Archives: January 2006

30 Jan 2006, Comments Off on My dad’s a lawyer!

My dad’s a lawyer!

Author: Helen

It really sucks that schools, like, discriminate against boys by making them listen and hand in work and do community service and tests and shit? I mean, that’s what girls do.

What we need to do is give boys higher marks for the same work, my Dad says so and he’s a lawyer. Kind of like that aff…affirmaf…affirmath action thing what we hate, except we don’t cos it applies to us boys.

Amanda at Pandagon and Aunt Twisty are kind of mad about it, but I don’t care about those feminists. And they use big words like “Gloucesterise”. Haven’t I just said I’m not into that studying and reading shit? No matter, I’ll just call them shrill.

Majikthise is supposed to be good on this kind of stuff – he’s a guy, isn’t he? so he must have a better idea.

29 Jan 2006, Comments Off on A great big steaming pile

A great big steaming pile

Author: Helen

Last year, I posted a few times on the alpine cattle dispute, the ban on grazing in the Victorian high country, and the appropriation of “tradition” and iconic status by the grazier families to try and win an unwinnable debate. If you’re new to this story, here’s a very simple explanation.

They’re back… and they’re still framing the debate like veteran spin doctors. Their court of appeal is the hearts and minds of ordinary Australians, and they’re desperate to portray themselves as the innocent and threatened upholders of tradition.

Tradition is the buzzword they zap us with every time and, like the experienced animal handlers they are, they have journalists eating out of their hand.

Tradition is a funny thing. It’s a habit we are unwilling or unable to break. Cattle grazing in Victoria’s high country is a 170-year-old tradition that won’t be broken easily…

…For Lovick, some traditions should never be broken, because they tell the story of who we are…

The “170 year old tradition” (if the Balcony has any European or Asian readers, I’m sure they are rolling around clutching their sides at that one) is quite colourful, with occasional moments of equitational brilliance, but it’s over in that part of the Alps. And the brilliant bits are to do with feats of horsemanship, not with the cattle. Culturally speaking, no-one could give a stuff about the cows; it’s the horses and horsemen and women that we as a nation love, and it’s the horse and leisure industry that they should turn to now as they clip-clop into a new millenium. Oh, wait…

NSW banned alpine cattle grazing in the Kosciuszko National Park more than 30 years ago. The Victorian Government’s decision to do the same in the Alpine National Park hardly came as a surprise, and even before the decision, Lovick began diversifying.
For years, friends and visitors had come to his Merrijig property to assist in the yearly cattle muster to the high country and in the late 1960s it was suggested that he should charge people to participate. His horse trail riding business is now more profitable than his cattle.

In other words, he’s already done it (and so have other High Country horsemen). So why the well-organised tantrums by the Men from Snowy River? Because the High Country grazing was a fantastic little sideline – paid for by you and me, the taxpayer. Sweet. However, according to Mr Lovick, the cattle grazier is just a little battler whose livelihood will be lost or dreadfully curtailed.

The ban on cattle grazing will lead to changes in the high country. Many cattlemen, says Lovick, will struggle to survive with only access to the state forest. He has cut his herd by 220 head and sold 40 hectares of land. Life for the cattleman has also changed.
Lovick, who suffers from a serious back complaint, has bought an apartment in the QV development in Swanston Street and regularly visits Melbourne.
The mountain cattleman is a devoted supporter of the Melbourne Football Club and loves the city. He enjoys grabbing takeaway Vietnamese before heading to the footy.
The bad back precludes much of the stock work and he often catches up with the trail riders in his four-wheel-drive rather than on horseback…

Ex – squeeze me? Apartment in the QV development? Melbourne Football Club? Vietnamese takeaway? Four-wheel drive when on the droving trail? Just how “traditional” is this mountain man?

Do you appreciate the irony here? Single mums raising the next generation would come in for severe criticism from many of the graziers’ supporters, while you and I contribute to pay for cattle agistment for the owner of a QV apartment who’s pretending he’s some kind of historical relic. Give me a break.

