Archives: August 2006

29 Aug 2006, Comments Off on What colour is my rage? I would say red.

What colour is my rage? I would say red.

Author: Helen

As in, “being in the”, as well as “seeing”, as well as “commie ratbag”, whatever.

What colour is Rage?” asks Pavlov in her post responding to this one from Tigtog.

PC is rightly enraged by the wingnut insistence that vaccinating pubescent girls against cervical cancer is equivalent to sending ’em down to the docks to pick up a few sailors to supplement the family income, and women who get cervical cancer due to being sexually active when young are just askin’ for it.

My rage was focused on the mealy-mouthed, patronising utterances of a Ms Rachel David of the (privatised, naturally) CSL, who was interviewed for this mealy-mouthed and patronising AGE article, with its insistence that Girls (with Parents) with Disposable Income shall be the saved ones:

IF YOU are a woman – or parent of a pre-pubescent girl – with a spare $460, you might like to consider a new way to spend your disposable income…

Gardasil, the most expensive vaccine to hit Australia, was yesterday injected into women and girls for the first time since its approval for use…
Because of its high cost, the vaccine may remain an option only for those with enough disposable income.

Rachel David, spokeswoman for CSL, said the company would “reach out” to women or parents of young girls who may forgo an “iPod, new phone or holiday” for protection against most cervical cancers and genital warts.

Rachel, kindly stuff your iPods and holidays and phones (who spends $460 on a phone? Oh, right, your target constituency) up your friggin’ arse. Your message comes across loud and clear: if you haven’t got disposable income, you’re disposable.

Yeah, if some people in the US are implying that having sex is “asking for” cervical cancer, some people here seem to be implying that having no money is asking for it.

28 Aug 2006, Comments Off on The post with no title

The post with no title

Author: Helen

As a parent of two children who have been through preschool, I’m not qualified to say whether moving the kindergarten system from Human Services to the Department of education, and the preschools to primary school grounds, would be an improvement in terms of “educational outcomes” (ick). My feeling is that children are too poked-at, hothoused and forced to perform like seals as it is. But I think these pundits are all ignoring the fact that such a move would be a disaster in terms of access.

The short hours of preschool mean that children whose mothers are employed are the ones who must have a preschool in the same building as their child care– otherwise, going to preschool may be physically impossible, in the absence of long-suffering grandparents, nannies, or similar, to ferry them around out of work hours.

When I returned to work, in both cases, I managed to find a Community Child Care centre with a kindergarten in the same building complex. Unfortunately, the Community child care centre system is under attack from the for-profit system and an apathetic government.

If the responsibility for kinder was moved to the Education department, kinders would be on school grounds. (Where is the extra space going to come from? It’s not as if our inner-urban schools are spoiled for space!) Even where primary schools are lucky enough to have a before- and after- care centre, these aren’t long day care centres and in no way are they suited to children of preschool age. Is the education department going to provide the long day care? Yeah right!

It’s futile to move the system to a new paradigm where the educational technique may be more whizzbang but kids with working parents miss out. These are likely to be the kids of ordinary workers who can’t pay someone to take little Tarquin to kinder. The ones who probably need kinder the most.

26 Aug 2006, Comments Off on Friday Horse Blogging: No horse was harmed in the writing of this blog post

Friday Horse Blogging: No horse was harmed in the writing of this blog post

Author: Helen

OK, so I didn’t finish it and posted it on Saturday.

Let me set the scene. I’m reading an excellent blog called Real Men Are Not, which I’ll get around to blogrolling just as soon as I get my lazy ass IN a chair to update said blogroll. RMAN’s current post takes me to a reference to Tom Leykis, who I look up on Wikipedia, because I haven’t heard of this particular wingnut (and isn’t there a plethora of fascinating wingnuts in the US, due to their larger size and population generally?) Anyway, I see a reference to this gem on Tom Leykis’s Wikipedia entry which causes me to spray PInot Noir on the keyboard, except it’s not Pinot Noir but some bloody newfangled stuff called Shiraz Durif:

