuted for the horrible or risky things they do to their children - it never seems to cross anyone's mind; witness this father being posthumously recommended for a bravery award when he should rather have been charged with manslaughter had he lived. As I said, a health professional or teacher who witnesses signs of abuse on a child is legally required to report it - a parent has no such requirement to report if their partner is abusing their child.

It's often said "the majority of parents want the best for their kids". True as far as it goes, but a lot of those parents think dangerous or just plain bad things are okay. They drink regularly in front of their kids, put them in the car and drive on the Pacific Highway, feed them Happy Meals, smack them, leave them unattended infront of space heaters and take them fishing on jetties at night. All legal,and all these parents would no doubt then sue if their child, say, broke their wrist at school. Maybe it's time we told parents they need to look after their chilren, too. By law if need be. Starting by actually prosecuting parents each and every time they abuse their children is a good start in a community mind shift.

25 September 2009

News of the Friday Follies


In jubillant mood today because of the end of my first term at TAFE, I bring you the unawaited return of the Friday follies. This week: Follies in the news.

  • A robot computer to mark English essays. What happens when the artificial intelligence is greater than the actual intelligence in the essays?

  • Lily Allen quits music over illegal file sharing? Let's see how long this lasts... (I hope she changes her mind, I like her stuff. I own a copy of It's Not Me, It's You on CD. You cannot rip the tracks to MP3s, forcing you to either buy her music twice, or use illegal sites in order to listen to "22" on the bus to work. May want to rethink that policy, Ms Allen?)

  • Fox News attacks Obama's safe schools Czar (their term) as a radical, calling him unsafe for schools. Fox thinks children should remain safe to express their homophobia.

  • Just how far will one man go to avoid paying for an ambulance? (Seventy kilometres).

  • Of all the reasons a nation migght have to ban Family Guy, Venezuela picked pot smoking? (C'mon, Chavez. You used to be cool).

  • Finally, and it's just a coincidence that this came straight after the pot topic. Next time you're wearing a new outfit you feel especially smart in, just remember, so did Brynne Gordon.

    Just make sure you have a wizened old Gollum next to you to complete the look...
  • 22 September 2009

    What's Wrong With Marriage? What's Wrong With Weddings!


    I'm getting married because I'm needy, insecure, and have abandonment issues. There, I said it.

    This article in the SMH created quite a bit of controversy. The writer, Catherine Deveny, labels weddings and marriage as antiquated, conservative traditions, "the reinforcement of unrealistic expectations, outdated gender stereotypes and proof we're still being sucked in to happily-ever-after endings. It's also a scathing indictment of our lack of cultural maturity and spiritual imagination. And proof we're emotionally medieval." Well, okay. Marriage is Ms Deveny's bugbear, I understand. I've got mine - circumcision and people who drive cars, and I'll happily see everyone who practices either slowly put to death. Marriage though? Well it doesn't really hurt anyone, as long as two parties go into it equally and willingly. I used to hold similar views to Ms Deveny, and in a way still do. I'm not going to use my personal situation to prove her wrong - a particularly right-wing arguing technique that, for example, turns every parent into an expert on the behaviour of paedophiles.

    So I don't have a bugbear about marriage, but I do have one for weddings. "Every bride" spends months dreaming of, and planning, her big day. She plans all the little touches that will make it reflect her and her husband. So why does every bridal couple these days look like they've been churned out of a factory?


    These are actual wedding photos of real couples, printed in Australian newspapers in 2009



    I've not been to many weddings, but just one would suffice. Living in the city, every weekend you see couples having their wedding photos taken, and each couple is staggeringly the same as the last. We recently caught a ferry across the harbour from Milson's Point (Luna Park) to Circular Quay. There were seperate couples taking photos at either end of the journey; if not for the fact that it was possible to view both parties at once from the boat, I'd have been convinced it was one couple who teleported over the water.

    Brides: try a blue dress occasionally. Seriously, you might as well all have a big Moonie wedding together. Anyway, the more "modern" you look now, the more you'll wonder "What was I thinking?!?" when you look back over your wedding photos in twenty years time. (If you've lost your wedding photos by then, just about anyone else's will suffice).

    15 September 2009

    Die, Badman, Die!


    There can be few issues in our society which whip people to the same level of frenzy as paedophilia. We're reminded of this every time Dennis Ferguson does anything at all.

    Okay, Ferguson is a horrible sort. He's been convicted of ghastly crimes.
    However, the issue now is that it's come out that Ferguson, freed after serving his prison terms, has been living in Ryde, in north west Sydney, for the past few weeks. The residents are not happy, and as continually happens with Ferguson, they've vowed not to rest until he leaves their suburb. As usual, all rational thought has gone, long before Ferguson will.

    One resident has described the neighbourhood as being "like a candy shop", for Ferguson. It's as if paedophilia was some sort of virus; merely having a paedophile nearby is enough to infect all the local children. Even Hetty Johnson, head of child sexual abuse support group Bravehearts, has come out saying paedophiles just don't work that way: "This man has only been dangerous to families that he befriends, so just don't befriend him and don't let your children befriend him, and you'll be as safe as you can be I guess".

    Where the hell is Ferguson supposed to go? There's much made of the fact that his new flat is near a primary school. Most people in built up areas would live within a kilometre of a primary school. Ryde has been described as a "family neighbourhood" - how many neighbourhoods have no children living or visitng? I think what people really want here is revealed in this comment by local resident "Sean" - "He doesn't deserve to live in society - he deserves to be outcast for the rest of his life. His relaxation as an elderly gentleman is over - he needs to start serving the community in the right way and that's by disappearing". Or, as another young woman living nearby put it, "I'm sixteen years old and I'm terrified" she said (of what?!?). "I just want him to die".

    Well at least someone came out and said it. They don't want Ferguson anywhere - they just want him to commit suicide.

    Everyone who wants Ferguson gone, as usual in these situations, is a pains to emphasise that they have children (usually of the "small" variety). A TV news reporter actually said that "none of Ferguson's supporters actually has children", as though having children made you an expert on the behaviour of paedophiles. DF and I plan to have children in the next few years. How would I feel if Ferguson moved in to our street? Not really comfortable, but knowing that I wouldn't be leaving my children alone with strangers anyway - especially since the chances are we'd be living near child sex offenders wherever we were.

    Meanwhile, it looks like the NSW government, for all it's bluster, can't actually legally move Ferguson. Residents in Ryde say they may have been more understanding if they'd been told in advance Ferguson was coming. But as long as the media whips up these ridiculous moral panics, that was never going to happen.

