Archives: November 2005

28 Nov 2005, Comments Off on Something from Nick Possum

Something from Nick Possum

Author: Helen

You might have noticed that in the previous post I was putting shit on Her Majesty’s government. This will soon be classed as sedition, and I will be preemptively put in the slammer. (I’m trying to imagine what Australia will look like once there are more people in jail than on the outside.)

You might have also noticed the very fine graphic. Here it is again:


The .gif is from Nick Possum of Werrong Lane, private eye and seditionist extraordinaire, who invites you and any other bloggers to nick it from this website and put it on your blog. Once the new “anti-terror” laws go through, as they will, he’ll put out a new one with “proposed” removed.

Here’s a smaller version, suitable for sidebars.


Put it on your seditious blogs now.

Update 29/11: Originals replaced with (even) sharper versions.

27 Nov 2005, Comments Off on I R not impressed

I R not impressed

Author: Helen


As the rough IR beast slouches toward Canberra to be born, its supporters fall over themselves to find the most stupid historical reference or metaphor.

Here’s Peter Hendy of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It is a significant historic step, moving us form a horse and buggy 19th Century model of industrial relations, finally to a 21st Century model,” he said.

If only he’d paid attention to ‘Enry ‘Iggins,

a founding father of the constitution, a High Court judge and president of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The dereglated industrial relations environment of the 19th century, which he described as “rude and barbarous”, was replaced by a “new province for law and order”, the system of conciliation and arbitration.

…This legislation is the antithesis of the “law and order” that H.B. Higgins was addressing. Rather than introducing a new philosophy for the 21st century it is largely an attempt to return to the legal environment of the 19th century. As such, it is a recipe for the sort of uncivilised community that an independent compulsory conciliation and arbitration system, based on fairness to human beings, was designed to avoid.

In other words, it’s the exact opposite of the Chamber of Commerce spin.

Then there’s “one backbencher”, not named, who “likens the public’s fears about IR to the Y2K anxiety: “The public will hold their breath, wake up ó and find nothing’s changed.””

How many ways is the Y2K problem not like the IR reforms? Let’s just say that any programs or embedded automated systems which weren’t Y2K compatible, so the theory went, would either work or not work on January 1, 2000. You are not going to get out of bed on the day the IR reforms take effect and find everything has suddenly changed. It’s going to be a much longer process of attrition, especially for people already in jobs.

Judith Troeth is the chairperson of the Senate IR bill “enquiry”, as the Michelle Grattan article I linked to quaintly describes it. Here’s her “enquiry”:

“This is the height of hysteria Ö In 12 months’ time people will be wondering what the fuss was about because most people will simply keep what they’ve got.”

Come the next election, I hope, Troeth will be the first casualty.

23 Nov 2005, Comments Off on In which another icon bites the dust and I finally play some Baaaaarnesy

In which another icon bites the dust and I finally play some Baaaaarnesy

Author: Helen


In another life I used to play drums in various Melbourne bands. In the early 1980s I was part of the burgeoning scene of post-punk “little bands” who wore black and played at venues like the Crystal Ballroom (Seaview hotel), Esplanade, the Tote et cetera.

In those days, there was a degree of tribal bum-sniffing between MSM (mainstream musicians) and alternative band people, which was very much like what is currently happening between the MSM (mainstream media) and bloggers. The MSM, then as now, repeatedly asserted its superiority over the self-taught amateurs trying to insinuate themselves in their territory, while the little band people cultivated an attitude of reverse snobbery.

So, in my youth I never appreciated Cold Chisel as perhaps I should have. This was just personal taste. I don’t like the sound of men straining to sing above their range, often associated with overly tight trousers (coincidence?) and I find their rhythm section kind of stiff– for instance, Cheap Wine, a mechanical four-four with not much syncopation in it. Nor do I like the 1970’s style fake American accent (“Cheap Wahn”). I did quite like Together Now.

Tribally speaking, Cold Chisel and Barnesy were the mainstream par excellence, played on high rotation on the kind of radio station where the DJs wore mullets and shouted a lot. They were the boys’ Boy band. Then there was their eternal appeal to the kind of people who wander cluelessly into audiences from the front bar and yell, “Play some Baaaaarnesy!!!” Is there any small local band who hasn’t had this happen to them?

