Archives: June 2006

30 Jun 2006, Comments Off on It’s not all gloom

It’s not all gloom

Author: Helen

As I sit here dipping into LP, IBTP, CRN and other delights, there is a sussuration of giggles and music and voices from the living room. Girlchild’s having a sleepover with some friends. It’s the school holidays. It’s a good time to do it, because they won’t be getting together again in a while.

A while back when we were talking about the public vs. private education thing, I didn’t really get into our own experience. Like many other people, I fervently wish for a situation where public education is properly funded and allowed to compete on its merits, instead of being progressively gutted to the point where if we don’t give it some attention soon, it will be turned into a safety net for the poor, a system which will instantly stigmatise and disadvantage the children who pass through it.

Like many such parents, though, I suffer from guilt pangs for not somehow finding a way (second mortgage? Third, for child no. 2?) to put my kids through private, or make them undergo the entrance exam and two-hour each-way commute to put them in to Selective High with Uniform. If you ask us for our reasons, I reckon there would be mainly two (others invited).

One, that we’re worried the gutting of the public education system may proceed at enough of a pace to ruin our kids lives right here and now.

Two, that the kids who go private (and selective public) get so many more life opportunities. Sure, the girlchild gets to study her current passions – drama and Manga drawing – in Melbourne, whether at school or not. But it’s the outdoor / external education programs which really had me salivating. I really, truly did envy these kids the opportunity to live and study at Howqua, Timbertop or even Nanjing.

I didn’t know this a year ago, but back in 1999, someone in the Education Department had the same idea. So, on the ninth of July, Girlchild’s going here.

For the whole of term 3.

They all get (ie. lent) their own laptop for the duration (MAJOR selling point for Girlchild).

After their study periods, they go out the back and take the poma up the hill to practice cross country skiing. Every day, if they want.

They get bussed to Mt Hotham for three days of downhill.

They do two overnight expeditions – one one night, one two nights, snow camping.
Image from http://www.canb.auug.org.au/~alanlevy/Thumbnails/Images/Skiing/DinnerPlainTrail.JPG

They also do a lot of personal development courses, Senior First Aid certificate, Food Handling certificate, and a project which they develop themselves for the benefit of the community.

Strangely enough, they are still given time to read books and relax, according to the Alpine School teachers. In fact, at certain times of the day they’re required to read quietly and comtemplate.

It’s a year 9 thing. And it’s not supposed to cost us anything (except for massive amounts of warm clothes and underwear). I’m sceptical, but the kids and program teachers have been fundraising with a raffle and sausage sizzles and such, and they are supposed to cover it. Anyway, the “cost” , we were told, was something like $1,200 per child, which no way would reflect the real cost of such an amazing program.

And it is amazing.

It’s drawing near now. We’re talking a week and a half. There are butterflies in the stomach. There’s a twelve hour round trip to do to drop her off, which means a 4 AM start. A night flit. Lots of packing. There will probably be tears, and lots of hugs for the dog (oh, the dog! How’s she gunna survive without her?) We’ll be driving up to the high country with the sun rising in the East. I am getting the front tyres replaced. Will we need chains? How the hell do you fit chains?

You would. not. believe the number of Explorer Socks I have bought. Rush out and buy shares in Holeproof.

Scary, and wonderful. The girlchild will be changed when she returns. She’ll be walking tall (er). She’s had to jump through many hoops to get there. I’m proud of her.

24 Jun 2006, Comments Off on 17th Carnival of Feminists

17th Carnival of Feminists

Author: Helen

Now up at Bitch|Lab.

23 Jun 2006, Comments Off on A game for the rest of us

A game for the rest of us

Author: Helen

Tired of the whole Soccer, sorry, Football, thing? Woken at 5 AM by the inconsiderate roars of your normally civilised S.O.? Trying, and failing, to master the rules of yet another arcane ball sport?

This is the game for you.

Do you think it was inspired by this?

Could they develop one with politicians? rightwing pundits? Or Letterio Silvestri?

22 Jun 2006, Comments Off on “Anything that’s over 60 kilos I don’t talk to”

“Anything that’s over 60 kilos I don’t talk to”

Author: Helen

The Girlchild is fourteen and in year 9. She’s just taken part in the new Bodythink program, which


is a collaboration between the State Government, the Butterfly Foundation — which supports sufferers of eating disorders — and beauty brand Dove.

(Ironic, much?! The Girlchild was onto that immediately.)


The scheme comes after the Government’s parliamentary inquiry last year into body image recommended the development of a national media code of conduct.
…Footscray City College students, among the first to take part in BodyThink, said it was a good way to build confidence. “People think there’s only one shape — that’s too skinny,” year 9 student Kristie Westlow said.