    11 September 2009

    Friday Grab Bag


    Jockeys have gone on strike over new rules which restrict them to using padded whips, and also limit the number of times per race they can beat the horse. They're not happy. Racing figures have claimed that whips don't actually hurt the horse (then what's the point?) and that whipping is actually for the horse's benefit: "Whipping is just to encourage a horse at the peak of it's fitness to perform it's best". Oh yes, I'm sure the horses love it. In fact, why not whip Usain Bolt to see if he can run a bit faster? No one should be allowed to race, train or attend horse races until they have submitted to being hit with a horsewhip to see for themselves how much it hurts. (Alcohol consumption, and the numbing effects of such, on race day notwithstanding. Actually, living near a racecourse and seeing the behaviour of some racegoers, a whipping is just what they need regardless).

    ~~~~~

    A 19 year old woman In Queensland has been charged with procuring a miscarriage after taking the abortion drugs Milofian and Misoprostol at her home. It is still technically illegal to procure an abortion in Queensland - as well as here in NSW. Keep an eye on this one - whichever way it goes, the consequences will be far-reaching. It does look like the Bligh Labor government in Qld is moving to at least place chemical abortion on the same legal footing as surgical abortion, possibly as a result of this case. If only they'd just decriminalise abortion and have done with it.

    ~~~~~

    Whoa! Heavy stuff for a Friday. On a lighter note, literally. In a fit of turning-30 inspired pique a couple of months back, I decided to bleach my hair and dye it dark pink. It turned out... well, it's been an interesting experience. I bleached my hair way more times than was necessary and completely killed it (hint: can I recommend against doing this a few months out from your own wedding? I'm probably going to have to wear a wig for the occasion, my hair is that fried). On the other hand, if you want people to think you're younger than you are, I highly recommend it. I've been mistaken for a teenager so many times lately, at least until the observer gets close enough to see the crows feet and look of defeat. But overall, there have been fewer reactions than I expected. It seems to affect women at either ends of the age spectrum - old women give me death stares, while little girls are invariably fascinated (you can see them working up the courage to ask their mothers is they can have pink hair, too).

    But the regrowth has come marching in and so have the bills. It's time for me to get a job and that means dyeing my hair a "normal" colour again. It will be nice to look like a thirty year old, almost married woman who can wear pearls without looking ridiculous, but on the other hand I'll miss wearing a tracksuit and still being able to look interesting.

    08 September 2009

    When Love Dies


    It's always gruelling to watch the sad, slow death of a loved one. I'm dealing with the trauma at the moment - the sad demise of my beloved Sichuan chicken.

    The Dixon House food court in Sydney's Chinatown isn't much to look at. It was almost, but not quite, enough to put me off on my first visit, but I was hungry, and decided to order the Sichuan chicken from Joy Luck Cuisine. I'd only ever had Sichuan Chicken from a packet mix before, and thought I'd see what it was like cooked fresh.

    Well, I was stunned. I simply could not believe I'd lived more than a quarter of a century without this delight in my life. A huge, sizzling platter piled with tender breast chicken meat and onion in the most devine spicy sauce you can imagine, for a mere $7.50 (it went up to $8.90 over time). I wanted to weep with pleasure. (In fact it was so spicy I did weep a little). At the time, I was new to Sydney and homesick for Newcastle, but this dish on its own made living here worthwhile.

    In the years that followed, I'd go to Dixon House for my Sichuan chicken at least once a fortnight. The lady who ran the stall long since stopped warning me it was a very spicy dish. I tried other Sichuan chickens, but they were pale imitations of perfection. Over time, I think I brought everyone I knew who lived in Sydney along with me to share the joy. It was the perfect pick-me-up, hangover cure, indulgence, cheap lunch and feast. I wanted to ask them to cater my wedding. Joy Luck was by far the best of the stalls in the food court and always had a long wait on the weekend, but it was worth it for that chicken. Sometimes, I'd vaugely worry that they would shut down, but figured the place was too popular and anywaty, surely nothing that bad could happen to me?

    The end, when it came, was gradual. It took me a couple of visits to realise the lady who ran it (and worked there taking orders 72 hours a week) wasn't just away, but that there'd been a change of ownership. Nonetheless, I continued to order the chicken. The lure of the sauce was too strong. Strange vegetables began appearing. I don't like many vegetables; it's what puts me off most Asian food, and one of the reasons I liked this chicken dish so much. Then the sauce acquired a funny , smoky taste. Okay, I figured, part of love is accepting the good with the bad. I even tried to be forgiving when mushrooms were added to the mix. Now, I like mushrooms about as much as I like Piers Akerman - they're both damp, icky and raised on bull shit - but I was willing to push them out of the way as I ate. DF begged me to let go. I couldn't.

    But then came the final insult. The breast meat chicken was tossed in favour of mystery brown meat. I gagged. I cried. I left my dish mostly full and knew it was over.

    What does one do when everything you hoped for is gone? There's been a grieving process. But I think I'm ready to love again. I need a dish to live for. One that will get me out of bed, cheer me up, keep me satiated. I'm looking. There was some initial promise from the duck and rice at BBQ King, but it didn't work out. Things are going well with the pork larb at Crocodile Thai, but it's early days. We'll see how we go.

    05 September 2009

    Never Before Seen Outtakes!


    In deciding to post every day, I've had to think of things to post about. Most ideas seem to be sound, but not quite weighty enough to sustain a whole post. Here are some Xander and Nico posts that never quite made it:

  • It was Legacy day this week. Schoolkids swarming the city to sell Legacy badges - 16 years ago, I was one of them. It's a noble idea, Legacy; to support the families of deceased veterans. But how many deceased veterans are there these days? There have been less than 20 Australian soldiers killed in combat in the past 20 years. And most of those men had partners with their own careers. We've already gotten rid of the widow's pension. Maybe it's time to admit that Legacy is a cause who's time has passed.

  • Would those people who whinge about the extra benefits Aboriginal people receive want to be Aboriginal themselves? Would they, for that matter, tell Holocuast victims to "get over it"? (The answers are probably no and yes).

  • There is a new call for Australia to join every other civilised nation and adopt a bill of rights. As usual the right, led by John Howard, have come out against it. "Decisions on human rights should be made by elected politicians", they say, "not unelected judges". That would mark the first time conservatives have ever shown respect for politicians, then...

    Thanks for dropping by for my late blogging revival.
  • 03 September 2009

    Why The Sex Diaries are a BOBS


    Oh dear, and I didn't want to think about it at all. More and more salacious details of the affairs of former NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca have been revealed in the Daily Telegraph. (No wait, that headline refers to something else. Two affairs! I can barely find energy for one engagement. Anyway, according to blogger Sam de Brito, it was never about the sex; Della Bosca just wanted to be wanted. Maybe he's one of the poor dears whining their penises off in The Sex Diaries.

