Archives: December 2005

29 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Fun Holiday stuff

Fun Holiday stuff

Author: Helen

Remember how in the olden days, the family would gather round the upright piano and sing along together? Well, we do that, kinda-sorta (will blog on that at a later date.) But these days, with few families owning a piano, your poor overworked PC can take its place. Yes! My eight-year-old has introduced me to a wealth of fun, often with lyrics included, so we’ve been clustered round the Mac singing along. A few favourites:

The Numa Numa song – which is Dragostei din Tea by the Romanian band O-Zone. This one has Eurovision Song Contest written all over it, and that’s not the only good thing about it – it also features the wonderfully un-Idol-ish Gary Brolsma. The linked article is nearly a year old but the flash video is still #1 on the Albino Blacksheep site. We love you, Gary!
This song will stick in your memory cells like Blu-tack to a shoe. You’ll be singing it in the car, in the shower, at Kerry Packer’s funeral. I even found the lyrics, which are sadly far from easy, as they’re in Romanian.

Ma-ia hii, Ma-ia-huu…


Please, someone, I need a ukulele and some quick ukulele lessons! If you’re of a certain age you’ll be thinking of Captain Matchbox and the Whoopee band. And we love the badgers.

I’ve got this feeling, it’s so appealing, for us to get together and sing. sing!

If this is all getting a bit lowbrow for you or you would like to kick back with something a bit more relaxing, modern jazzy or classical, try this music composition generator, Wolfram Tones (via Boynton).

You could also read 16 across, also via Boynton, or The Enchanted Toasting Fork, by Gummo Trotsky and CattyRox .

If you’d rather get out and do something appropriate to the hot weather, here is the best swimming hole I’ve ever found. Only accessible to readers from Melbourne and surrounds, of course. In posting this, I’m assuming that no one who reads the CIB would be the kind of person who leaves plastic bags of Woodstock or Bundy and Coke cans behind. (Quick mini-rant: why, for god’s sake, do the kind of people who do that bother to seek out a pristine and secluded bush place anyway? It doesn’t make sense. And for those who leave plastic bags containing disposable nappies in their wake, would you mind just staying away from these places, full stop?…) OK.

Directions under the fold, after the Numa Numa lyrics.

23 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Christmas post #2

Christmas post #2

Author: Helen

Hey! Another day, another killer image. I’ve put it under the fold, since I don’t have my patent JPG-shrinking kit at home.

And, hey! Laura at Sills Bend’s given me a Christmas present!


Thank you very much, Laura!

*Sings, loudly and off-key* Whoa, the flaaaaaame trees will bliiii-iiiind a weary driver…
Family (all together now): “Shut up!!”

Laura has been working her fingers to the bone knitting iPod cosies, helicopters, speedboats, Flame trees and dim sims for all of us. I won’t try that, because for one it would be copying her idea, and for another, the task would daunt me and then I’d look all daunted. And I’d be sure to leave someone out by mistake. But I’d like to thank all the bloggers in the bloggiverse, and send them Christmas greetings.

The Melbourne bloggers (and a few out of towners) who I have met and had a drink with.
All the bloggers I’d liked to have met and have a drink with. (Next year!)
All of you who have read and commented on the Cast Iron Balcony – or just read. Thanks all of you!
RWDB bloggers who stayed away.
Bloggers, anywhere, who…
Have educated me.
…who have inspired me with their humour and / or their photos.
…who have saddened me with the things that are happening in their lives (and made me feel grateful for the good things in my life).
…who have fascinated me and led me to fascinating things.
…who have blown me away with the quality of their writing.
…who have taken the time to debunk some of the crappy things that are put out by the mainstream media, and even (shock) academics!

I wish you all peace, love, plenty of seafood and lots of quality time with the people you love. Try not to deck the halls with boughs of holly Uncle Arthur with a BBQ fork when he starts up the rightwing rant. Remember: Youse is all legends.


23 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Christmas post

Christmas post

Author: Helen

When a lying sack of shit like John Howard, via that other lying sack of shit the Herald-Sun, decides to tell us we should put Christ back into Christmas, my response is (1) rolling eyes and (2) evil laughter. Yeah, right, you remorseless, power-hungry, economic rationalist rodent.

