Archives: May 2005



Give it up now, this is just too ugly.

26 May 2005, Comments (0)

Oh, the Heritage

Author: Helen

Fantastic decision to finally get the cows out of the Alps.



While the National Parks people and other supporters of the decision have been quoting the numerous studies which have shown how much cows have damaged the soil and the watercourses in the high country (and are not reducing blazing), the grazing lobby have been (1) chucking hissy fits and threatening various theatrical actions involving horse riding, and (2) talking in highly emotive language – history coming to an end, tradition, the Man from Snowy River (a poem in which no cow reared its head)…

Interesting isn’t it. Because it’s the rotten greenies who are supposed to be emotional. That’s a handy epithet people love to throw at us. But when they don’t really have anything to say on a scientific or economic level, boy, the emotional blackmail is coming out bigtime.

See Ian Campbell’s silly cowboy stunt next to Parliament house tonight (26/5)?* If we’d done that back in October 2003, we’d’ve been water cannoned or something. Prepare yourself for lots of cute horsies clip-clopping up Bourke st at any moment.

*”…even breaking into a canter,” fawned the Age House on the Hill politicogossip column. A feat many little girls manage to pull off every weekend in this country.

26 May 2005, Comments (0)

Book, book, book

Author: Helen

Interesting Crooked Timber post (Henry Farrell) on academic bestsellers.

Which academic books are fit for human consumption? Or, to put it less polemically, which books written for academic purposes deserve, should find (or in some cases have found) a more general readership among intelligent people who are either (a) non-academics, or (b) arenÌt academic specialists in the discipline that the book is written for. Nominations invited.

Background: I did an Hons degree (mostly history) back in 1979, then switched to the wonderful world of IT, so I feel my humanities education is very antideluvian. But lots of the books quoted here are books I loved at university, so now I don’t feel as though my world view is so redundant.

You can’t half tell I’m an annoying lefty crypto-socialist bleeding heart. Here are my points of connection with the Crooked Timber list:

E.P.Thompson, Making of the English Working Class (Henry’s first nomination).

Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (from ‘Robin’). This was a real “OMG WTF” moment. I always thought this book, which I loved dearly through my undergraduate days, would have been too obscure to rate a mention.
Thomas Kuhh, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (Predictable sneering from science majors. Kindly get…er, over it!)

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (‘Uncle Kvetch’, ‘Des Von Bladen’). Still circulating obviously, as I read a reference to it on a blog just a few months ago.

None of these titles include words like Metaphor, Postmodernity, Subculture or shopping, so you can tell I’m a bit past it.

I would nominate E.P.Thompson and Erving Goffman, too. I still have them. And to cheat a bit– well a lot really — to nominate something that’s straight up popular writing, and on audio as well– The Mark Steel lectures and the Mark Steel Revolution. If you’re trying to wean a spotty adolescent off the Jedi and onto the French Revolution, this guy might do better than Eric Hobsbawm just for starters.

And- I’m buying Carol Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws. Who could resist a title like that?

22 May 2005, Comments (0)

Public Nuisance # 1 & 2

Author: Helen

Public Nuisance #1: Guy Sebastian

Against my better judgement, I had a look at that towering tome of intellectual journalism, MX, on the train. Says Guy Sebastian is about to open “a support clinic for women in an attempt to curb the abortion rate.

Obvious what kind of support that would mean, of course. He’s a member of the Assemblies of God church, after all.

You’ll be stoked to know that his co-funder and co-founder is “one of his singers, Gary Pinto, previously of group CDB”. Yes, that’s just what women want, to be told what they ought to do by teenage or twentysomething boy band members.

I’m so obtuse, I admit it never occurred to me that young, wet behind the ears male crooners were the experts best placed to advise us on our reproductive decisions.

Caz has the balls to come out against this one, even though with Cacky the Wonder foetus in situ she’s risking some unpleasant mummy drive-bys from wingnuts for doing so. (Second TSSH reference in as many posts, this is getting to be a habit…) As one of her regulars points out, Guy’s troll-doll looks are probably the best way to promote abstinence anyway.


Public nuisance #2: John Abbott

We all thought “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” in October 2004 when John Abbott, the founder of the Blackshirts group, was found guilty of stalking and retired to the Gold Coast.

That’s the guy whose group used to dress up in pathetic Zorro-like outfits and strut up and down outside single mums’ houses with megaphones, calling them whores and adulterers and recommending the death penalty for them.

There was an article in this saturday’s Good Weekend on this clown, which would have provided much hilarity here, but unfortunately I think the SO must have thrown it out, and I can’t for the life of me get it on Google. So let me just quote something from memory. Abbott, who has remained celibate for about a decade since his marriage breakdown, clad in black short shorts and bling a la Warwick Capper, muses that perhaps it isn’t fair to deprive the female population of himself because of his high ideals.


This wingnut has done damage to both mothers and fathers everywhere he goes. He is a menace, even if he is funny.