Leykis has caused considerable controversy over the years by revealing on-air the names of such individuals as the following:

*Kenneh Pinyan, the Boeing Co. employee dropped off at a Seattle hospital dead from a perforated colon, later found to have engaged in bestial sexual intercourse with a horse


So, of course I had to follow the link to Kenneth Pinyan

the deceased, concerned about appearing in hospital with an unusual internal injury and the effect on his security clearance as an engineer for aerospace company Boeing, had apparently refused his friends urging to attend hospital for several hours after being aware he was internally injured, and was either beyond treatment, or dead, when he finally reached ER. According to anonymous sources on forums where such material was distributed, he was considered very experienced at receiving anal sex from stallions, and had recognized the potential risk posed by such actions.
Reports suggest that despite seizing and examining carefully a large number of such videos from the [horse agistment] property, no evidence of abuse was found:
“It was only after Pinyan died, when law enforcement looked for one way to punish his associates, that the legality of bestiality in Washington State became an issue … The prosecutor’s office wanted to charge [his friend] with animal abuse, but the police found no evidence of abused animals on the many videotapes they collected from his home. As there was no law against humanely [having sex with] one horse, the prosecutors could only charge [him] with trespassing.”


Prosecutors later determined that the horse, an Arabian stallion named “Bullseye” [well, at least he went for the better-looking horses] which had apparently regularly engaged in penetrative sex acts of this kind, had not been injured …

Well, fair enough, but has this horse been properly counselled? How has his future ability to bond with his herd been affected?

Anyway, while this kind of thing is never going to become a serious problem, this kind of thing is:
Image from

Don’t mean to be callous towards Damien Oliver, but he has the whole country sympathising with him. Maybe a few of us could spare a thought for Langarza and all the others like him, broken and galloped while still babies (and because they all have a formal “birthday” on 1 August, some of them really, really are), fed a mess of supplements and crap which are designed for optimum performance in the short term and not health in the long term, and generally used and abused for a multimillion dollar industry.

20 Aug 2006, Comments Off on Skull Hammer

Skull Hammer

Author: Helen

Image from

is the name of the painting in the image here.

The one below is Flake and Chips.

Image fr0m

They are the work of Trevor Hoppen. If you live in Melbourne, you can go here:

BRIGHTSPACE is excited to present works on canvas & paper
 by Trevor Hoppen,
Chess Air Fish Hammer
Opening Saturday 26th August (3 – 6pm)
also special preview Tuesday 22 Aug (5 – 7 pm)
 exhibition: 23 Aug – 10 September 2006

Or click here to see more. Shameless plug? Guilty as charged. But you would enjoy it.

If you’ve been to the St Kilda Adventure Playground, you have seen Trevor’s work already. He’s responsible for much of the artwork and carpentry there.

Speaking of art and woodwork, I took two little boys to the Da Vinci Machines exhibition today. The exhibition was fantastic – someone with enormous woodworking chops has recreated the machines in Leonardo’s drawings. The kids were impressed. This guy designed working ball bearings, cams, bicycles. The sponsor display (engines and transmissions) was OK too- at least it was relevant to what was on show.

When we got to the end and entered the merchandising area, though, my eyes were rolling as fast as Leonardo was presumably rolling in his grave.

…Da Vinci Genius T shirts, caps, and wait for it: Da Vinci Stubbie holders!!

But that wasn’t the worst.

Not only were there copies of The Da Vinci Code on sale, but there were various kinds of Da Vinci Code spinoff merchandise all mixed up with the books on Leonardo and his work– as if there were some kind of connection, or equivalence, between the two… as if the Da Vinci rubbish was now reality, on a par with the rest of the exhibition.


20 Aug 2006, Comments Off on Book meme

Book meme

Author: Helen

Help. I’ve been tagged by Tigtog and Susoz at once. Better get cracking. I’ve been asked for

1. One book you have read more than once

Oh, lordy. I’m an inveterate rereader and my favourites are many. Which one to pick? OK: Jane Eyre. I love the Victorians. I’ve only read it about a billion times but I still can’t get the fourteen year old girlchild to read it.