    I'm a few months late here, but I recently read Bettina Arndt's tome of marital woe, in which ordinary Australian couples relate how differing sex drives are damaging their relationships. Or as Ardnt puts it, "different libidos [are] creating a generation of men who were "miserable, angry and really disappointed" that their need for sex was "being totally disregarded in their relationship". Man after man in this book complains that they don't get all the sex they would like.

    A need? A NEED?!? Not from the men I know, but there's an underlying assumption from the men in this book that they somehow require or are entitled to sex. No. You need food, water and sleep. You don't NEED sex any more that you need a new DVD player. And if you do, the answer is attached to your wrist.

    Arndt doesn't take this into account. Nor does she look at why all these women are rejecting their husbands' advances, or what can be done to fix any related relationship problems. Instead, she blames it all on the "fragile female libido". Solution? In order to meet their husbands' "needs", women should have sex even when they're not in the mood, to make their men happy.

    Well this has generated the expected amount of controversy, which Ardnt has dealt with by twisting the debate along ideological lines. With Miranda Devine on her side, Ardnt accuses those who oppose the idea of being "feminists", apparently of the old man-hating, hairy legged variety. There's no justification for women denying sex (according to Devine, women and men do about the same amount of work per week - I'm just an amateur but that seems way off to me). But heed this: "Arndt is not suggesting women have sex against their will, but to heed new research that shows they may still enjoy sex even if they didn't crave it in the first place." Last time I checked, doing something you didn't want to do, for whatever reason, is against your will (that's why you get paid to go to work when you'd rather sleep in). These women are advocating marital rape.

    The whining from the men in question has to be read to be believed. I wonder if Belinda Neal - as unpleasant as she apparently is - had to listen to twenty years of such plaints from John. But the real issue here is these women of the right, who come out swinging on the side of some fairly unpleasant men. They must need something to write about; they surely haven't come up with a workable solution everyone can live with.

    02 September 2009

    Smack Addicts


    There are many people I'll never understand. People who enjoyed the single "All Summer Long." People who leave the gherkins on Big Macs. Men who wear shorts with socks. Women who wear otherwise elegant outfits with thongs.

    And the people who think it is their right, or even somehow helpful, to "physically discipline" their children.

    Society pretends to be deeply concerned with the welfare of children. But really, in terms of attitudes to child abuse, we're at the stage now that we were with domestic violence thirty years ago - that it's a family matter, a parent's right, that we shouldn't get involved.

    It baffles logic that if an older child hits a younger one, this is "bullying", but if an adult hits a child, this is acceptable. And only if that adult is the child's parent - if smacking is such an effective form of discipline, why is it only parents - not babysitters, teachers, childcare workers, other family members, or anyone else looking after the child - who are allowed to carry smacking out?

    Smacking is rarely perfomed in a thoughtful, considered way. Most smacking is performed by a stressed parent lashing out in the heat of the moment. Not having children yet myself, I can't understand that stress and can't guarantee I'll never smack myself and regret it straight away. But that's the difference - I know it's not okay, and I sincerely hope I never actually smack my kids.

    Most "right to smack"ers say "I was smacked, and I turned out okay." Well, if you think it's okay for you in turn to hit a child, then no you didn't turn out okay. Smacking is horribly demeaning to a child - and threats are even worse. Children acquire discipline through respect for their parents, not fear. Many people I know who were smacked have never learnt resepct for authority (as opposed to fear of authority) and have learnt, not to do well, but rather to not get caught. My fiancé wasn't smakced as a child, and I can tell you he's far more respectful and less illegal than I am.

    Smacking sends the message that might is right. As a civilised society, we should ban this barbaric relic of a bullying past. Smacking will still go on - but we need to stand up and say, it's not okay anymore.

    01 September 2009

    Shopping for Introverts


    In a perfect world, I'd never eat at McDonalds again. I loathe everything they stand for. Same with any anonymous commerical enterprise.

    But in this world, I'm shopping at chain stores like there's no tomorrow. Why? Because I'm shy.

    I love the idea of supporting independent businesses. But when I walk into a tiny shop and the sales assistant wants to be my new BFF, I'm tempted to run away. There's no easy solution to this for timid people - except to patronise massive, uncaring corporations because by not caring about you, they leave you alone. I'm not altogether sure that small business owners realise the, effect they have when, for instance, you linger a moment at a cafe blackboard and they come running over, squawking "Can I help you?" It's pretty offputting to the shy. Small clothes shops are even worse. "I just came in for a look. Yes it's a lovely day and I'm feeling fine, but following me around making irrelevant comments won't persuade me to buy your overpiced ugly ass trousers".

    So I'm afraid I'll keep doing my shopping where no one wants to know my name.

    18 August 2009

    Gay Marriage for Dummies


    It's often amusing to see the excuses contrived in an attempt to defend the morally indefensible. In the case of the opposition to gay marriage, however, the convoluted arguments aren't funny. A lot of people are being hurt and denied their human rights. Me, I'm getting kinda pissed off about living in a country with such a sizeable minority of intolerant dickwads and even more disappointed with Kevin Rudd. The delightful Ann Coulter opines that leftists are way more intolerant than any conservative (which is why you so often hear of Christian bashings in San Francisco). Well, today I'm going to be tolerant, so here is a simple rebuttal of some of the stupid "arguments" against gay marriage:

    If we let a man marry a man, next he'll be allowed to marry a dog.
    And while we're at it, why not then let that dog vote, drive a car and buy beer? The man can't legally have sex with the dog either, and he can with another man (as long as, you know, everyone wants to). This is about people...whom the right historically don't care much about.

    Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.
    It's just a pity this doesn't specify which man and woman, or what the rest of us are supposed to do. Seriously though, Piers Akerman has been spewing forth this nonsense lately. Technically it's true under current law (which is the whole problem!) but so what? Historically the definition of marriage was "man and wife" - the wife was her husband's possession, she promised to obey him, and had few rights in the marriage. Now that's changed, all but a few accept marriage as the joining of equal partners; so it is possible to change the definition of marriage. Akerman and his ilk just don't want to.

    Gay Marriage is a threat to straight marriage/the traditional family
    I think Al Franken (married for 34 years) said it best: " I never figured out how gay marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage. I look at a gay male couple, for example, and I don't go, 'Boy, that looks good,' ". Seriously, find me one hetero couple in Australia whose marriage would be threatened if gays were allowed to marry. (If it's a sham marriage to cover up the homosexuality of one or both parties anyway, that doesn't count). You know what's a threat to straight marriage? Umm...DIVORCE!