But the Victorian Liberal opposition is completely lapping this shit up. A week after the AGE article was published, the cattlemen – and the cattle – were back in the Alps (note, they are still allowed into the State Forest adjacent to the national park area in dispute):

The cattlemen say they will stop at nothing, until the ban is lifted. Yesterday Environment minister and acting premier John Thwaites was joined in the Alpine National Park by environmental groups to begin a cleanup of what it claims is years of damage caused by cattle grazing. Today as part of week long protest at last year’s ban, around 10 cattlemen began driving a mob of cattle through the Park. Despite the threat of fines, Mountain Cattleman Charlie Lovick says he is not worried about breaking the law.

Stop at nothing? Isn’t that a bit desperate and seditious? Apparently not. One of the people on the ride was Liberal MP Graeme Stoney. He was supported enthusiastically by our solid-wood Leader of the Opposition, Robert Doyle. “Graeme Stoney is a man’s man!” he enthused. Doyle had obviously forgotten his own policy speech of 2002, where he announced “‘NO GO AREAS’ AT DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTEST MEETINGS WILL BE DEFINED CLEARLY TO HELP POLICE DO THEIR JOB OF PROTECTING PEOPLE AND THEIR PROPERTY.” (Yes, the version I’ve linked to is all in caps; just one more strange thing about Doyle.) Clearly, this was not meant to apply to Liberal politicians and their supporters, who should be allowed to go anywhere and protest about anything they like.

About two weeks after that, Charlie Lovick’s bad back seemed to recover quite miraculously (ACA, where are you when we need you?)

AN 800kg Hereford bullock will lead 200 drovers along high country tracks in the latest protest against the Victorian Government’s ban on cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.
Mansfield cattleman, John Lovick, will lead the fray, riding his pet Hereford – Johnny.

So, that’s one thing we can expect this year – lots more free entertainment from the whip-cracking, trick-riding, agistment fee-avoiding Crazy Graziers of the high country. Do you think they’ll come to town to protest against the end of a 105 – year tradition of arbitrated industrial relations? Will they heck.

28 Jan 2006, Comments Off on And the Gold Bernie goes to…

And the Gold Bernie goes to…

Author: Helen

Barista… for the best overall Australian blog.

Hoorah, chaps and chapesses!

It’s well deserved, David. “The Richard Attenborough of blogging but with much more attitude and without a large bureacracy telling you not to go there.” And a lot less pompous, I should add. Your votes, unlike those for some other nominees, weren’t the result of any stupid orchestrated campaign (they know who they are.)

A big “Whhhoooooohoo yee-ha” also to

Best NSW blog and runner up Daily Flute and

Best Victorian blog and runner up Anonymous Lefty and Sorrow at Sills Bend.

Best Tas blog runner up Piss n Vinegar. The winner, “Tassie”, may be excellent for all I know but it isn’t a blog, it’s a forum. Get it right people. Congratulations and commiserations, Ms Piss.

Best QLD blog winner and runner up Larvatus Prodeo (of course)

Best West Australian blog had to be Red Rag. Yes, it’s gone now, but it was appropriate to honour this completely kick-ass (and useful) blog. As the new IR laws kick in this year, we’ll really miss it.

Best SA blog, Road to Surfdom. One of the first few blogs I ever read, and still going strong. There are some great blogs in the runners up too: Watchdog of the Wankers and Pavlov’s Cat. But where was Dogfight at Bankstown? Something dodgy going on there.

Best NT blog: Troppo Armadillo, of course, now Club Troppo.

ACT: OK, let’s just ignore the practical jokers. The real winner: Crazybrave.

Best Overseas blog went to RTS (Two gongs!) which isn’t overseas any more. Still, I guess it was for most of last year. And the runner-up? I’m sorry, but would WNP (which should have won, I reckon) ever start a post with stuff like “Today’s been such a cruisy day”?

Quick whip round some of the specialist awards: Sorrow at Sills Bend for best post on an Australian blog, and runnerup in best photo blog: Daily Flute would have won best humourous blog if it weren’t for the practical jokers. The Larva-prodders got best political blog, with John Quiggin, RTS, Andrew Bartlett and Anonymous Lefty honourable mention. Best new Australian blog: I think we can all agree that it’s really Larvatus Prodeo again. And they also got best collaborative blog.