Interesting that Pavlov’s Cat and I had the same answer to (1).

The rest of my picks are also on the “read more than once” list.

2. One book you would want on a desert island
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Everyone is cheating by nominating multiple-volume novels, so I’ll pick the Gormenghast trilogy. I’m normally so not a fantasy reader (unlike 99% of bloggers, it appears), so why is this such a big favourite? Maybe because it’s like a piece of Victoriana, more Dickens than dragons. It’s a comedy of manners but with a perfectly realised alternative landscape and society. The people and their architectural and social setting provide all the weirdness you’d ever want without the need for elves and things. Also on the “read more than once” list.

(Mind you, having said all that, I read and enjoyed LOTR.)

3. One book that made you laugh

Like Cold Comfort Farm (which of course also made me laugh), The Poor Mouth, by Flann O’Brien (Myles na Gopaleen) is hugely funny even if you haven’t read the po-faced rural novel or autobiography these books are poking fun at. Angela’s Ashes meets Yorkshiremen. A paper bag in the middle o’ road would have been loooxury to Bonaparte O’Coonassa and his family.
The Picador edition has illustrations by Ralph Steadman, too, which has to be a bonus. Get it and laugh till you weep with Napoleon, the Old-Grey-Fellow and Ambrose the foul-smelling pig. I think that their likes will never be seen again!

4. One book that made you cry

I have a few books from my childhood which I still refuse to give away. One is February Dragon, by Colin Thiele, about a farming family whose house is destroyed in a bushfire.
A few months ago I pulled it out and had a look, as you do, reading while standing because you’re doing housework and so there’s the need to procrastinate. The book has survived well – it was published in 1966 but its colloquial dialogue lets it stand up quite well among today’s junior novels. There are a few clunky bits, like the cardboard-cutout baddie, the evil townie aunt who inadvertently starts a bushfire, the February Dragon of the title.

The aftermath, with the family returning to the burnt-out farm where animals have died, is a shocker. It only dawns on Turps, the little girl, as they approach the place, that she forgot to let her horse out of the stall that morning.

5. One book you wish you had written

Any one of David Foster’s three novels featuring the postman D’Arcy D’Olivieres: Dog Rock, The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover, or The Glade Within the Grove. Foster’s a rightwing crank, unfortunately, but then again so are or were many great novelists. To me, he evokes Australian culture and speech rhythms (with a bit of room for satire and slapstick) better than anybody else does. He manages to combine an encyclopaedic knowledge of history, religion, mythology and a mountain of detail about anything and everything with a sense of humour and wit that stops the overloaded narrative from getting bogged down. I feel a bit of a twit saying that, not being a book critic or an academic, so feel free to disagree.

These books are high on the “make yer laugh” and “read more than once” list, too.

6. One book you wish had never been written

The f***ing Da Vinci f***ing Code.

7. One book you are currently reading

Mother, Missing by Joyce Carol Oates. The subject matter’s interesting, but the writing reads like she’s churned it out to a deadline. Some of it looks completely unproofread – such as, where she uses slashes as punctuation, which looks really sloppy and School Newsletter-ish.

8. One book you have been meaning to read

Lots. One of them is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It’s in our library, but is always on loan; obviously really popular. I’m interested in stories touching on the Autism spectrum (Temple Grandin is also on my to-read list).

9. One Book That Changed Your Life

Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. I read it in 1975 and immediately became vegetarian for three years. I lapsed afterwards, more’s the pity.

10. Now tag five people.

Barista – Ampersand Duck’s already tagged him, but I thought I would, just to give him the shits.
JahTeh, if she can find the time, being a full time carer ‘n all.
Heck of a Guy Another blogger who can pick up just about any ball and run with it. Also because there seems to be some unwritten rule about not going outside your national boundaries with these memes, so I’m doing it just to be difficult.
Inner Curmudgeon, because he’s obviously been doing too much real life lately.
Armaniac, to see if he’s switched to baby manuals yet.

16 Aug 2006, Comments Off on Portrait of a Turncoat

Portrait of a Turncoat

Author: Helen

By Weathergirl, at LP.