    Gay marriage is forbidden by the Bible.
    Okay, let's suppose we should allow the laws of Australia to be dictated by a book most of the population would never have looked at. It's true that Leviticus 18:22 states "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." (so either the Bible should not be read by women, or all women should be lesbians). I'll allow religious conservatives this point if they agree to stop praying if they need glasses or a rash: "For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles; no man of the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer The Lord's offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God." (Leviticus 21:18-21) (for more on Homosexuality and the Bible, see here).

    It's all pretty ridiculous. In fact if my fiancee and I have a civil marriage ceremony, by law the celebrant is required to say: “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”. I'm not standing in front of the people I dearly love who are denied their civil rights, whilst someone says those words. So we're considering not getting legally married until those words are gone. So gay marriage is turning into a threat to straight marriage, though not the way the conservatives intended.

    11 August 2009

    Justice and Punishment


    What with the recent fortieth anniversary of the Manson family murders, it's worth asking - why are the Manson women still in prison?

    They are now all in their early sixties, serving time for crimes they committed while only just old enough to vote. They've expressed remorse for what they've done. They are highly unlikely to re offend and are little danger to society. But there's no likelihood they will be released in the near future. So - what purpose does society fulfill keeping them in jail? Are some crimes simply too monstrous to forgive?

    The overwhelming reason the Manson women are likely to die in jail is, of course, that no politician wants to be known as the person that freed the Manson girls; it would cause community outrage. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger knows he'd be eaten alive by Fox News if it happened. But what about the feelings of the victims' families? Whilst I have great compassion for their sufferings, it's important to note we have a justice system for many reasons - and one is to represent all involved with fairness. A fairness that, as a grieving relative, it is understandably difficult to display. Susan Atkins is dying of brain cancer, having lost a leg and with months left to live. However, Sharon Tate's sister Debra opposed Atkins' release on compassionate grounds, saying "She will be set free when judged by God. It's important that she die in incarceration." Such a view is understandable but should Debra Tate be the one making the decision?

    Surely justice has been served already with regard to the Manson women. They have served 40 years each in prison - longer than most convicted murderers. The chance for them to do anything meaningful with their post-prison lives is over; they cannot have children or pursue careers. Their continued incarceration serves no purpose other than to fulfill our desire as a society for punishment, for revenge. But is that, in this case, okay?

    31 July 2009

    Diatribe of a Temporary Housewife


    All my life, I believed that women who chose home duties as a vocation were somehow "letting the side down". But that was before I was made redundant from my stressful if underpaid advertising career, moved in with DF, and found myself temporarily living as a housewife in all but name.

    According to reports such as this one on Sixty Minutes, being a housewife is the new black. Watching that story made me intimidated, and depressed. Domestic arts? Hell, I was a domestic sataness. I appreciate a basic level of cleanliness. I like to cook. But tupperware parties, padded hangers and time-release air fresheners are not me. Once the house was cleanish, I didn't know what to do with my days. And I don't know where they all went. If there is a Hell for housewives the first thing they'll say when you get there - and every day for the rest of eternity - is "What did you do all day?"

    It was a huge comedown from the Harbour view office, after work cocktails and shopping to fill the enormous void in my life. We could have become a reality TV show, but the problem with that is you need a stable situation and a catchy title. When things go wrong, it can get messy - Kate Plus 8 is still fine, but Jon Plus 8 sounds like a bunch of people gathered in a toilet, probably for nefarious purposes.

    Anyway, the experience is now over - I'm training to be a youth worker - and it's given me some empathy, if not a lot of sympathy, for those women who choose a life of baking, housekeeping and one day sales. I'm looking forward to working again, though.

    26 July 2009

    I Only Steal Hearts


    If I may get personal for a moment...

    ...will you all please stop calling me a cradle snatcher?

    My Darling Finacé (DF) is everything I've ever wanted in a man...and eighteen months younger than me. He graduated high school just one year after I did. Not an age gap that would count among adults, you would think...and yet I'm continually called a cradle snatcher. Because he is the guy and supposed to be older than me.

    In Australia, grooms are on average 2.8 years older than brides in first marriages. The average age gap has declined over time, but still, in a majority of marriages the groom is older than the bride (taller, too). We equate age with power (in this context) so the guy is supposed to be older and more powerful. For all my jokes about being a woman in my thirties with a twenty-something lover, the truth is it's pretty grating, sexist and offensive.

    Thanks! I feel better.

    17 July 2009

    In Due Season: A Tribute To The Chaser


    Like many of you, I was alarmed on Wednesday night to learn that The Chaser's War On Everything is coming to an end in two weeks. Did the evil forces of talkback radio get them in the end? Was it all over? Fear not. According to the show website, the truth is:

    "As I've mentioned before, this series was always going to end at the end of July, and contain ten episodes. The ABC's decision to suspend the show had the effect of reducing that to eight (which means there will be a lot of stuff on the DVD!)

    But yeah, at this stage, we feel like we've done our dash with the War On Everything, and that's what Chris was referring to – not necessarily future Chaser projects, but this particular show. For one thing, it's become increasingly difficult to film the stunts we like to include in Australia because the guys are more recognisable. But more broadly, it feels like time to try something new."

    It would be a damn shame if it was the end for the Chaser. I understand the guys are getting older, and may be losing their taste for this sort of humour, but still... I can't help but feel a little proprietary and protective of the Chaser guys because I've been watching them since 2001, and I still do. According to Chas, that makes me something of a rarity, and many people who liked their early stuff hate them now. I hunted down their newspaper back when I lived in Newcastle and only one newsagent stocked it, and then not often. I've been to tapings at the ABC and their live show. I feel like I practically know them by now.

    And if you're still wetting your knickers over the "Make a Realisitic Wish" sketch (They were. Not. Making fun of. Sick children. But the arbitrariness of charity) then I'm sorry to have to tell you've met them, or a few of them, and they're some of the nicest people I've ever met. Living in inner Sydney you see "noted people" (if you wouldn't call them celebrities) all the time - Alannah Hill and Kim Beazley in the last week alone in my case. I don't talk to them often (what could one possibly say to Kim Beazley that wouldn't sound like condolences?) but when I have, they're usually polite but distant. But Chas happily talked to me for some time after a show - signing autographs, posing for pictures, and generally just being an awesome guy in the middle of a very long national tour.

    So sure, the Chaser guys may have wandered off course with their humour from time to time. But the alternative looked too much like the Glasshouse. We need them to point out the absurdity of our times, and I hope to see them back soon.

    14 July 2009

    Enviro-Nutsies


    Recently I visited a large, well-known hardware chain where no plastic bags are provided to customers. It's part of their feel-good drive to help the environment. I wouldn't mind, except that the only way to reach the place on foot, or from the buses, was walk around three sides of the warehouse-like building and pick my way through a huge car park. I asked the sales assistant if this was hypocritical, but all I got was a surly look and a threat to not sell me really cheap light bulbs, so I let it go.