On the other hand, there’s the old lady who came into my SO’s office the other day. He’s a graphic designer who works for a company which will do one-off printing jobs for you, as well as the more profitable stuff (they print a journal for a well known think tank, which will be nameless.) She brought an original drawing with her on an A4 sized sheet, which she wanted made into cards, which (she said) would remind people of what Christmas is really all about: a baby boy and all the other ramifications of his birth and death.

christ child.jpg

I don’t think this jpg file does justice to the original. The original is done in that old-style classical pen-and-ink style, with cross hatching and bits of writing in beautiful copperplate. She must have had some serious art training, back in the olden days.

She was a right tough old bugger, too– wanted them done for 5c a copy. SO explained he couldn’t possibly do it for less than 10c. The scrooge!

She mentioned in passing that anyone could use the image, as long as they didn’t sell it, which is very nice and Christmas-spirit-y.

Oh, I dunno. She could be a rusted-on Howard voter who is totally in favour of locking up these nasty asylum seekers FOREVER and whacking kids with her knobby walking stick if they don’t immediately stand up for her on the tram – actually, I agree with that last one– anyway, it’s a welcome bit of originality and feeling in the middle of all the Santas and other commercialism.

19 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Rally against Racism, Sydney, 18 December 2005

Rally against Racism, Sydney, 18 December 2005

Author: Helen

You gotta love this.


And this.


The rest of the images are here, with an invitation to disseminate far and wide.

18 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Turn down an empty glass: actually, make that two

Turn down an empty glass: actually, make that two

Author: Helen


I discovered blogging sometime in late 2002, I think. Before that, my introduction to netizenship was via the 9MSN current affairs discussion boards, with occasional ventures into usenet. For a while, I hung out at a place called Hera’s Sea, an invitation-only discussion forum run by a Log Cabin Republican, an interesting person in her own right. There was an intriguing bunch of characters there from all over the world, and I enjoyed it, but somehow it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I can’t really remember how I discovered WebDiary – I’m an inveterate googler and poker-around, but somehow I stumbled on it that year. There were writers on WebDiary like Tim Dunlop and Jozef Imrich who were doing something that looked pretty interesting. I soon discovered Virulent Memes (now sadly gone) and What’s New Pussycat?. Instead of the fast-moving, misspelled hurly-burly of the discussion boards, here was a medium where one could actually try to learn to write.

So, I owe my all consuming hobby largely to Margo Kingston and her contributors. Like our Log Cabin cyber-friend, her outstanding characteristic was graciousness. From the beginning, she’d get hostile and rude posts in the comments threads, which she replied to with civility. She seemed to make a point of allowing these posts to stand, even if they were trying to insult her or make her look foolish – unlike her major critic whose moderator deletes posts regularly if they don’t toe the line. It’s ironic then, that she has been hounded from the outset by a couple of hostile RWDBs (two in particular) who persist in trying to put it about that Margo is (a) insane and (b) ugly. Apparently, it was too much hard work to try and argue civilly with her on the basis of facts.

Yes, Margo was more optimistic than many of us and she’d get excited about the possibilities of online movements in the political sphere. Hardly the level of frothing at the mouth that we get from the right wing, and even our elected representatives. (“if I went down and…and grabbed him by the front of the head and stabbed the HB pencil into your eyeball and wiggled it around down to your brain area, do you think you’d be focusing?”… “If I shoot a woman and don’t kill her but kill the baby, I haven’t actually committed a crime?”)

If that’s what the RWDBs define as sanity, then I don’t trust their definition of madness.

More predictable is the focus on looks. It’s offensive not just to Margo but to all the rest of us who are ordinary, middle aged (or even younger) working stiffs who don’t conform to the Bec and Lleyton standard of buffed-ness — and why the hell should we? Margo is a normal, ordinary looking person just like 98% of journos of both sexes who have their photograph next to their byline. I’ve pointed out before that the old geezer who persists in making great sport of her supposed “ugliness” has never dared show his face. My challenge to him to post a photo of himself was never responded to, of course.

So I’ll raise a glass of bolly in farewell to you, Margo, and thanks for the introduction to the wonderful Ozblogosphere. It’s a pity the meanness and spite of a few people were so disproportionately aimed at you; you must have hit a nerve, somehow.

In a last WebDiary post, Jack Robertson tells the story.