But still… A while ago I went to see Little Fish, which is partly about echoes from the eighties, and so features the Cold Chisel song Flame Trees sung by a Cabramatta kids’ school choir. I found myself with the song stuck in my head and thinking what a great chorus it had, after all.

I got out the acoustic and downloaded the lyrics and chords from here (be sure to clean your internet files and cookies if you do the same.) It’s not the easiest song in the world for a kitchen-table guitar player like me to learn (more than three chords), but I’ve nearly got it nailed now.

The Flame Trees lyrics are wonderful. The song broad-brushes out the whole background with breathtaking economy.

The kids are driving and Saturday afternoon just passed me by
I’m just savouring familiar sights
We have a history, this town and I…

Straight away, we know his age group (old enough to have grownup kids), and what he’s doing (visiting the town where he used to live. The chorus suggests it’s somewhere in Northern NSW or Queensland.)

Number one is to find old friends and say “you’re doing well
After all this time you boys look just the same”
Number two is the happy hour at one of two hotels
And settle in to play “do you remember so and so”
Number three is to never say her name.

You can see and feel the scene he’s setting, and we can sense the back story even without the details.

My favourite part of the song is a sudden key change which expresses perfectly a man whose thoughts are straying onto unwelcome territory, in a hurry to change the subject to boastful talk about his rugby days, in case he starts thinking too much.

And there’s a girl, she’s fallin’ in love near where the pianola stands
With a young local factory auto worker, just holdin’ hands
And I’m wondering will he go or will he stay

(Key change up) Do you remember, nothing stopped us on the field in our day

Googling, I find Flame Trees was written by Don Walker of Tex, Don and Charlie, and Steve Prestwich. These two were responsible for most of the band’s Greatest Hits. Since Don Walker was born in North Queensland and Prestwich in Liverpool (UK), Iíd bet on Don as the one whose life experience informs Flame Trees. But as his biosays, ìhis private life needn’t be of any interest to you, sunshine.î Fair enough.

Still can’t come at Cheap Wine, though.

A Little Wray of Sunshine (has gone from the world)

Link Wray, RIP 1929 – 2005

Guitar player Link Wray, who invented the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists, has died aged 76.

A native of Dunn, North Carolina, Wray’s style is considered the blueprint for heavy metal and punk music.
Wray’s is best known for his 1958 instrumental
Rumble, 1959’s Rawhide and 1963’s Jack the Ripper. His music has appeared in
movies such as Pulp Fiction, Independence Day and Desperado.

His style is said to have inspired many other rock musicians, including Pete Townsend of the Who, but also David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Steve Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen have been quoted as saying that Wray and Rumble inspired them to become musicians.

Talking of those long-ago days of the eighties. My friends and I had Link Wray on the turntable (black vinyl, yes, not CDs) non stop. Rumble and Jack the Ripper were part of the soundtrack of our lives. Jack the Ripper‘s playing in my head now. Goodbye, Link.

15 Nov 2005, Comments (0)

Look! Behind you!

Author: Helen

I realise that up here on the Balcony, there hasn’t been enough comment on the slew of draconian legislation ™ being rushed (I would say rammed) through Parliament. Being a slow, behind-the-scenes sort of blog, we are not light enough on our feet to keep up with the multiple legislative cluster bombs going off around us.
A real Capital-P-political blogger determined to keep up with this month’s events would need to be a kind of literary Jackie Chan. Whoooooa, there’s an amendment coming that way! (Thwack!) Look! Behind you… (Chop!) Look out for those two hundred pages they just added to the Bill… (Hiyaaaaaah!) Guillotined debate! Uungggghhh!!

In this political melee, it’s easy for the government to slip something really nasty through, while the public and media are occupied trying to fight off the IR and anti-Terrorist ninjas. And that’s what they’re going to do.

Illustration: Yucca Mountain waste storage facility, Nevada

14 Nov 2005, Comments (0)

So who’s going then?

