Archives: March 2006

30 Mar 2006, Comments Off on Scream, Katie, scream!

Scream, Katie, scream!

Author: Helen

Warning: Pregnant readers might want to skip this one.

The silencing of womens’ voices has always been a theme in patriarchy-blaming circles. But to silence us in labour?

Katie Holmes, who has probably suffered enough already, has to undergo a “silent birth” because that’s what’s required under Tom’s nutty Scientological doctrine.

Many of us who have one or more sprogs will remember- unless they were more sensible than me – being snowed by the natural childbirth movement. We’d keep fit and healthy through our pregnancy and then we’d just breeeeeathe through the labour, oh yes we would!

Crap. What we expect of our first labour is one thing, the reality often quite another.

As those on the other side of childbirth will know, there are different stages within labour, and the shortest but most intense part – when your body is getting ready to expel the wee thing – is called “transition”. Aah, Katie, let me talk to you about “transition”.

Transition phase. This phase can last anywhere from a few minutes to a several hours. It’s here that your partner is most likely to swear at you like a truck driver. (Don’t take it personally; even women who have coped well up to this point often “lose it” during the transition phase.) Contractions last 60 to 90 seconds and come two or three minutes apart.

During this stage, a woman is likely to experience such things as: Trembling, vomiting, irritability, backache, despair (Can I go home now? I’ll come back tomorrow!), feeling hot or cold, need for support (hear that, Tom?), “loss of modesty” (don’t you love that one?), involuntary bowel movements (that’d be after the loss of modesty), belching, farting, and – not surprisingly – wanting to just bloodywell give up, or yelling for drugs.

From my own experience and the birth stories of others I know it’s more like an episode of Little Britain than a gooey spiritual experience. Some of the language might make a pirate blush. You can have your birth plans, but you need to know disinhibition is going to occur. Since Cruise has been through the process more than once with Our Nic, you’d think this tool might have demonstrated more realistic knowledge of what labour involves. Oh, but he’s going to provide an iPod with soothing music.

How much do you bet she’ll rip off the iPod ear buds before ripping Tom’s bloody arms off and screaming, “Get me outta here, you f###ing wanker!!!”

And whose idea was this jolly Scientologist birth plan, anyway? L. Ron Hubbard? Well, as he’s dead, I suggest we get Tom and John Travolta and tie a string around their nuts for the duration of Katie’s labour. Katie will get to yank it when she feels the need to, you know, share the depth of her womanly experience with these patriarchal potatoheads. Given their commitment to the deep spirituality of the experience, I feel it’s unfair to keep the experience of birth pain away from them. Let’s see how they enthuse about the virtues of silence then.

30 Mar 2006, Comments Off on This’ll surprise you

This’ll surprise you

Author: Helen

If you haven’t read Chris at Creek Running North you might raise your eyebrows a bit when I tell you he is a very fine blogger, then direct you to this post, “Why I am not a feminist”, with instructions to ReadTheWholeThing.

(For the record, I think he is, but see what you think.)

Via Tigtog, another very fine blogger.

22 Mar 2006, Comments Off on Beware the Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March

Author: Helen

S O’s sister, our darling, our Queen Bee, our Patsy Stone (but with a heart), our fashion queen, our social glue,

has had an aneurysm and is in the Alfred intensive care ward. That’s where our thoughts are now.

Lots to do, people to see and boys to look after. Light blogging. Back soon.

Update, 30/3: She’s out of ICU, has a tracheotomy but is using her right hand to write legible notes… rude jokes included!

17 Mar 2006, Comments Off on AuthorisedbytheAustrayanGovernmentCanberra


Author: Helen

Yes, this just about says it all.

Thanks to Kamala for the link.

16 Mar 2006, Comments Off on The case of the Disappearing PM’s Apology

The case of the Disappearing PM’s Apology

Author: Helen

Did anyone get an email containing a link to “the PM’s apology” the other day? It wasn’t so much an apology as a change-of-heart speech– it didn’t contain the S word, but it had such passages as:

I speak to you here openly, and with sadness. I have no intention of repeating or elaborating these remarks outside this room. For decades, many of you have stayed loyal the principles of our Party. However, it is not wise for any leader to mislead himself, and I have no wish to mislead you. Like our good friend Tony Blair, I too admit to episodes of anguish. I
worry the situation is getting worse. Not only in Iraq, but elsewhere in the world. You will of course be making up your own minds as you watch the news in the coming weeks.

If you thought that language a little mellifluous for our PM, you’d have been right. The web site was a hoax. And it has now been taken down by persons unknown. There is a PDF version of it here.

Richard Neville, the origin of the hoax, writes:

It’s funny; I’m about as much threat to the state as smelly socks.