Mandatory disclaimer – it should be abundantly obvious, if you’ve checked out the links to Collective Apathy, that these Awards are regularly and joyfully gerrymandered. But the bloggers I’ve linked to are truly hot poop. If there are any you haven’t visited before, check ’em out.

25 Jan 2006, Comments Off on He Died with Fluffles in his hands

He Died with Fluffles in his hands

Author: Helen

What a sad piece of mediocrity coming from John Birmingham, author of Leviathan, which was a great read. (Thanks to Flute for the link.)

I can’t believe people- people under 50, at that- are still using “PC” like it’s some kind of devastatingly cutting edge concept, instead of a woolly spin-doctoring cliche. If you expand it to its literal meaning, “politically correct”, then you would be referring to a low-tax, anti Social security, hawkish neocon. Because that’s what’s “correct” in today’s political milieu. Even the supposed “opposition” doesn’t really argue about it. But I digress.

This article is deeply embarrassing – to the writer. He seeks to prescribe what we should and shouldn’t find funny – and then claims the Left is over-earnest and over-prescriptive. O-kaaaay. Worse, the people he finds funny are such thigh-slappers as Imre Saluzinsky, Tim Blair, and this guy who Birmingham quotes approvingly:

“When it comes to taking chances, some people like to play poker or shoot dice; other people prefer to parachute jump, go rhino hunting. or climb ice floes, while still others engage in crime or marriage. But I like to get drunk and drive like a fool. Name me, if you can, a better feeling than the one you get when you’re half a bottle of Chivas in the bag with a gram of coke up your nose and a teenage lovely pulling off her tube top in the next seat over, while you’re going a hundred miles an hour
down a suburban side street. You’d have to watch the entire Mexican air force crash-land in a liquid petroleum gas storage facility to match this kind of thrill.” (My emphasis)

Birmingham goes on to say

There’s a certain judgemental type who’d recoil in horror from this sort of thing; a gimlet-eyed punisher and straightener, who would suppress such recklessness on the grounds of sexism, racism, cruelty to endangered rhinos and Sending The Wrong Sort Of Message To Our Kids.

Well, who’d want to be a judgemental, gimlet-eyed punisher and straightener? Right-wing humour obviously wins, whoa yeah, wheee-hoo! Only, it’s not really funny. What’s funny about a drunk guy driving too fast? Come over here to Melbourne’s western suburbs, they’re a dime a dozen. We simply roll our eyes as they scream past and hold up our hand with the finger and thumb to indicate the probable penis size of the puerile wanker. The statement might raise a weak laugh as hyperbolic satire on these people, but the problem with us lefties is our damned imagination.

I admit I can’t help wondering whether Birmingham would like it so much if this charismatic drunk driver came roaring down his suburban side street just as his curly haired toddler, white haired old Dad, or cat Fluffles came wandering out (the last of which could lead to a laboured pun which is also completely unfunny.) And, as is so popular these days, perhaps the guy woudn’t even stop! Oh, hold my sides.

The rest of the unfunny stuff in Birmingham’s article just confirms my suspicion that people just find different things funny. Some people laugh at Jimeoin, Billy Connolly, Judith Lucy, Lano and Woodley. I like some ber-loody feminists, who Birms says are merely “angry” (original, isn’t he?)… like Ms Fits and Twisty Faster. But also Father Ted and The Office and the list goes on…Some people, in contrast, think Anne Coulter and Kevin Bloody Wilson are funny. Why can’t I just say Imre Saluzinsky and PJ O’Rourke don’t amuse me and leave it at that? Who’s the one seeking to impose the jackbooted uniformity, mmm?

But on the whole I find the whole “we vill define what’s funny” thing a complete turnoff; Like sexual desire, if you sat around and talked endlessly about it (in a competitive, nerny-ner, boys in the locker room kind of way) it just would evaporate. By making their own brand of humour compulsory, the rightwingers bludgeon laughter to death.