Author: Helen

After the last National Day of Action, for which I and the rest of the ten or so who make up the unionised part of our workplace marched down to the CBD for fully two hours, I got an email from the Medium-big-boss. Not a sacking kind of email. No, more of a more-sorrow-than-anger kind of email. I am really disappointed in you.
Yeah, that’s how it’s done around here. We’re a nice workplace. The MBB will occasionally take us to lunch if we do good, or the Big Boss will do a barbeque. And they react to union bargaining like disappointed parents discovering the kids have taken to smoking crack. They don’t like EBA’s, either.

This week, the emails started again.

Any employee attending the day of protest will face dismissal, unless they advise management beforehand…

Oh aye, that makes me feel relaxed and comfortable, all right.

So what did I do? Did I stand up, march into the BB’s office and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more. And I’m going on the **@#$ day of action! For all the good it’s going to do.”

No, I did what any spirited, red-blooded, socialistic mum with a mortgage would have done. I wimped it. When I heard most of the boy’s teachers were on strike and we would have to keep them home on the NDA, I applied in indecent haste for a day’s annual leave on the understanding that it was to look after the innocent child who would otherwise be wandering the streets.

And if I happened to take him into town for an educational visit – the Immigration Museum, say– forgetting completely the NDA was on, and happened to bump into the CPSU…

We get to keep our jobs, for now. Most of us are lucky enough to be “knowledge workers”. But we shouldn’t get too complacent. Our leave was approved (after a long and meaningful pause), but names have been taken.

See you in the CBD.

(Image from here.)

10 Nov 2005, Comments (0)

Blogging tending south-easterly

Author: Helen

Off to the beach for a few days.

Be good.

7 Nov 2005, Comments (0)

Imaginable horror

Author: Helen


There’s been a lot of human misery about lately and too much of it has happened to children. There’s the horrific large scale misery, like the Pakistani earthquakes, New Orleans, Iraq. Then there’s the little domestic miseries, like the little fellow who spent two weeks in a flat with his dead mum, or the toddler attacked with an axe, or Jaidyn Leskie.

If the domestic horrors can make us cry, why aren’t we heading for the trauma ward when we read about the mass scale deaths? The clue is in the words journalists use– “unimaginable horror”. To put it another way, most of us are in denial for most of the day about what happens in the rest of the world, otherwise we’d go crazy. To put it another way: “It is so unreal, that one just dissociates, much like the victim of abuse or torture does during the event. It’s a kind of survival mechanism.” (Quote discovered serendipitously while googling something quite different.)

So if my mind can play this trick, why does an evening news item of an Australian toddler lost in the vastness of a national park, wandering off from his campsite, punch me right in the gut? Is it just my racist bias because I, too, have a curly haired, caucasian little boy? Or is it because of the sheer banality, the relative smallness of the event…because it is so close to home and so imaginable, it gets in under the steel disassociation barrier? A twenty-two-month old, still a baby in so many ways, coming to the slow realisation of intolerable hunger, thirst and aloneness (although I also suspected the lake nearby– water, the number one killer of boys under the age of nine.)

I think one thing that upsets us, too, is that they have such perfect trust and you wonder if they die in the new belief that their grownups have utterly failed them, that love and security is a sham. They’re unable to know how frantically their parents have searched for them, or that they have been crushed by a non-human environment incapable of anger or mercy.

After putting my own curly-haired boy to bed, I woke the next morning and cried with relief at the news.

Nicole Melrose and Gavin Morton, bless you and the horses you rode in on. None of that day’s Melbourne Cup carnival horses went home with anything so precious.

It reminded me of a peculiarity of our Australian culture. The image of the lost child has been a recurring image since settlement,in painting, literature, history books and theses.

After all, Australia is one of the few places left on earth where solitude and lost-ness are still possible — and we European settlers are heirs to the Brothers Grimm and Hans Andersen stories, where the Wild Woods are still a place of danger, of witches and black magic. I think the lost-child imagery of Australian culture owes a lot to those old storytellers. And Australia – the smells, the creatures, the distances – was so spookily different.

Yesterday, a friend came to visit and one of her twin toddlers disappeared. We separated and scattered through our little patch of bush towards that monster, the creek, and that other monster, the road.

We found him ten minutes later, in a neighbour’s driveway, unharmed.

That feeling in the gut.