    It's not like they were the nice, old fashioned flattering incandescent light bulbs either. All you can buy these days from many retailers is those awful energy saving things, which look like spare parts from the Tardis and give the whole room an awful greyish glow, as if you have the flu, but worse.

    Yet this week, some of these same damn retailers who are nannying to us about the environment and what we can and can't buy are offering huge discounts on petrol if you spend sufficient sums at their condescending stores.

    Can we stop this lunacy please? Driving a car and using green bags is environmentally useless. Worse than useless in fact, because it allows the driver to reduce their guilt and not look at making any real changes. But I'm not sure if we can blame the individual here - the Government deserves some blame for poor public transport, of course (though around where I live, with a continual stream of buses to the City, people still love their damn cars). But the main blame lies with these businesses - maintaining a car culture, wasting energy, stocking overpackaged products with high carbon footprints and god knows what environmental safety standards in manufacture - whilst they absolve themselves and their customers of all blame.

    I'm depressing myself here. Let's strike a deal - you offer people incentives to get the train to the shops occasionally, let me have waterproof bags which I can re-use as bag liners and flattering light bulbs, and we'll all be happy.

    In the meantime, I'm shopping at Aldi. But since they don't offer any plastic bags either, I'm bringing cling wrap to the store to wrap my purchases for the trip home.

    02 July 2009

    This Blog Now Pre-Pay Only


    We've recently moved from an area of Sydney serviced by trains, to a neighbourhood that isn't. This has forced us onto the buses, coinciding with buses in the CBD going prepay only. As usually in NSW, cashless bus services are a great idea in theory, but on the ground it doesn't actually work. (When things get desperate, Troy McLure would call all his suprise witnesses again; the NSW government simply announces a new metro that will never be built).

    Anyway, you're usually at the bus stop before you remember you can't buy a ticket on the bus anymore, so you check the list of nearby ticket vendors and set off to obtain one. The first shop you visit is out of the tickets you need. The second is inexplicably closed at 1pm on a weekday. The third seller don't sell no bus tickets and they never did. By now you're 2km away from the bus route, fractious and willing to buy an overpriced ticket valid for a much longer distance than you require, just because it's the only kind the "convenince store" you're fetched up at has left and you're too tired to search anymore.

    It's not like prepay actually saves any time. Maybe for commuter services at peak hour, but during the day in Sydney there's at least one set of tourists on every bus who ask the driver questions, holding things up. Tourists I actually don't mind much; what really annoys me is locals who get off the bus through the front doors, holding up the boarding passengers, and who really should know better.

    In fact you can probably gather I don't like the bus much, comapred to the train. Trains have been my primary mode of transport for the past two years, which has pleased me greatly; at any rate, I've not whinged about them much here, which is a good way to tell.

    28 June 2009

    Lots of Excuses


    Well hey everyone. It's been a pretty hectic few months for Xander and Nico (well, talking about yourself in the third person is okay on Facebook!) starting with the fact that we're not just Xander and Nico anymore. Yep, I'm getting hitched. I've also given up on the corporate world to study to be a Youth Worker, moved house (ugh) and had a fairly serious chest infection requiring hospitalisation - not that I actually did go into hospital...anyway I've gone from single advertising executive to living as a housewife (temporarily!) in five monhs.

    So what I'm saying is, there's been a bunch of stuff going on and the past few weeks of current events have missed the Xander and Nico touch. Fear not though, life is getting to something approximating normal-ish, so we hope to be back with our over opinionated, ill-informed posts on the state of the world in early July...

    22 May 2009

    Futility Free Friday (A Bunch of Stuff to Think About)


    So the NRL is in trouble, yet again, for the attitudes of the football players towards women. Endless words have been written on this and I'll not rehash the whole saga. Respect for women is certainly needed. I'm speaking as a feminist here, so let me wade in...

    ...I'm not entirely sure that portraying women as delicate little flowers in need of protection is helpful to us.

    There are witnesses to the Christchurch incident who say the woman was a willing participant, including coworkers who report her bragging about it for days after. We run a risk when we allow regret to become rape after the fact. No means no, we shouldn't need to debate that, but now yes can become no. The issue of coercion at the time of the sex act is often raised. The problem with this is that coercion (as distinct from direct threats) implies that men are mentally and emotionally, as well as (usually) physically, stronger than women. It's dangerous territory all around. And by claiming coercion, this is perpetuated. We should teach young girls that men can't force you into doing anything you don't want, they don't have that ability, you can, must walk away. Better that than being the victim after.

    ~~~~~

    Friends of mine often express amazement that despite the seemingly endless spate of gun massacres in the U.S., there's no nationwide call there to ban private gun ownership. They can't believe the deaths are just accepted. "Why not?" I say. "We just accept the road toll here. No one is giving up their cars".

    The road toll is just seen as a fact of life. People rush to vaccinate their children, something I don't personally agree with, but regardless, they're putting them in greatest danger by driving them to the clinic. People teach their teenagers to drive so they'll be safe travelling to and from work, but when you consider the youth road toll versus the number of assaults and murders on public transport at night, it's the most dangerous thing parents can do.*

    Today has been designated fatality free Friday in the hope of shaking the nation out of it's complacency by encouraging them to drive more safely. Can I go further - be safer still. Take the bus.

    ~~~~~

    Whew! On a slightly lighter note than all that, recently my better half and I were watching TV, and an ad for shampoo appeared, in which the main actor was of Asian appearance. We discussed how it's not something you see much, even in multi cultural Australia today - the point was not that he was an Asian guy, but just that he was a guy.

    But I got to thinking, how often do you see ads for anything cooking or cleaning related where it's Dad giving the kids a snack, Dad serving up dinner, Dad telling the kids how soft the fabric softener has made their jammies?

    Maybe not so light after all. Anything resembling real gender equality is still a long, long way off.

    * And adding to the irony is the children's cancer charity that raffles off cars. I've always wanted to ask them whether that isn't hypocritical and/or ridiculous, considering car exhausts are carcinogenic. When I get up the nerve I'll let you know how it goes.

    13 May 2009

    Yet Another Ill-Informed Budget Analysis


    Well, the 2009 Australian budget is a triumph for Wayne Swan and the Rudd Government. They've managed to save $150 billion. Wow.

    Yes, there is a budget deficit of $58 billion, an Australian record. But Treasury recieved $200 billion less in revenues this year due to the GFC. To make up that gap is remarkable. Well done to all involved.