21 Jan 2006, Comments Off on Off my Trolley

Off my Trolley

Author: Helen

I’m wild about my new toy, purchased at the South Melbourne Market yesterday, where the joy of buying cherry tomatoes and mangoes at ridiculously tiny prices is weighed against standing in a queue with linen dress-clad women saying, “I’ve just come brrck from Prrrrtsea“.

Yes, my new Two Basket Trolley. I’m admiring it now: its clean lines, its minimalist design values, its sturdy wheels, its roomy baskets!

This will give you some idea (especially of how classy I’ll feel pushing it), but it’s really not the thing. My trolley is just so much gorgeouser than this. My google search for a picture – I still don’t have the all-important digital camera – took me to this fascinating site with the history and typology of Shopping Carts Through the Ages. Wikipedia also has an entry on the supermarket type of cart, with a sad picture of an undersea cart.

You see: Since Big Bad Supermarket ™ opened around the corner from the Balcony, I realised if I bought a trolley I could actually do shopping without the car. I could always take one from the supermarket and throw it in the creek like most people do, but I prefer something that’s easy to walk with. And that, dear reader, would greatly reduce my ecological footprint and perhaps my middle aged waistline.

We already have one of the single-basket, plastic coated wire trolleys; it’s flimsy and bits of it fall off, leaving gaps through which small purchases can escape. It’s also hateful to push. Then there is the classic shopping jeep – a longstanding Aussie icon, I know. But with the deep rectangular shape, there is the danger of squishing ones earlier purchases with the weight of the stuff on top of it. Besides, with the vinyl trollies, it appears compulsory to have a tiny, depressed pomeranian or Silky terrier cross with runny eyes to sit on top with its bum on your shopping to nauseate passersby, and I’m not prepared to go that far. Obviously, if you have a Real Dog, the other benefit of trolley ownership is that it gets extra walkies.

Plus, it’ll be good practice for when I’m a nutty old lady with fifteen layers of clothes.

I can’t wait to test my baby out today, although it might be quite hot, so we might be looking at an evening outing. Big Bad Supermarket ™ never seems to sleep.

20 Jan 2006, Comments Off on Coming out with guns blazin’

Coming out with guns blazin’

Author: Helen

Well, I’ve got to get going. As conventional wisdom has it, I’ve been sitting on my arse this last month, doing sweet buggerall, with only two children on school holidays as an excuse.

I’m only paid for 48 months of the year, so I can spend school holidays with kids and don’t have to go through the absolute screaming nightmare that is Holiday Program. Now, I just have to learn to cope with eight weeks a year with little boys. Don’t get me wrong! I love ’em. They’re just a lot of hard work. It’s like herding cats.

But despite the proliferation of good bloggers here in Australia, it has to be all hands to the pumps this year to make any impression on the avalanche of shit that is going to be poured all over us, the plain people of Australia. I’m thinking of moving more towards gender-related topics, with a sideline in environmental stuff – and let’s just see how long I can stick to this resolution.

Because, really, the avalanche of shit in the gender department has become quite outstanding in its stickiness and general horseshittiness. Let me give four examples of ye olde anti-feminist arguments which are being revived for the new millenium:

Don’t bother giving her a job, she’ll only leave to get married and have kids.

AKA a suggestion by Richard Posner, senior lecturer, judge and blogger, that law schools should raise tuition fees with a program of rebates to graduates who work full time; the rationale being the useless women students who clog up the works with their equal-or-better entry scores and then drop out for any number of years to raise children. To refuse admission to women, he admits, would be unlawful, so he is suggesting some new way of discouraging them.

This idea has had very little traction among Australian bloggers as far as I can see, except for James McConvill, who has to be some kind of saint. There is no argument or hypothesis so bad that his blog won’t give the poor thing a home. Give me your tired arguments, your poor arguments, your huddled hypotheses yearning to be free (of facts)! But, given the way our nutty Minister for Education likes to adopt all new things from the US, we should be cautious. Especially since Posner’s idea was predicated on:

Many women at elite colleges want to be SAHMs (US slang for “stay at home Moms”) so Femininism has Failed ner-ner!