And yet something happened at 8pm on Tuesday night, Sydney time, that gave me the shivers. Maybe it’s a technical problem, I kept telling myself, which is why I’ve waited 36 hours before making it public.

As most of you who received my email on Monday now realise, JOHN HOWARD’S APOLOGY was an act of satire and culture jamming. Its impact was way beyond expectation, as was the variation in feedback. Many of you wanted to believe in John Howard’s U-turn, and said he “stood taller” after the speech. Others replied he had “sniffed the wind” and was cutting his cloth to ensure his political survival. It made them hate the PM even more. A seasoned activist emailed from London, “this speech proves John Howard is smarter than Tony Blair”. To heighten its impact, I asked a student to design a site that closely resembled the official page of the Australian Prime Minister, as well as his personality – oodles of grey.

For $9.71, I purchased a web-hosting package from Yahoo, which included domain name registration.

Was I wrong to indulge in this undergraduate jape? My previous email reported, “A friend just sent me this link, but I can’t believe it”. Well, when the site went up, the designer sent me the link and I couldn’t believe how good it looked.

Satire is intellectual slum clearance. It works best if people are sucked in … for awhile. I left a trail of clues. is registered in my name, easily accessed. The embedded links were a give-away. Lotsa typos.

In the first 24 hours, the site received 10,500 visits, thanks to many of you. Then it was blocked, and remains so.

I didn’t realise this until I opened my emails yesterday morning. Complaints of a “dead link” were building up. received similar reports and asked if I had heard from the PM’s office. Not a peep. At first I put it down to local area tech probs, but over the day the site started to disappear, server by server, like watching the lights go out all over Europe. Urgent emails to Yahoo have remained unanswered for 36 hours. For further stats and background see

What’s the alleged crime? Will the spooks knock at the door? During the debate on Australia’s draconian “anti terror” laws, the PM kept assuring us all that free speech would never be endangered. Sure. A .pdf of the disappeared page has been posted on – let’s see how long it lasts. This is the direct link:

Several questions remain: 1) who ordered the closing of the site? 2) On what grounds? 3) By what authority? 4) Through what mechanism? 5) Why in secret? 6) Will I get a refund from Yahoo?

If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone, Best Wishes, RN

This incident, in my mind, only raised more questions. This certainly has happened before – the spoof versions of the Huffington Post and Tim Blair’s site (a protest against Andrea Harris’s excessive banning of comments) for instance.

It’s certainly good to put one over the powerful. But how would I feel if someone put up an exact simulacrum of the Cast Iron Balcony with links to or glowing endorsements of Intelligent Design or Tony Abbott? Pretty pissed off, I’d imagine.

To what extent are these things identity theft, and to what extent are they merely satire? Richard put deliberate typos in the linked pages to alert the net savvy. But what about people who take these things literally – and as you can see, there were quite a few? what if a right-wing group used this kind of thing as a “call to arms”?

The other side of it, though, is the chilling description of “… the site …disappear[ing], server by server, like watching the lights go out all over Europe.” Back up your blog.

12 Mar 2006, Comments Off on Placeholder jobs

Placeholder jobs

Author: Helen

What’s a placeholder job? a placeholder worker? Ah, you don’t know, dear reader, cos it’s a neologism I just made up. If this catches on, you never know, I might get a footnote in the OED. It would go something like this: “~holder job, n. a job where the incumbent makes little or no money after work expenses, esp. child related; ~holder worker, a worker in a placeholder job.” You can say you read it here first.

I was talking to a friend a while ago about looking for a job in the 1990s after being at home with my daughter for a couple of years. My CV before that showed that I had been a supervisor in the Victorian public service (with glowing references available) and then had left to be a professional musician (well, scratching a living, anyway) for a while. Perhaps that was what made me so unattractive to every employer I encountered. Then I had a couple of years as a stay-at-home mum. I found it very difficult to get back into work again.

“I felt like road kill,” I said.

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it?”

Well, yes, possibly. I did get to a lot of short lists and interviews. But before I finally cracked it for a proper job, I had to go back to the grinding humiliation of that scourge of the underemployed– telemarketing. There is a big difference, I think, between somebody with a professional degree – optometry, medicine, law, or whatever – and someone with an arts degree who has worked in “administration”, doing back office stuff. If you’re one of the latter, and your last gig was a few years ago, you’re going to find things very difficult.

Finally someone was willing to give me a try. And who was that? It was my previous employer (now morphed into a private company). Jeebus wept. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but only someone I had actually worked for would take me on, despite a good track record in my last period of (office) employment.

Fast forward three years and I pop out kid no. 2, but this time I’ve finally cracked it for permanent employment – after a few short contracts, naturally—and even maternity leave. So I go off for a year with my baby and then—after a campaign besides which Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps looks like a picnic – I actually manage to get him into the childcare centre of my choice. Degree of difficulty: extreme. That’s a whole blog for another day.