    And yet. What's that I hear? Whingeing. The endless parade of people claiming there's "nothing in it for them". Another legacy of the Howard years: everyday people who see the budget not as the national economic plan, but as a hand out of goodies. (And oh, the clamour from the right wingnuts today! They claim to support unfetterred free markets, but try to shove their noses out of the trough, and woe is you). One particular man interviewed on Nine News last night claimed that as there were no perks for small business in the budget, he had no incentive to hire new people, and would have to work longer hours. Um, that's how the market works. Pay someone to work for you, or do the work yourself. Next you'll be complaining you have to clean your own house as you can't afford a lady who does.

    Seriously, the Budget, and the Australian people, right now are reminding me of a homeowner who notices their house on fire and reacts by frantically ringing the post office to get them to hold their mail. We're not focussing on the real issue here. (Thank you Ross Gittins). There's a whole lot of recession to get through and we've barely even started - this is not the time to be worrying about how long it will take to pay off the deficit.

    Anyway, there's no increase in Austudy, so the Budget isn't helping me. Stupid Rudd.

    07 May 2009

    Good News, Bad News


    Those on the right are very fond of saying that the Rudd Government's stimulus package, which was intended to create 75,000 new jobs, "has not created a single new job".

    I wonder what they'll be saying now, as the suprise news comes thrrough that during April, the unemployment rate fell from 5.7% to 5.4%, with 49,100 net new full time jobs.

    As I've said before, thank God Kevin Rudd is PM right now. The stimulus package has worked. The economic policies the Coalition are so fond of brought the world the GFC and if they were in office now, Australia would be in the midst of a deep recession rather than a slow down. Now let's see how Rudd and Swan handle the budget. Deficit? Oh yes, there will be. Hopefully they'll shoulder some of that by winding back some of the middle class welfare that gouged $80+ billion out of the budget annually during the final Howard years.

    ~~~~~

    Back here in the nanny premier state, the NSW police have floated a policy to move on "noticeably" drunk persons in public places (a step on from the current policy, which allows them to move on "seriously" drunk people). Some of the criteria they'll use to judge a person's level of intoxication is slurred speech and staggered gait.

    What good will that do anyone? I have disabled friends who need to carry medical documentation of their condition with them when they go to bars, to prove that ttheir lack of coordination and speech difficulties are due to medical reasons, not overindulgence in alcohol. Are disabled people now to fear being accosted by the police for walking (if they can) down the street? What about those of us who are just plain clumsy? I fell down the stairs in the train station this morning and I haven't had a drink in days. Goddammit, I think I need one now though.

    05 May 2009

    The Real Climate Changers


    Malcolm Turnbull has refused to allow the Government's emissions trading scheme through Federal Parliament, thereby raising the possibility of a double dissolution election on the issue of climate change.

    This will no doubt delight the right wingnuts. They're very confused on the issue of climate change; they just know they don't like it. Their opinion ranges from:
  • There is no such thing as global warming;
  • Okay, global warming is happening, but it's a natural event and not due to human activity;
  • Fine, global warming is caused by human activity, but Australia is too insignificant a contributor to worry about taking action;
  • And even if we should take action, we can't afford it.
    (I've seen Piers Akerman take all four positions in a single column, and still find time to heartily disparage Kevin Rudd. Considering all the energy he burns, it's hard to understand why he's so fat).

    Myself, I don't understand the argument that protecting jobs is more important than reducing carbon emissions. For a start, these are the very jobs and industries which are creating the emissions in the first place. Anyway, if we applied this argument universally, we'd avoid all progress to save jobs. There would be no phones to keep messenger boys in work. Australia would still have a productive whaling industry. So what's so special about, say, the car manufacturing industry or coal production today? Yeah, I know first hand how tough things are right now. Which, if you think about it, the right wingnuts don't.
  • 01 May 2009

    The Pigs Flew


    "If as many people had swine flu as those that are covering swine flu then it would be a pandemic to reckon with"

    Finally, some sense on the swine flu issue! I dunno. All the confirmed swine flu victims I've seen on TV seem more bemused than anything.

    As I believe I may have said before, I'm not a people person. Today I took the remaining aspect of my flu, the awful cough, shopping. Unfortunatley I was unable to induce panic in anyone.

    30 April 2009

    Everyone's A Top Bloke After Death


    During the Channel 9 bushfire appeal earlier this year, it was reported that Richard Pratt donated $250,000 to the victims. My reaction was, "Do you think he can spare it?"

    Mr Pratt, Australia's 4th richest man, died on Tuesday as a result of prostate cancer. Despite that he was facing charges of lying over allegations he was involved in price fixing - to which he admitted and for which his company was fined $36 million - Pratt is being eulogised as a hero, with many commentators pointing out that the charges were dropped the day before Pratt passed away. That is true, but only because the CDPP acknowledged his death was imminent. The Commonwealth Prosecutor Mark Dean believes the charges would have succeeded had they gone to trial.

    But according to large sections of the media, Richard Pratt died innocent; he was vindicated of all charges and should only be remembered as a great man. He did do much good, but the "price fixing scandal" was an appalling abuse of corporate power which sent many small businesses broke, and the victims will now never recieve justice.

    As the guys from the Chaser pointed out, everyone's a top bloke after death.

    ~~~~~

    Your humble blogger is suffering from flu this very moment. My mother asked me if I've been in contact with anyone who could have swine flu, and I replied "I'm in the Sydney CBD most days, mingling with people from all over the world, so who can say?"

    When you consider the actual number of cases, I'm left shaking my head at the mass panic. It's the flu, people. All the actual swine flu sufferers I've seen interviewed on TV seem bemused by the whole thing. Still, it's a nice change from hearing about "illegals" (actually you right-wing nuts, it's not illegal to seek asylum in a foreign country) and the GFC.

    06 April 2009

    Building A Better Nico


    Yesterday morning - Sunday - someone started vacuuming their car right outside my bedroom window, therefore waking me. I checked the clock. 9am. No, hang on, daylight saving was over; it was 8am. It was a late night Saturday. This called for immediate action. I stuck my head out the window and said..."Can you do that somewhere else, please?"

    What is happening to me? A few months ago such behaviour would have unleashed a stream of such profanity that they keyboard would now melt if I tried to type it. But I'm the highly suggestible type, and am now under the influence of a better half so saintly, paediatric-nurse like that I am vaguely ashamed of a lot of my behaviour. I have quite a temper, that is clear, and far too little regard for my fellow humans.

    So these days I'm trying to be a better person. I no longer stomp on the feet of people who won't get up to let me past on the train. (I do still hit them with my bag a little, though).