This was a story featured in a New York times article by Louise Story, published on 20 September. Echidne, Katha Pollitt and Jack Shafer (editor of discuss the sloppy surveying techniques and reporting biases behind this media beat-up. But as Echidne points out, these beat-ups have a way of getting into the Conventional Wisdom of the mainstream media.

But women aren’t really people, are they?…

Not really respectable to articulate out loud these days, but Backdown Barnaby Joyce really put the finger on it with his ripper quote of 2005: “If I shoot a woman and don’t kill her but kill the baby, I haven’t actually committed a crime?”

Now I did predict a return of the “do women have souls” question on the CIB. You read it here first. I hope all you uppity women know now just where you stand in the Coalition universe.

…But we know what’s best for them!

This oldie-but-goodie is getting a fresh run in the RU486 (availability of) debate. The more cunning of the anti-choice crowd – and who more cunning than our health minister, Tony Abbott– have tried to frame the debate in terms of safety. You see, after a medical abortion, a woman’s uterus might retain some of the contents which might lead to septicaemia, or she might actually have an ectopic pregnancy, or something… so if we allowed RU486 to be prescribed, all these rural and remote women would just be dying after taking it behind the hayshed with the local doctor a plane ride away.

Trouble is, the exact same thing applies to early pregnancy and natural miscarriage (as well as the other gynaecological icky things that flesh is heir to.) So, in order to attain this level of safety that the opponents of medical abortion would like, it would be necessary to outlaw sex itself, at least in outlying areas.

Some of the wingnuttier anti-choicers are protesting against having sex which does not result in pregnancy, full stop. But then the “safety” argument falls down again, because you would still be dealing with pregnancies and their complications. But the “safety concerns” sound so logical, so reasonable, many people won’t look behind it to see the hype.

If you haven’t had enough yet, go and check out the 7th Carnival of Feminists over at Feministe.

(Image from here, via Metafilter.)

17 Jan 2006, Comments Off on Barista Kicks Ass

Barista Kicks Ass

Author: Helen

Hello, balcony dwellers, I’m back. I’ve been having a bit of a hiatus and reading all the interesting blogs out there, and even actual books!

Cast Iron Balcony seemed to bumble along in a minor way in 2005- a wee microbe in the blog ecosystem. But Media 2 – that’s the domain which incorporates Barista and Cast Iron Balcony – didn’t do too badly. In his December 30 post, Least Unpopular Australian Leftoid Blogs (Shucks! Such praise!) Tim Blair points out the traffic rankings for leftie blogs in… well, for once I’m completely in agreement with Tim in that I haven’t the faintest what the numbers refer to, except that in relative terms we are doing OK:

1. Tim Lambert: 122,559

2. Troppo Armadillo: 131,292

3. Larvatus Prodeo and Rob Corr: 211,441 (Note: the daily ranking at LP’s new site is 159,263)

4. Catallaxy Files: 225,663

5. John Quiggin: 320,092

6. David Tiley and Cast Iron Balcony: 382,880

7. Gary Sauer-Thompson: 388,696

8. Singing Bridges (Australia’s best blog): 595,755

9. Tim Dunlop: 708,228 (Note: Dunlop’s daily ranking is 266,229, which may be more representative)

10. Daily Flute: 825,427

This means that (a) my stats are better than my site counter would make out or, more likely, (b) that Barista is blogging a blue streak and I’m enjoying a ride out of obscurity on his fabulouous coattails.

Barista is also nominated for best overall Australian blog on the Australian Blog awards over at Collective Apathy. Go over and vote now!

14 Jan 2006, Comments Off on Hello world!

Hello world!

Author: Helen

This is the new address for Cast iron Balcony. Welcome. Take a deck chair, or one of the decaying cane chairs if you’re game. Chardy or Shiraz? G & T maybe, a VB or just a cuppa tea?

It’s a beautiful day. We’ll watch the eucalypts sway awhile.

Back to complaining about the world soon.