Archives: May 2004

31 May 2004, Comments (0)

Possum Magic

Author: Helen

Holy sheeit! Look at the size of this…

The Cast Iron Balcony has been given a prominent position in Nick Possum’s Werrong Lane Newsagency. Nick Possum’s site, Whispers from the Mean Streets, has been boosted by his latest piece on Nick Berg being picked up by Richard Neville. Although I’m currently underwhelmed by Neville, for the same reason as John Quiggin is pissed off with him, apparently it has done wonders for the traffic.

Thanks for the link, Nick. I feel “humbled”: Media speak for swollen head. I’ll be over it soon, promise. Just one suggestion– Instead of one great big graphic link to the Cast Iron Balcony, reduce it to thumbnail size and put on more blog links. Have a Blog section.

Just a bit of Cast Iron Background here for people who aren’t from Melbourne, or perhaps even Australia. The name of this blog was based on the writer Hal Porter’s autobiography, The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony. The first few years of Porter’s life were spent in a typical Victorian terrace house in Bellair street, Kensington. Which had, as they all have– (except the ones with the mad 1970s Landlord) — beautiful ornate cast iron balconies. People like me, on the cusp of Baby Boomer and Gen X, were lucky enough to be able to rent such places as share houses in the 1970s and 80s before our housing market went feral, so we have had the rich soul nourishment of high ceilings, moulded archways and halls wide enough to prop bikes in.

I gave the URL of this blog to my friend Frank, remembering he grew up in Kensington himself. Turns out he lived in Bellair street, too. He went back there to have a look recently, and spotted another famous Australian icon, Barry O. Jones, watching from his Cast Iron Balcony. (There you see, great minds, etcetera.) Frank asked Barry where the original Porter house was. Unfortunately, it has been demolished. A kindergarten stands on that site now. Well, better than a MacDonald’s.

As Salam Pax said,


I think I can tell after this experience what, for me, the difference between a journalist and a blogger is. A journalist has to actively run after things, a blogger just watches and takes things as they come.

Like someone who sits and watches from a cast iron balcony.

19 May 2004, Comments (0)

Blogging Light to Variable

Author: Helen

Blogging will be light for the next few days/weeks, as my real life is behaving even more like an exceptionally poorly scripted episode of Neighbours than usual. Which is saying something, I can tell you.

I can’t really blog stuff like Abu Ghraib, because others do that sort of thing much better. But I think this post by Long Story, Short Pier (via Barista) really sums up what many of us are feeling.


At the moment. The current juncture. This place where we’ve found ourselves. My fingers get all tangled up in the keys and when I pound the desk in frustration it makes an ominous croak. I can speak well enough, though I have to make an effort to keep my voice down and all my jokes are brittle and if I’ve snapped at you in the past few days, it’s not your fault, and I am sorry. Sometimes my hands curl into fists when I’m not looking. It’s not that I really want to hit anybody because I’ve never hit anybody in my life but I want to hit somebody only that wouldn’t do any good, not any good at all. And it’s not the people who did the things they’ve done that I want to hit. It’s the people who say that what was done was okay, was fine, was what we’d all do anyway, was the American way, was gay feminist pornography, was what has to be done to get anywhere in this world, was nothing more than they deserved, was no big deal, was free speech. And I want to call them monsters because they are saying monstrous things but I can’t call them monsters. I can’t hit them. I can’t snap a baton against the backs of their knees and force them to kneel in fear before a snarling dog for the horrible things they’ve said, that they pretend I ought to believe. I can’t put hoods over their heads to shut them up. I can’t hit them. I can’t pretend I am better than this by pretending they are less than human because that’s how we get into these messes in the first place. ….

Go and read the whole thing.

Then the Nick Berg thing. And I was driving home when the ABC newsreader said something like: The beheading of Nick Berg has taken the heat out of the Abu Graib torture scandal. And sure enough, soon afterwards I read a quote from George Bush who now felt vindicated– there, you see, they have revealed their savagery, so we’re not so bad after all and we can keep doing more of the same.

That’s when I knew we’re all doomed.

MacDiva is wondering what happens when we lose our heads; not for the squeamish.

11 May 2004, Comments (0)

Fester Downunder…Bryllup!

Author: Helen

I like Mary Donaldson. She doesn’t look like a fake-tanned Lady who lunches, and she can do real stuff, like crew sailing boats. She looks like she has a lot more brain cells to rub together than the last unfortunate Aussie Royal (sorry, Womens Weekly readers). Crown Prince Frederick looks like a genuinely nice guy, too. But from the Australian end, even their Fairytale Wedding™ isn’t quite an irony-free zone. “The project manager of Denmark’s Trade Commission, June Skeggs, said yesterday that she had been contacted by many revellers planning to celebrate Friday night’s royal wedding in Copenhagen.
“They want to know where they can get Danish food, and they’re been asking about Danish flags,” she said…….Dannebrog, the 115-year-old Danish Club in Albert Park, will be opening it doors for partying.”

I wonder how many of the people partying at Dannebrog would remember Arne Rinnan and how we treated him? I wonder if they remember how our government revealed itself as a right bunch of weasels to the Danish government during that embarrassing episode in 2001, where the Danes repeatedly asked us to observe the law of the sea and our government (hiding behind a politicised public service) replied with “Make us then, nerny nerny ner ner.”