    02 April 2009

    There They Go Again


    I ended up donating more money to the RSPCA Bushfire appeal than to the human ones. Yes, it was an appalling tragedy, but after hearing about the fifth plaint from the Victorian bushfire victims that "We don't need any inner-city greenies telling us how to run things" I thought, well it doesn't seem to stop you taking the inner-city greenies' money. You can do without mine.

    It's still got me beat why these people hate us so. Along with smokers, we're the only group remaining in society it is perfectly fine to say anything about.

    Sure, many of the bushfire victims were no doubt lovely people who didn't discriminate by postcode and realised everyone drinks lattés. But to the whingers, I'll say - apparently you do need some advice. Even the most cossetted of apartment dwellers knows that when there's big fires coming, you get the hell out.

    01 April 2009

    In Theory...


    There's nothing wrong with people with Asperger's syndrome; they could in fact even be consdiered as superior. Aspies could be said to be the first humans to evolve beyond the pack mentality.

    This is the stuff I come up with when I have too much time on my hands. (Why I have too much time on my hands but haven't been posting is something I'll get to this week). Anyway, I've both lived with and dated men with Asperger's syndrome (not at the same time - they weren't the same person). My ex actually suggested at the time we were dating I may have the condition myself, but I strenuously denied this, and didn't know much of the condition until recently when I got to reading about it.

    It's fascinating stuff. Myself, I've been wondering if perhaps Aspies have evolved beyond meaningless social interaction in order to persue higher goals.

    In the early days of human evolution, humans had to live as part of a pack/tribe/group to survive. A "yay, team!" mentality was required from all, or early people would be cast out on their own, unable to hunt, reproduce, or defend themselves.

    But in today's society, this is no longer necessary. Sure, social skills are nice and can make life easier, for example when job hunting. But we can survive on our own. Maybe in Aspies, the part of the brain which gives a shit that your colleague is about to become a grandparent again is shut off, in order to achieve something more long lasting than small talk at a party you were only dragged to by your much more social partner.

    23 March 2009

    Snort, Distort


    As I've said before, we've veered into hysteria when it comes to child protection. Well, here we go again...

    ...A friend of mine is a primary school teacher, and was recently involved in an incident where two girls in his late-primary class reported an attempted abuction; claiming a man in a white van had called to them in the playground, telling them to get in. There were doubts over the story from the first, and it transpired that the white van was a government worker on legitimate business in the area. No attempted abduction.

    But naturally the school reported the incident to the police immediatley, and then the frenzy began. Parents descended on the school, verbalising teachers for not keeping their children safe. The children became hysterical, each reporting their own white van horror story.

    All this is understandable, but then the media circus started. The story caused a local frenzy, including detailed descriptions of the suspected abductor, venues, the van...none of which was ever reported to police (mostly because it never happened, and the children involved did not report these details). My friend was gobsmacked, asking "Where on Earth are they getting this stuff from?". But he was unable to contact the media to refute the stories to report the inaccuracies, in order to protect his own privacy (the same reason I can't elaborate anymore on the details here).

    We all knew this stuff already - how the media distorts and just plain makes stuff up to get a story. But to see it second hand is an eye opener. (I am kind of disappointed that those Pauline Hanson photos are fakes).

    03 March 2009

    Old Numbers, Fresh Thinking


    If you're nostalgic for the heady days of the 1990s, this really is your time. The Dow Jones is now at it's lowest level since 1997. Last time it was below 7000, Princess Diana was still alive, Chumbawumba still seemed like a fun song and I was still wearing a school uniform*.

    We could go into a detailed analysis of why this is happening, or alternatively just blame AIG. American Insurance Group reported the largest quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history, despite receiving $150 billion as part of the corporate bailout.

    Who the hell is the CEO at AIG, and can I have their job? I've absolutely no experience in insurance or managing anything more serious that asking the juniors to help with my paperwork. But I'm sure I could lose $62 billion in three months. Heck, I could even lose it in a more fun way. There are 116,000 AIG employees worldwide, so that's over $50,000 each for them all to take luxury vacations.

    Maybe it is time to look at how CEOs are nurtured and rise through the ranks. Something has gone very wrong. Maybe we could try elevating ordinary workers to senior corporate positions, a six month trial perhaps. Us schlubs could hardly do worse than what we have at the moment.


    * For practical purposes not titillation.

    20 February 2009

    Right Wing Reasoning


    If you're not eating, hungover, or otherwise at risk of nausea, go read this article by Ann Coulter.

    Stopped screaming?

    Ann Coulter is not famed for her logic. But let me just blow her entire "argument" apart very simply...

    Most single mothers are not single by choice. Their poverty - which is the main risk to their children - is not their choice.

    And as for the college-educated single mothers by choice, there is no evidence that their children are harmed (and are likely to do well by having a committed, caring, older and better educated parent, and also likely a parental support network; having put this much thought into parenthood, these women are likely to make sure they get things right).

    There no doubt are women who irresponsibly enter into single parenthood without the resources to adequately support their children, but they would be a tiny minority of single mothers.

    Let's just thank heaven that Coulter has never met the right man for her and is so against single motherhood. At least we know the line ends here.

    16 February 2009

    The Definition of Bogans


    I came across this on a Biggest Loser forum, and it was so apt, and amusing, I just had to share...

    "Live in the outer western suburbs and have low education levels. Usually work in low paid and menial jobs i.e. factories and supermarkets. Give BBQs where everyone brings their own meat, hamburger patties, cheap breakfast sausages and massive lumps of blade steak. If lucky, the host will provide a catering pack of nasty pre-prepared potato salad, half a wilted lettuce and a few tomatoes cut into chunks with a tin of beetroot and a couple of fried onions. There will be plenty of bottled but cheap brand BBQ sauce and tomato sauce. The hostess will also graciously provide a slab of semi frozen cheesecake, again in a caterer's pack.

    For the men, they will be seen entering the BBQ with a slab of beer on their shoulders (not their favourite brand, but the cheapest). They will attempt to leave with a slab of beer on their shoulders (their favourite brand). The women will arrive with a couple of bottles of fruity lexia and think they are upmarket because it is in a bottle, not in a cask. They will drink half a bottle and be totally shickered.

    The men will wear tshirts and jeans with either a cheap knock off pair of sneakers from Target which attempts to copy a pair of more expensive sneakers or a pair of cheap rubber thongs. The tshirt should feature a heavy metal 80's band. The women will wear cheap knockoffs resembling something Paris wore in the women's mag photo last week.

    They will drive what is normally classified as a 'hoon' car and will owe more than the car is worth to a finance company. It's generally acceptable to heavily decorate the car with fringed rear windows and a set of dice hanging from the rear view mirror. The more metallic and hideous the colour of the car, the better. The sound system in the car will cost more than it will cost them to educate their 4 children from kindergarten to legal school leaving age.