Image from http://www.thepinupfiles.com/frahm.html

I don’t object to these programs, although sponsorship by cosmetics companies doesn’t do much for their credibility. It’s all good that they address the media and “support sufferers”. But I think there’s too much of a push for those who might be on the receiving end of toxic messages about body image. And although the media play a big part in the problem, there’s something missing. To quote a woman with an eating disorder:


“It was a time of huge change and transition, from school to university,” she said.

“This was compounded by a ranking system that the older guys had at the college where they rated the younger females in the top 10. I was never on the top 10 and at that stage it had a profound impact on the way that I saw myself.”

And of course we were treated recently to the opinions of Letterio Silvestri, drink spiker, sexual opportunist and waste of space extraordinaire:


Letterio Silvestri thought Dianne Brimble had “f—ed up his holiday” by dying in his cabin. He was a man of pride who did not talk to “anything that’s over 60 kilos”.

I don’t think we can blame Vogue magazine for that one.

How incredibly depressing. Of course I’ve crossed swords with MRAs/RWDBs galore, but I don’t talk much to the peaked-cap-and-commodore set, except in a professional setting, where they keep their pussy-hatred in check. I suppose we have the example of various footballers over the years, so my surprise was misplaced. How many men and boys out there are still being taught to think that way (the men in both examples are younger than I am)? Do people who run programs like Bodythink care? It seems to me they’re concerned with “treating” the “victims” rather than attacking the problem at its source. As Twisty would say, they need to do a bit of patriarchy blamin’.

Let’s take some of the focus from how women and girls respond to the female-body-hatred in our society, and pay some attention to the boys. Who is teaching them attitudes like these? Why do they still think it’s normal to abuse women and girls to the point where they need psychiatric treatment? Fixing the problem of anorexia and other eating disorders in our society isn’t just the responsibility of schoolgirls. Let’s put some of the responsibility on the men.

(Illustration from Art Frahm, whose “art” explored the mysterious effect of celery on underpant elastic – as elucidated by James Lileks.)

22 Jun 2006, Comments Off on Oh, Frabjous day!

Oh, Frabjous day!

Author: Helen

Callooh, Callay…

Barista’s back. With a really cracking post on his near-death experience. Go and read.

Although it will only be a really frabjous day when he’s fully recovered.

19 Jun 2006, Comments Off on Stuart Speed

Stuart Speed

Author: Helen

For a few months back in 2002, I had the unbelievable honour of playing with this beautiful gentle giant of a man. The best bass player I’ve ever played with, bar none.

What was the experience like? Like being given the keys to a Maserati and taking it for a spin.

He died last Wednesday.

There will be a fundraiser for his family at the Rainbow Hotel, Fitzroy, July 22.

19 Jun 2006, Comments Off on Thinktanks redux

Thinktanks redux

Author: Helen

Did I mention the Right is having a field day, moaning all the while about how oppressed they are? Robert Manne explains the Windschuttling of the ABC board (it’s already been Albrechtsened and Bruntoned) in the Age today, while John Roskam of the IPA complains that even that isn’t enough to root out the commie pinko culture of the damn place (hoick, spit).

Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennelong

I might have also compared the IPA to lantana, or one of those funguses that spread and spread until they occupy the subterranean equivalent of several office buildings? Maybe we’d better scrub that idea and replace it with a huge fungal infestation, not of the IPA, but of many thinktanks. Because as we know, strange consanguinities often pop up – or maybe it’s just because the public intellectuals of Australia are such a small pond?

The thinktank which released the report about Aboriginal culture in schools (anti) was not from the IPA or the CIS but the Bennelong society. Obviously, a group which calls itself the Bennelong society would be in some way concerned with Aboriginal welfare, or reconciliation, or culture. Right? So what does the Bennelong Society website tell us?

Well, it’s a com.au and an inc., not an .org or an .edu. It has some beautiful graphics on its header – from Aboriginal paintings by Noongali, a member of the Balardong clan from Western Australia. Its aims are, in part, to


*promote debate and analysis of Aboriginal policy in Australia, both contemporary and historical;
*encourage research into the history of the interaction between Australia’s Indigenous people and the Europeans and others who settled in Australia from 1788 onwards, and of the ideas through which this interaction was interpreted by both Europeans and Aborigines;…
[and disseminate this via the internet].

Another stated aim is to promote Aboriginal welfare.