Update: CrazyBrave has the full quote (anyone having problems with comments, I apologise.)

“It’s not easy. It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity.” He puffs himself back up. “I’ve been asked many times:”Why would I deprive a young lady of the pleasure of myself? I answer: “Why should I make an adulteress of her?”

You can’t make this stuff up.

This is going to be a bit out of character. I don’t usually stray into the kind of territory TSSH portrays so deliciously– the life and loves of the would-be famous and celebrity idiots. And while TSSH treats this story with an uncharacteristically misty-eyed niceness, I’m going to be snarky. Very snarky. So if you want nice, read no further.

This story is partly about cricket groupie and uber-skank Christine Padfield and her relationship with David Hookes, the cricketer who was accidentally killed outside the Beaconsfield hotel in January 2004.

You could hear the sound of vomit hitting buckets all over the land as ABC’s Australian Story presented Ms Padfield through a vaseline lens, her cheer squad admiring her “dignity” as she complained about not being allowed into ICU while the family was discussing whether or not to turn off life support. For heaven’s sake, what about bimbos’ rights? Eh? Isn’t Dad’s young girlfriend part of the family these days? It highlighted some of the primary qualities you need to date older married men: (1) blonde and cute, (2) completely clueless about boundaries, ethics and behaviour.

Anyway, enough of poor Padfield (“Cricket Pads”?) because I think she paid a bit of her karmic debt after witnessing such a horrific accident up close, and also because her desperate bid for recognition backfired badly when a few of David Hookes’ OTHER girlfriends came out on the Australian Story guestbook. Mwahahah. OK. Enough! These people have had more oxygen than they deserve already.

Later the same night, another episode of Desperate Housewives went to air: not so much romanticisation of infidelity there, but more trivialisation. Infidelity’s the all-purpose entertainment staple at the moment, if you’ve noticed, and it’s all too easy to dismiss it as not all that big a deal. I mean, who minds what consenting adults do in private? I probably used to think that way, if I thought about it at all.

Thought, past tense. Yes, I do have a point in all this.

The point is that it would be a real step forward if the true nature of infidelity and its effects on betrayed partners was better known. Unfortunately, it is usually portrayed either as (1) not all that big a deal (desperate housewives) or (2) hugely romantic and necessary, where the marriage-that-is dead-in-all-but-name ™ must give way to the beautiful-younger-soul-mate ™ (Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Cricket Pads.) Both flavours are irresistible to the 20- or 30-something adultescent.

Along with this package comes the double sting: Something must be wrong with the spouse or partner. He/she must have just been too boring, or too unlovable, or too ugly, or too something. Predictably, the AS guestbook comments started in on his wife. Padfield’s cheer squad pointed to the fact that Hookes’s marriage was starting to break down at the time of his death. Well, he’d been cheating on his wife for two years! (never mind the eight or ten years with the …um,others!) Perhaps any relationship would be under strain.

The reality of infidelity is actually very different to the spin.

Relationships go through stages. We all know about the first stage. It’s the starry-eyed “new relationship energy” where you just root each other stupid and the faults or irritations of each partner are routinely downplayed.

Fast forward to a few years into marriage, after the kids have come, and you have reached a couple more stages. Now reality has set in. There is a household to run with mortgage or rent. There are car repairs, renovations, relations. Children take up an extraordinary amount of time and energy. Perhaps one of them is having difficulties at school or has health issues. If you want a night out, you need a babysitter… and there’s always the exhaustion of parenthood. There are health worries and career disappointments and pressures. There are body changes that go with ageing. With luck or intelligence or whatever, there is the realisation that keeping the relationship strong involves a bit of work. But this isn’t hyped much in the media. It’s the “romantic” affairs that get hyped. And it’s easy to think that it’s a much more fun way out than working on the relationship, which seems a depressing concept until you experience the alternative.

What the media/entertainment industry doesn’t usually show us is that the betrayed person in an affair triangle experiences a kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome. This may seem excessive, but it has been documented many times. The betrayed partner will experience a state of hyperarousal for some months. They will have persistent, intrusive thoughts similar to the flashbacks of PTSD (often, of course, of things they haven’t seen, but imagine. Of course, their imagination is often worse than the reality.) They will find it hard to keep food down, experience nausea, chest pains and vomiting, and losing a lot of weight is common as well as hair loss and other symptoms. They experience sleep disturbances and nightmares. They will have problems with concentration and memory. They will go through stages similar to the Kubler-Ross stages of grieving, which is what they are really doing, for the death of the relationship they thought they had. They experience a catastrophic loss of self-esteem and trust in others.

Here’s a few articles for anyone who might have a need for them.

Recovery time is approximately two years, just as a vague estimate.

It is a very, very big deal.

Unfortunately, the betrayed partner is nearly always demonised by the unfaithful one (and of course by the affair partner) while the affair is going on. He’s a poor unfortunate trapped in a loveless marriage whose wife doesn’t understand him; the affair partner is convinced that she’ll never, never become such a worthless termagant, but will be eternally loving and understanding. (Switch genders for the reverse situation.)