    General topics of conversation will be celebrities, pop music, TV programmes, local sporting teams and motor sports. If they get really into a conversation, they may stretch themselves and make a small statement about the price of food.

    They will own a rottweiler or a 'pig dog' for 'protection', but the kids will be living in mortal fear of the dogs who will receive better food and attention than the children."

    They don't always live in the Western Suburbs, either. I have been to that barbecue. Many times.

    11 February 2009

    Problems With Kevin's Package


    As other events in the world slowly seep back in to news bulletins, Kevin Rudd is now relying on all seven of the cross bench senators to get his fiscal stimulus package passed. I dearly hope he succeeds. Of course I do - I want my $950!

    I promise I'll use it wisely. And I will be generous, if not quite as generous as the victims of the Ingham floods in Queensland who, having their homes and businesses themselves, donated their flood relief assistance payments to the Victorian bushfire victims. I'm staggered in the face of such altruism and heart.

    But us childless middle-income earners never, ever get any goodies from the Government. So you can imagine our excitement at being included. Let us do good with the money, but please don't take it away from us.

    Some are doing well from the downturn. JB Hi Fi have reported that their profits increased 40% in the second half of 2008 (due in no small part to myself) and McDonalds have reported increased takings as well. Too poor or afraid to splash out on restaurant meals and holidays, we're turning into a nation of even fatter, lazier couch potatoes.

    ~~~~~

    Here we go again

    Tonight is the Socceroos World Cup qualifier against Japan. If we win tonight, then on the numbers we're almost guaranteed qualification to next year's tournament. It seems wrong to celebrate at a time like this, but if we win, tomorrow I'm wearing my Socceroos T shirt to Kinokinuya and running around the Japanese language section shouting "We won! Suckers!"

    I can't imagine why I don't have a boyfriend.

    09 February 2009

    The Victorian Bushfires


    If I may attempt a moment of levity, Nathan Rees has offered Victoria the help of the NSW Government. John Brumby replied "Thanks, but things are enough of a disaster down here already."

    But in all seriousness, disaster doesn't even seem to cover it. Catastrophe perhaps. I don't know.

    There were warnings this would be worse than Ash Wedesday, but I thought that was the hyperbole used to make people take the threat seriously and make preparations. Then When I first woke on Sunday the death toll was reported at 25. How the hell do 25 people die in a bush fire in this day and age? I wondered. I was thinking of isolated deaths, people fleeing in cars. Not whole towns being destroyed, with residents in them.

    Through the day the death toll mounted - 35, 49, 66, 84. And then you couldn't take it in any more. The sight of the Victorian Premier and hardened newspeople breaking down. The stories of unimaginable horror.

    As I write this, the death toll from the Victorian bush fires is 130, and still rising over the hours. It may go over 250. 750 homes have been destroyed. There are whole districts rescuers have yet to visit. Firefighters have battled blazes on two hours sleep, themselved battling burns. Some have lost their families as they tried to fight the fires.

    It's the worst natural disaster in Australian history. And I've run out of words. I don't want to watch and read updates, but I can't make myself stop.

    Please go here to make donations to help the fire victims.

    01 February 2009

    It Never Gets Any Better


    Forgive me if this post is slightly incoherent. You see, I'm still bereft. Yesterday I had a horrible hair cut.

    If you look through the archives for 2005, you'll see many posts complaining about bad hair cuts. I had short hair back then, and fell a frequent victim. Eventually I grew my hair out and only needed the occasional trim for the next few years. But now I'm back on the short hair wagon, and am vulnerable to disasters like yesterday...

    Recently I read that the boop-boop sound in the song Tainted Love "sounds like the car horn in a clown car". I don't know about you, but to me that's comedic genius. So when I was sitting in the chair at the hairdresser's yesterday and Tainted Love came on, I immediatley burst out laughing.

    I couldn't think of a way to explain to the hairdresser. She evidently thought I was laughing at her, and therefore punished me with a Betty-Rubble-Helmet thing.

    Don't laugh at the hairdressers.

    29 January 2009

    White Australian Pride


    A few years ago, I actually gave serious consideration to getting a Southern Cross tattooed on my shoulder.

    Thank god I didn't. At the time I just thought of it as a cool design, a constellation I liked to look at. It didn't mean then what it does now. Now it means "Hi! I'm a racist thug. Kiss the flag or get bashed".

    It's the great Let's Not talk About It: that Australia is a racist country, and it getting worse. At Circular Quay on Australia Day the blogger witnessed crowds of drunken teenagers, draped in the Australian flag (isn't wearing the flag illegal?) yelling about the country being full and loving Australia or leaving it. There were police everywhere but none did anything to stop any of this although most of the offenders were clearly intoxicated and underage.

    Things got even worse over at Manly, where crowds went on a rampage, jumping on cars with "ethnic" occupants, smashing shop windows and generally acting like little shits. But perhaps the worst aspect of this was hearing figures such as the Manly Mayor, denying the riot was rascist!

    So here then is the Howard government's legacy to Australia's youth: thuggery, fear, intolerance and mistrust. These sorts of incidents were unthinkable even five years ago, but we now have a generation on our hands who can't remember life before the Howard government and think this sort of behaviour is fine - they grew up seeing the goverment do it on a grander scale. They've turned the Southern Cross in 2009 into what the Union Jack was in the U.K. in 1985, and turned Australian pride into something all thinking Australians should be vaugely ashamed of.

    For once, the Telegraph actually published a thoughtful piece on this issue. Well worth the read and no offensive comments.

    21 January 2009

    Five Years Later: An Anniversary Post


    There's little to celebrate about me. I'm dull, pedantic and not much fun on long trips. But today, the Xander and Nico Pod marks a milestone few blogs reach (at least so far): our fifth anniversary. So forgive me if I crow a little.

    I've told the story of how we began in previous anniversary posts (see links on the left) but I've not much considered what came from this. No publishing deal, obviously. And I haven't met anyone interesting, although there was that stalker a few years ago, which was a brief if disconcerting thrill.

    But the blog has given me an outlet for what I've loved the most - evolving over time, through the personal, then the political, and on to photography, with lots of stops along the way to rant about whatever was irking me most at the time. I now look back at starting the blog as the beginning of my second life - after a traumatic 2003, it marked my return to the real world. (Not that it was much of a world - Howard was PM, Bush was the U.S. President, and both would win elections later that year. At least it provided me with plenty of fodder).

    So here we are, five years later. I never dreamed it would last this long, not in my worst nightmares. As has happened so many times over the years, I've no idea how to end this post. Which seems the most fitting way of all to finish.