This site may not be familiar to you, but click through to Who we are and Useful Links and hey, you could practically play “Rightwing Thinktanks plus Quadrant bingo” with the results. On the board, Dr. Gary Johns (IPA), Peter Howson (Minister for aboriginal affairs under the McMahon government), Senator Jeannie Ferris (current Liberal government), Des Moore (Institute for Private Enterprise, H R Nicholls society), Ray
Evans (Lavoisier group). There are two or three actual Aboriginal people on the Board (one’s even a woman!) but there are no Aboriginal office bearers. “Useful links”: Centre for Independent Studies, Quadrant and Keith Windschuttle. “Articles and Speeches” is pretty much a Johns-Howson-Brunton showcase.

It’s just like the IPA but with Aborigines (and global warming denialists).

How does Noongali feel, you have to wonder, having his art showcased by, and an integral part of, such a website. On the one hand, it should bring him lots of hits and interest, so great. But if I were in his shoes I’d be saddened to see it giving prominence to the writings of Keith Windschuttle. As Robert Manne said in his article:


On the basis of a comically flawed methodology, Windschuttle argued that the British settlers killed only 118 of the Tasmanian Aboriginal population; that those Aborigines who resisted the destruction of their way of life were no better than vicious common criminals, robbers and murderers; and that, as a “dysfunctional” people, the Tasmanian Aborigines were actually responsible for their own demise. In Fabrication, Windschuttle wrote about the collapse of Tasmanian Aboriginal society with a moral coldness not seen even in the 19th century settler accounts.

With friends like the Bennelong society…

Now the ABC’s full of them.

11 Jun 2006, Comments Off on I’m from the IPA and I’m here to help you

I’m from the IPA and I’m here to help you

Author: Helen

Is there any institution more dismal and useless than the corporate shill-filled thinktanks that clog up the pages of our MSM with their stuff?

A couple of weeks ago, charities like Oxfam, Red Cross, Caritas Australia and World Vision were rushing to Indonesia to help the victims of the latest natural disaster, while at home, others like the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Smith family are gearing up to do what they do every winter in Victoria – helping those who are falling through the holes in our welfare system.

And what was one of our best-known think tanks doing to help? Well, they were fearlessly taking to their keyboards to produce nasty anonymous press releases, like this one in the AGE the same day (not on the web, as far as I can tell):


Charities and non-profit organisations are poorly regulated, lack transparency and are vulnerable to political manipulation, a report says.

A conservative think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, has warned that there are no clear rules governing the rapidly expanding sector, which accounts for up to 10 per cent of the economy and gets billions of dollars each year in tax breaks and donations.

The report said there were examples of organisations undertaking activities that were either “clearly not charitable in nature, not appropriate for an organisation of their status or directly break laws.”

(No byline– well, would you admit to stuff like that?)

Isn’t a blanket accusation that organisations are “break(ing) laws” defamatory? Is the IPA hoping the NGOs are too busy doing real work to protest or prosecute, or does the absence of a specific target make the statement too diffuse to attract a defamation charge?

The IPA is a pest which entwines through our public discourse like feral lantana. In the same edition of the AGE, on page one, Gary Johns – an IPA regular, though wearing his Bennelong Society / Menzies Research Centre hat– advocates taking from remote Aboriginal communities the last thing they own, namely, their cultural heritage. (Funnily enough, the IPA is inhabited by the kind of people who’d passionately resist removing the western “cultural heritage”, such as Shakespeare and Latin, from schools Down South).

Quelle coincidence, Gary Johns is also the originator of the “NGOs are crooks who ought to be investigated” report, which he wrote for the Federal government a couple of years ago. They took a fee from the government for “consulting” on that, but didn’t mention it until those pinko socialists at the ABC outed them. They also rarely mention their links to the American Enterprise Institute.

The rationale for this scattershot accusation and defamation is the idea that NGOs have too much influence and power. Since it’s unusual these days to open a newspaper without encountering some fresh IPAspeak, and their utterances are apparently taken seriously by government ministers (the last linked “report [was] endorsed by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop”, and Peter Costello absolutely loved the idea of muzzling the welfare NGOs). And yet we’re not supposed to be concerned about them?

Imagine coming to after an earthquake like the one in Java: instead of a Red Cross or Unicef worker, saline or bandages, food or water, the first thing you see is an accountant in a nice suit, with arch lever binders and laptop at the ready to give you a damn good auditing.

6 Jun 2006, Comments Off on On the other hand…

On the other hand…

Author: Helen

Badass Death Metal Robot Pandas.

Via Pandagon.

Turn your speakers way, way up.

1 Jun 2006, Comments Off on Holy Shit!!

Holy Shit!!

Author: Helen

Screenshot from "Left Behind: Eternal Forces"

Both a description of, and the only possible reaction to, this. (Title is lifted directly from comments.)

A lot of people are hoping this one is a hoax.

As one commenter said: imagine the outcry if a group of young Muslim men had come up with this.

(Belated update: Tigtog has more.)