Of course, after you discover a couple of blogs you start exploring the blogrolls, so it was just a matter of time before I came across Rob Corr and Kick and Scream. As well as being beautifully designed, this blog was a wealth of content, culminating in the IR legislation campaign updates (examples here and here) which Rob put out as a public service to the rest of us, confused by the twists and turns of rapidly accelerating events. Just before Rob pulled the plug, I’d sent it to my union rep as a resource for her to use. She was delighted with it.

Another glass of bolly, please waiter, to raise to Rob. (Hic!)

In the blogosphere there is constant natural attrition and renewal- we know that- but still, it’s sad to say goodbye to these two blogs, who were always on my must read list.

17 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Ugly Australians

Ugly Australians

Author: Helen

When I’d heard the radio reports of the Cronulla Beach Riots story, before I’d opened a newspaper (or a blog) to read about it, I wondered whether the racist politician Jim Saleam and the lovable guys of the Patriotic Youth League might be involved. If you read Darp Hau and Fight Dem Back, he’s been following the story of the rise in this group’s activities and Jim Saleam’s career for some time now.

Given the fact that the Cronulla meatheads were incited to riot with racially (or ethnically) explicit text messages, which started in NSW and spread to other states, I thought it had their fingerprints on it.

Sure enough, who should pop up in an Age article on the background to the riots.

The evil little bastard Connors must have been pissing in his pants with excitement at getting so much attention. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream media and the blogosphere were busy with Alan Jones – also an evil bastard, but he was relaying the poison rather than generating it.

Many bloggers and letters-to-the-editor writers made the point that under the sedition laws just passed, Jonesy should have been preemptively locked up and / or charged. As Tony D. said in the comments to Samuel McSkimming’s piece over at Catallaxy:

Now how did it go again? That’s right:

– SECT 30A
Unlawful associations

(3) In this section: seditious intention means an intention to effect any of the following purposes:

(a) to bring the Sovereign into hatred or contempt;
(b) to urge disaffection against the following:
(i) the Constitution;
(ii) the Government of the Commonwealth;
(iii) either House of the Parliament;
(c) to urge another person to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, to procure a change to any matter established by law in the Commonwealth;
(d) to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different groups so as to threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth
[emphasis added]

So, how come Jones gets away with this kind of thing?

He assured his audience he “understood” why that famous text message went out and he read it right through again on air: “Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge. This Sunday every Aussie in the shire get down to North Cronulla to support the leb and wog bashing day Ö”

Daily he cautioned his listeners not to take the law into their own hands, but he warmed to those who had exactly that on their minds. On Thursday Charlie rang to suggest all junior footballers in the shire gather on the beach to support the lifesavers. “Good stuff, good stuff,” said Jones.

…When John called on Tuesday to recommend vigilante action – “If the police can’t do the job, the next tier is us” – Jones did not dissent. “Yeah. Good on you John.” And when he offered a maxim his father had picked up in the war – “Shoot one, the rest will run” – Jones roared with laughter. “No, you don’t play Queensberry’s rules. Good on you, John.”

Among the articles about the background to the Sydney violence, there is very little about Saleam, the PYL and their neo-nazi activities. The debate has mainly focused on the behaviour of young “leb” males, as if the young Anglo men are somehow a bastion of feminism and respect for women. Yeah, sure. Some people, like Darp, more accurately point out that places like Cronulla have been the scene of turf wars for decades.

Sure, the extreme territorial nature of young males in the Sydney beachside suburbs is certainly a factor. But someone went out of their way generate a racist Flash Mob in Cronulla and now they are trying to do it in other Australian cities. Are the Feds going to pursue them and prosecute them under the new sedition laws? or even the good old criminal code? Don’t hold your breath.

So, there are political groups – however small – trying to foment trouble. But it’s the wrong type of group, and the wrong kind of trouble. So John Howard says we should be relaxed and comfortable about it.

I’m off to write Christmas cards. There’s good stuff on the topic here, here, here and here.

12 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Sedition Stamp update

Sedition Stamp update

Author: Helen

Here’s an update of the Sedition stamp (in two sizes) now the anti-terrorism bill has been passed, courtesy of Nick Possum.



Nick would like you to use it wisely and often.

9 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Friday Dog blogging

Friday Dog blogging

Author: Helen


Our darling Maggie: We found her three years ago, sitting in a prison cell at the Lost Dogs home.