And there you are at the podium, at the microphone—you know your voice is voluptuous and they love it: they love your work, they love you, they think exactly!, they know you share their pain, their thin voices toil to impress you.

Times like this, you can hardly tolerate them. Yet despite yourself you feel an almost transcendental thrill. So hypnotic is their devotion that you float on it, drifting above yourself: you look down and see your head as— as— as— oh fuck. This time it’s a bloody cement-truck, churning and spitting out your grey matter, and they’re bathing and snorting in it like bovines.

Jesus. How did it come to this? Once you were buoyed by their devotion, but now — recently — things have changed.

It had to happen. You’ve had your doubts from time to time, chewing at the edge of your conscience. You just couldn’t afford to entertain them, not with so much at stake. But the more you dug your heels in, the more those thoughts minced and multiplied. Like a tapeworm, constant and exponential, leaving your arguments cavernous.

Read the whole thing.

9 Aug 2006, Comments Off on Horses, otters and other animals

Horses, otters and other animals

Author: Helen

Lots of us do Friday cat or dog blogging, but I don’t often come across horse blogging. That’s a shame, because horses are beautiful, exciting, highly individual, and of course take a great photo.

I Gallop On is a wondrous blog, despite having more annoying ads than any blog I’ve ever read. No matter; The writing and the photographs are more than worth it, and I don’t think I’ll be sucked into buying a Sponge Rack With Running Horse cutout, or Dale Chavez Sterling 16″ Show Saddle – Personally Signed, or start “studying” (?!)for a Saddle Bronc riding diploma (Ow!) any time soon. If your interest is more literary than horsey, check out this story.

via I Gallop On, I found this hilarious post at Of Horses and Art.

Closer to home, Carolinkus blogs about her horse Luke. You are my sunshine : Oh, beautiful.

Q. Why is my blogroll so rarely updated? A. Because I’m a lazy cuss. Two bloggers who have come back from a long hiatus- hooray! I’ll re-blogroll them soon: Kip of Long Story, Short Pier and Rivka of Respectful of Otters.

Check out Heck of a Guy – a heck of a storyteller. Look in his sidebar for his late wife’s short stories published as PDFs – great stuff to print out for public transport reading and to avoid the dreaded MX Mag (a terrible rag circulated for free in the bowels of the Melbourne underground loop).

A wonderful stoush over at Jessculture and Sterne (thanks Tim) has temporarily settled my “Public education should be supported, but are we short changing our kids?” debate– Private loses hands down as their darling students don’t appear to know squat about our PM and even which party he belongs to, although they’re prepared to hug him anyway. If you prefer a more refeened, dead-tree experience, try the Patrick White book group, brainchild of Laura of Sill’s Bend via Sarsaparilla.

4 Aug 2006, Comments Off on Shameful secret

Shameful secret

Author: Helen

Back in 1980, when I was learning drums, I lived in a share house where one of the inhabitants owned the Boston debut album. (Could these people look any more like Spinal Tap?) Despite hating and despising Hair bands, I recognised that More than a Feeling was a grouse song to learn a back beat to. So I’d play it at full volume – and play along.

Only now, with the help of the courageous folks at LP, can I come out and … share.

Poor neighbours.

2 Aug 2006, Comments Off on What I’m reading: Broken Song

What I’m reading: Broken Song

Author: Helen

In 1977, I visited my parents in Canberra for a visit. At the time, my Dad was working at the RSSS and their house was a waystation for interesting people from all over. That time, I walked in to meet a tired-looking, late middle-aged couple sitting on the living room couch with a little boy of about four bouncing off the walls. They were Ted Strehlow, his wife Kathleen and their son Karl.
Picture from
At that time I hadn’t heard of Ted and his immense importance to Aboriginal ethnography, as well as the tragic arc of his life story. None of us would have known the awful, final turn his life was about to take. I wasn’t aware that these were the last two years of an eccentric, contrary, but fascinating life. The two of them looked dumpy, grey and beaten down (as Ted, by that time, pretty much was.) I was intrigued by the awfulness of their late-parenthood childrearing style– at the time, Ted was 70. “Oh, he’ll only eat chocolate,” said Kathleen airily, breaking off another row for the already hyperactive kid. A lot of people assume that people with superior intelligence are always better parents. These two would have qualified for a visit from Supernanny.