While only a minority of cheaters end up marrying or living with the affair partner, these relationships usually fail anyway. Of course, the reason is that they move from fun, play and secrecy onto the next stage– shock, horror–reality! Mortgage, children, car repairs, arguments and the same old emotional baggage not worked on. Had Hookesy lived, that pattern would have played out again and again.

But the reality of affairs and the trauma of recovering from them are just not touched on in film and TV. As for print media, there’s an occasional drop in the bucket to contend against the ongoing airbrushing and romantic treatment of infidelity. So every neurotic or predatory young gel can imagine she’s frigging Anna Karenina.

16 May 2005, Comments (0)

Nude Bushwalker alert

Author: Helen


Great weather we’ve been having in Melbourne – we could actually do with a lot more rain but up in the Brisbane Ranges two weeks ago, it was the kind of cobalt-enamel-blue day that is just colour-co-ordinated with blazing red earth tracks and lush grass trees. The grass trees are like rather benign green monsters in a child’s book. You can picture them tottering down the mountainside after dark and gathering, chattering, in the nearest footy field.

Since I moved to the Western subs I discovered the gorgeous gorges out West. Werribee Gorge with its string of little swimming holes, Anakie Gorge and my favourite – the Lerdederg Gorge. They are sensational places. Sometimes you feel as if you might be in the Northern Territory. Well, I like to imagine it, anyway. NT lite, without the crocs.

My Dad wanted to do the Anakie Gorge circuit walk– he’s 84 but would scorn to walk up and back on the flat gorge track. He wanted to do the 10 Ks circuit, minimum. So I was googling for a walking map of the Anakie Gorge and I found this guy’s site.

Thank god for that, because I do like walking in those places, and they just happen to be his… er… stamping ground. Lerdederg Gorge being his favourite. Now if I encounter him on a nice stroll there, with or without the kids, I’ll know it’s just this harmless eccentric and won’t run screaming all the way back to the carpark.

I had done a bit of this (naked bushwalking) when I was a teenager but life and other commitments had interfered for many years. It is hard to describe the feeling of being naked in the bush with the breeze caressing your body and the sensation of oneness with nature. A side benefit is that most of the bugs seem to leave you alone as they are not attracted to the colours of clothing. You are also more conscious of things that could scratch and avoid them. One thing that has to looked at is sunburn but then that is the case anyway. …

….As its not strictly legal to be naked in the State or National Parks an eye has to be on who else is in the area. Most clothed walkers do not worry too much and give a knowing smile when they pass but some who have children with them seem to be rather protective of the kids. I have been caught a couple of times and had a few near misses.


That kind of answers my question about how he copes with the scratchiness of it all, but what about the sunburnt willy problem? and does he wear shoes? This suggests he doesn’t:

I even went to the extreme of disposing of all my bush gear. Sure, I was helped with this when some was stolen and most of the rest of it was thrown out by an overly eager landlord. Nevertheless, I did get rid of it.


There’s even a club you can join — the Bare Bushwalkers.

Which reminds me, my National Parks subscription is due. They do ripper walks, all grades, and mercy, they do it fully clothed. Works for me.

3 May 2005, Comments (0)

Readings (with Pitchers)

Author: Helen


Why is it that so many good bloggers are also cartoonists? I’m thinking of Ampersand (Barry Deutsch), Sedgwick the G-G (Hot Damn! will you look at this one), Tom Tomorrow, and Invisible Shoebox, to name just a few.

Lately I’ve stumbled on BAGnews notes, where cartoonist/psychologist/writer Michael Shaw dissects photos in the news.

I remember reading John Berger’s Ways of Seeing when I was younger, and loving it. BAGnews notes mines news photography for its meanings as Berger does fine art. A photograph which, at first sight, would have limited interest for me, becomes fascinating under this treatment–for example, this picture of a California freeway.

Look at his take on picture editors’ attitudes to the environment, the Terry Schiavo case and other images which might pass unnoticed by someone with a less practiced eye. Be prepared to spend hours.

I’ve been wallowing in some excellent bad writing; it’s very cheering, somehow. Tim Lambert pointed me to Matt Taibbi’s review of Thomas Friedman’s new book, The World is Flat. Disclaimer: I haven’t read Friedman myself, but the review is very funny. One of Tim’s commenters directed me to The Datsun and the Shoe Tree, spoofing The Lexus and the Olive Tree. (Apologies to any Friedmanites who think this is a bit unfair. I suppose you could ask how I could find a spoof funny when I haven’t read the original, but I cacked myself reading Cold Comfort farm and I’ve never read much of the kind of fiction being mocked there, either. Go figure.)

Visiting Making Light I noticed Theresa Nielsen Hayden is enjoying the Taibbi Friedman review, too. In the process she points to heaps of other enjoyable bad stuff as well: William McGonagall, Amanda McKittrick Ros, and Petley studio postcards (the stuff of nightmares!)