If you want a Lost Dogs Home dog you need to go every day. You can’t just ring up and say “Got any shih tzus today?” They are kept in a holding pen for a few weeks, then if they aren’t claimed they go to the Adoption pen. Before they do, they are challenged by a leather glove-wearing vet. If they snap, it’s the green needle.

She was sitting behind the chain-link of her adoption pen, gazing at daughter who was gazing back. There was no note on the information card that she was taken. The card on the pen said “Kelpie cross”. I wondered what with? There was a width to her jaw which was not kelpie. The jaw and body shape said cattle dog. But there were no cloudy grey markings like you would get with a cattle dog or heeler. This dog had a shiny, patent-leather black coat with bright tan markings.

The office people said sorry, she’s already taken. I said: “But there was no name on the card on her pen.” They said: “The people who are taking her have just gone home to get their dog to see if they get on.”

OK, I replied, I’ll give you our phone number so if the dogs don’t get along then you can ring me. Oh no, they said, that’s not likely. But I got them to take it.

Next morning: “Were you the people interested in the kelpie cross?”

Yeah, she was meant for us. I love to see Mags and my daughter together and the sound of daughter talking sweet nothings to her.

8 Dec 2005, Comments Off on Worthy but dull triumphs over wry and writerly

Worthy but dull triumphs over wry and writerly

Author: Helen

So, I got this invitation to nominate people for a blogging competition by someone I didn’t know from some obscure ISP or whatever which I’d never heard of. So I deleted it as possible spam. Perhaps I don’t get out enough, but the results are here. Sorry to all of those people I would have nominated, if I’d known I was meant to take it seriously.

It’s strange that there were only 530 entries, compounded by the fact that “blogs” included straight-up commercial blogs, like Trollhattan and Problogger. Well, OK, them’s their rules. But it seemed to make for a very wide and shallow flit over the surface of Australian blogging.

The winner, Singing Bridges, is not so much a blog as a nice, pretty web site with a rudimentary blog attached. It’s the prettiness of the design (I’m only talking aesthetics here, and white on black text is a bit last century) plus the usefulness of the site as a vehicle for Rose as an artist which makes Singing Bridges work as a website. But as a blog? Here’s an example of the prose. This is in answer to a jealous critic who was naff enough to send a horrible email to her, and you’d think the writerly juices would be flowing. Imagine what Ms Fits or Burnt Karma might make of it. But instead we get: (Ahem):

First, this is a sad reflection of the bias in Australian culture which tends to privilege success in sport or business over creative or intellectual activity, and of course is a classic example of the tall poppy syndrome. Second, you would be amazed to notice if you bothered to read or listen to any of my work, that I actually do have a sense of humour about it, and am not at all pompous. In fact I had a conversation only the other day wiith the residency chiefs where I am currently guarding a bridge, about various ways of coming to a grisly end to provide good stories for the local newspaper.

(sags to the side, wakes self up just in time to prevent falling out of chair, splutters, recovers…)

It’s also a bit strange, given the main subject of the blog (sound recordings of bridges), that there are no MP3 or other sound files. But that’s a quibble. Maybe there are and I didn’t dig far enough. And anything that gets an australian artist a bit more moolah has to be a good thing– the comment about “sport or business” is spot on, if blandly expressed. I know a lot of people reckon her work is a wank, but I reckon a lot of stuff the AIS do is a wank, and my taxes support that too.

But Australia’s best blog? See, that’s the sticking point.

As one of the competition judges said, they picked the winner out of a short list of eleven which were not sorted out by them. That was done by Smartyhost, presumably. If so, it’s definitely suss. Who were the other 519 entries, I wonder? Most of the finalists’ writing is definitely in the same worthy-but-dull category as the winner’s. I don’t want to know if your friend wants to sell his exercise weights, Mr Hearye, unless you can make it interesting.

Saint (via Trevor Cook), Tim of Road to Surfdom and others have more to say.

There were a few real blogs in the shortlist – Loobylu, Karen Cheng, Ausculture.

Still, it was entertaining to watch bloggers like Tim Blair and Bunyip get all steamed up about not being on the shortlist. (Me! MOI!! The blogger even people what don’t read blogs have heard of! Oh the shame!!!)

Update 9/12: Links updated to make this more comprehensible.