It was already apparent before his first day that the child care fees would eat up the greater part of my salary. When you take into account the other things like train/bus fare, petrol, lunches and work clothes, a woman on a low-to-ordinary ordinary salary range isn’t making much on the deal. Maybe some women who aren’t working are just making an economically sensible decision not to work for nothing. So, why do people like me do it?

To summarise: if we take a year or three out of formal employment, we are forced to rejoin the workforce – if we can – doing work beneath the level of our training and experience, and it’s very demoralising.

This article addresses that problem– and it’s very welcome to me, because this nuts-and-bolts side of the equation isn’t talked about enough. (It’s just a wimmin’s issue, right? Just because it’s to do with the ability of a large section of the population to participate in the workforce, that doesn’t make it an economic issue, fer cryin out loud. And just because it’s to do with the lack of political will for governments to admit that the state has a role in fixing the problem doesn’t make it political. Back in your box, ladies!)

So, “Placeholder jobs”: A job held by a woman who is making little or no money after childcare and other work-related expenses are taken into account, who still elects to keep that job because otherwise she’d be de-skilled and have to go back several rungs on the ladder.

I’ve certainly been there. And the placeholding is beginning to pay off. But if I didn’t have a good job, with family friendly hours and a career path and all that, I might just decide to stick it. And I think that’s an important factor behind any so-called “opt-out revolution”.

Paul Norton of LP has more. Peter Costello, are you really listening?

(Note to pedants: I generated the graphic from The “dictionary” image form is a temperamental animal with its own ideas. You can type “noun” in the space provided till you’re blue in the face, but I ended up with “v”. there every time, so after a while I caved and published it as it was because I liked the idea. I do know the difference between a noun and a verb, and the fact that the rendition of a dictionary entry is not quite accurate. Really.)

8 Mar 2006, Comments Off on Minor blog against sexism

Minor blog against sexism

Author: Helen

It’s International Womens’ / Blog Against Sexism day.

My IWD/BAS post is late on accounta the fact that I have been running not with the wolves, but with the capitalist lackeys. My workplace, the Jack Lang Memorial lost Dogs home, kindly invited me and a few others to attend an International Womens day bunfight hosted by an employer’s group which I won’t name.

It makes me nervous, attending these events where I am always the most cheaply attired impostor in the room. But sometimes it can be interesting.

Now, if you’re an employer group which includes some pretty heavy hitting business women and you wish to host an IWD bash, of course you come up with a graphic on the invitation which is redolent of the empowerment of women, no?

Like something pink, with Chick-Lit-cover type graphics of lots of thin young women with vertically tilted breasts, cripplingly high heels, and a reference to “sex in the city”, that repository of useful female role models.

As you would.

I’ve messed with the text to conceal the actual name of the organisation in case they want to sue me.

4 Mar 2006, Comments Off on Punchbuggy


Author: Helen

I’m sitting in traffic with the girl-child, fourteen (god help me) by my side. With no warning, I get a punch on the arm.
“Punchbuggy! Orange!”

This is my introduction to the arcane car game of punchbuggy. I don’t remember it from the old Hillman-and-kingswood days of childhood; I assumed it was another American import. Actually, it seems to be a Canadian thing, and there is an Ottawa band called Punchbuggy.

If you’re the first in the car to see a punchbuggy (VW), you can punch the person next to you. Then you “claim” the colour: eg: “Punchbuggy, green!” Now green is “out” and no further punches are allowed for green punchbuggies. I’ve been in trouble with S.O. for claiming that, for instance, sky blue and cobalt are two different colours; he says that’s cheating (and drove the point home thereafter).
“Punchbuggy, different shade of white!”

I’ve been in trouble with the boy, too, for claiming Porsches and Karmann Ghias as Punchbuggies. Kombis, Golfs and Passats are allowed,but girlchild reckons kombis are a kick (“Kick Kombi!”) Sometimes we drive past a VW dealership and I’m black and blue on those days. But what would you say for a VW like this one?

Photo from here:, which is a very weird site. And no, it's not my boychild.

“Punchbuggy, coveredinmirrors!”?

And how many years of bad luck would that bring?

(Note – that punchbuggy is next to the Yartz centre on the Maribyrnong in Footscray – not as hopeless a place as some would have you believe.)

The Balcony risks VW censure by publishing this image of a VW. This guy got a cease-and-desist letter. (Via Barista.) VW are inexplicably savage about using images of their car. Inexplicable to me, because it’s usually done with so much love, even with the VW’s rather murky origin.

Lovers of Kombis will get much joy here, too.