And then there’s the PM’s Wedding present.
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9 May 2004, Comments (0)

Misuses of music

Author: Helen

Crooning versus Hooning”: For those not fortunate/unfortunate enough to live in Melbourne, Chapel Street is the clubbing and fashionista centre of Melbourne, kind of a poor man’s Rodeo Drive I suppose. For the last few years, it has been the tradition for young smart young men from the outer suburbs to drive their hot Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons, all modified to the nines with spoilers and speccy paint and I don’t know what else, slo-o-owly down Chapel street with deafening doof-doof coming from the (tinted) windows.
The local council has responded by introducing loud piped music in the hoons’ favourite car park: Dean Martin, Henry Mancini, Vivaldi and Mozart. It’s claimed this sends Da Boyz running, though I can’t really understand how the piped Dean Martin can be heard over the Doof-Doof.

Now (as this article admits) this is not the first time this has been done. As a regular train commuter I can confirm that Footscray station has been playing Beethoven’s Pastorale, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and other popular classics for several years now. I’m not sure how I feel about the Pastorale, one of my favourite pieces of music, now being indelibly associated in my mind with Footscray station. However, there does seem to be a complete absence of gangs of Gangsta Rappers, so I’d say it’s quite effective, much like that tiger repellent (Nup, no tigers round here!)

Looking further afield, the misuse of music segues from the merely amusing to the crass to the downright sinister.
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9 May 2004, Comments (0)

The Pink Goo Disaster

Author: Helen

Imagine that Vernor Vinge’s “singularity”actually happens. In other words, in approximately 2020, artificial intelligence overtakes human intelligence.

Now, one of the essential characteristics of the Singularity is that we can’t predict what will happen then. But what if, as the comments on this Electrolite post suggest, the AI that overtakes us is evolved from Spambots… and “make money” or “sell stuff” is their only aim? Oh, dear. Hope they’re wrong.

Good spine-chilling fun.

I don’t know why some people think the Fairfax press is so left wing. It’s full of articles by, or about, the right wing world view. As an AGE and SMH reader I certainly don’t feel like a member of the chattering classes having my comfortable world view reinforced. More often it’s a window into how the other half thinks. Good for me, I suppose.

Kevin Donnelly, who works for the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, has published a new book claiming that

Schools have been hijacked by “new-age class warrior” teachers more committed to promoting homosexuality, multiculturalism and Aborigines than teaching the three Rs…
…public education is in crisis because political correctness, state-sponsored education fads and left-wing unions have skewed the teacher’s role from objectivity to indoctrination….


By the pricking of my thumbs, a rightwing thinktank this way comes.


The book, published today, was commissioned by the Menzies Research Centre. Its chairman and aspiring Liberal MP, Malcolm Turnbull, said recommendations of an earlier education paper for the centre “have already found their way into government policy”, and the book would spark discussion about the quality of the curriculum.

Looks like Mr Donnelly needs a dose of the three Rs himself. “Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural …” he wrote. Forgotten is his education in English grammar, obviously.
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Prime Minister John Howard’s office has denied allegations that he took instructions from broadcaster Alan Jones to reappoint Professor David Flint as head of the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA).
Rival broadcaster John Laws has aired an allegation that Mr Jones told him he had pressured the Prime Minister to have Professor Flint reappointed.
*EDIT*
John Laws said on Southern Cross radio in Sydney this morning that he was at a dinner party with Mr Jones and others on November 28, 2000, when Mr Jones warned him not to criticise Professor Flint.
“Alan Jones then went on to say in fact, ‘I was so determined to have David Flint reelected that I personally went to Kirribilli House and instructed John Howard to reappoint David Flint or he would not have the support of Alan Jones in the forthcoming election’,” Mr Laws said.

Chris Sheil is sceptical: after all,


Why in the hell wouldn’t His Darkness want to reappoint ol’ Flinty? What kinda influence do you have to have to bribe Jack to reappoint an elitist, monarchist, conservative, flayer-of-lefty elites, pucker-voiced, aspiring GG, Alston-sympathising, Parrot love-letter writing, pro-government flunky like ol’ Flinty?

True, but the Parrot seems to have done something like this before. (Tsk, trust those nasty Reds to save a Guardian article like this one.)


Michael Costa…
last week replaced Whelan as Police Minister. [November 2001].
Costa’s ascendancy is a variation of a classic ditty: “The working class
can kiss my arse, I’m in the Parliament at last”.
Made a Minister after only 17 days as a Member of the NSW Legislative
Council (Upper House), appointed to replace the retired right winger Johno
Johnson, his unprecedented rise can be attributed primarily to radio
broadcaster Alan Jones.
A week before his ministerial appointment was made public, Costa ó with
the blessing of Premier Carr ó went to the Jones residence and over dinner
had a chat with the radio host and his guests, former detective Tim Priest
and Richard Basham, a Sydney University criminologist. The three have
carried out an on-air campaign against the way the NSW police force is
being run.

This is a sick person, and I’m not talking about Sedgwick.