Broken Song: T.G.H.Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession, by Barry Hill, is the latest biography of TGH Strehlow. It took me months, literally, to read this 750-page tome, not because I’m reading blogs all the bloody time, noooooo!…, rather because it’s a hardback which wasn’t mine and had to be Kept Nice, so I haven’t been taking it on the train. And public transport is my prime dead-tree reading time. Down with hardbacks.

Ted Strehlow was fluent in Aranda (Arrernte) from babyhood. Born and brought up in Hermannsburg Mission, he lived and worked with the Arrernte people for most of his life, both as an anthropologist and as a patrol officer. He developed an idea of himself as the custodian of a dying culture, as well as a fully initiated Ingkata (elder). Whether or not he truly was is disputed.
Picture from
While Strehlow was still still a young man, many Arrernte elders handed their sacred Tjurunga and other religious objects to him, and he interpreted this action to mean that he and no other was the final custodian. Because he viewed Tjurunga as belonging to the individual and not the tribe, he treated them as property and as completely alienable– thus setting himself up for conflict when the Land Rights movement gathered strength in the 70s and 80s and the Strehlows refused to give the objects back.

Strehlow’s greatest achievement was recording and explaining Arrernte legends, myths and songs, and particularly his book Songs of Central Australia, rather than as a mere curator of sacred objects.

The book is so filled with drama and poetry, and in such an rich visual and cultural setting, I couldn’t help thinking someone should be writing an opera about this man’s life. The tension of his upbringing, between Lutheran Christianity and Aboriginal culture (which would continue all his life). The Twins dreaming story, which he took as his own, and the psychological implications of that. The journey to Horseshoe Bend and the death of his father there. His experiences in the desert– for instance, his dramatic waking nightmare about a herd of bulls, his journeys (with his first wife) by camel. His frienships with Aboriginal people and his defence of Aborigines from abusive graziers and outback workers when he was a patrol officer. His mistreatment as a descendant of Germans, and a German speaker, in World War II. His escalating, paranoia-fuelled war with academia.

When I wonder why filmmakers and composers haven’t been all over the enormous lode of this man’s life, I think perhaps it’s because it’s over-rich in stories, metaphors and dramas – where would you start? and what would you leave out? Anyway, I hope it happens in my lifetime.

A cantata has been written and performed based on Journey to Horseshoe Bend. But there’s much more to Strehlow’s life than is contained in that story, dramatic though it is. Strehlow was a perfect tragic hero, or anti-hero, for modern Australia. He started out full of promise, and then destroyed himself with his own hubris in the best dramatic tradition. He saw himself as the only repository of Central Australian culture, the only living link to something that was essentially gone, and perhaps the last Ingkata. There’s Nemesis, too, of course, arriving not only in the shape of the Aboriginal land rights movement – they wanted their sacred objects, and their own stories, back – but his own tunnel vision and refusal to comply with what others saw as normal scholarly standards. He believed he had more right than the aboriginals themselves to the Tjurunga and other precious objects in his care.

In his last years, he became increasingly bitter and emotionally stunted. Reiterating his private ownership of his collection, he threatened to sell it. In 1978, a year after I met him, he engineered his own downfall when he lent a group of photographs of secred/sacred ceremonies to the German magazine Stern. For this he earned $6,000. However, Stern passed the images on to People magazine. It was a major scandal. The traditional owners of the objects and ceremonies were outraged. His life’s work was tainted, and whatever trust and kinship the Arrernte people felt for him was destroyed. He died soon afterwards.

Coda: The Land Councils are still trying to get the secret/sacred objects returned to them. And in 1992 and 1999 a portion of them were “rescued” when Kathy and young Carl, as inheritors of the collection, tried to sell some of it overseas.