Archives: December 2006

23 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Ghost of Christmas post

Ghost of Christmas post

Author: Helen

image from

Buon Natale! Look at us! We are so much happier than you! We are so much prettier than you! Our passion is so strong that everything is red, yes?
He is going to unwrap something now, I think. But it isn’t a present, no?

Merry Christmas to all, please don’t get killed on the road. Please do eat too much of the wrong things and get pleasantly shitfaced somewhere where you don’t have to drive afterwards. Don’t drown or get eaten by sharks. Use sunscreen. I think I’ve pretty much covered everything… Take a hanky… Beware of strangers…

See you in 2007.

19 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Brekky Blogfast, I mean, Bloggy Breakfast

Brekky Blogfast, I mean, Bloggy Breakfast

Author: Helen

Paul Barry, who unfortunately sounds a lot like those received-pronounciation types from ’60s newsreels, is doing Fran Kelly’s usual spot on RN Breakfast. He’s introduced an interesting new segment called Breakkie Blogspot, with Antony Loewenstein first cab off the rank.

There’ll be a different blogger each week. It seems you have to read your post, so count me out, but if you’re intrigued maybe you should send him an email.

Also, TIME magazine says bloggers and Wikipedians are their people of the year, according to Paul of Two Peas, No Pod. LOL WTF! W00t! Yay us.

More power to the Ozblogosphere!

19 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Little old ladies Underground Collective

Little old ladies Underground Collective

Author: Helen

Lexical note: I’m not in favour of the word lady or ladies as part of modern-day usage, at all. It has connotations and resonances I don’t like much. That’s a blog for another day. But the ladies in this story are members of a different generation. It is just not possible to describe their world without using this obsolete term, which, like Mrs, is avoided by patriarchy-blamers like me but is a badge of honour for them.

If you still haven’t bought any Christmas cards because you can’t face the teeming CBD or, worse still, the megamalls like Highpoint and Chaddy, it might be worth trying the St Pauls VCOSSCard and Gift shop: A retail experience unlike any other.

Skulk around the Flinders Lane side of St Paul’s, which is just across from Fed Square, avoiding the self-conscious punkettes sitting on the side steps (The real punks at the Seaview Ballroom in the eighties woulda had them for breakfast, wouldn’t they Brownie?) and you’ll see an entrance to a little shady courtyard. Then you’ll go through a couple of big Gothic doors, one of which is guarded by one fierce Little Old Lady who will ask you your quest. You will say you’ve come for the Card Shop and she will wave you on in the right direction, down through the catacombs. At this point bumping into Albus Dumbledore would be no surprise.

Once you have made it down the stone steps and through a narrow corridor you find a small dungeon full of faithful customers. You’ll see the cards, which are the Business, thumb tacked to the walls, one example of each with a code and number.

Not so fast! There’s a System! if you don’t understand it, another Little Old Lady will whoosh to your elbow within seconds to explain it. To your right as you come in, there’s a box full of mini clipboards with forms on them (each one with its pen firmly attached, naturally.) The forms are like little invoices. You put down the codes for the cards you want, quantity, price per card and add it all up. No calculator, please. Then when you’re finished you go to the counter and give your little clipboard to the ladies behind the counter.

The cards come from many different charities, so you juggle what designs you fancy with causes you support – this year I’ve got the Brain Association, natch, and I always like Amnesty with their multilingual and secular salutation. Pee cee multiculti? Bite me. There’s Riding for the Disabled, MS, Red Cross, different hospitals, Alzheimers association… They are mostly between 60 cents to a dollar. There are presents like barbeque aprons and tea towels tacked to the wall, too.

It’s cool and quiet and nothing hurts your ears and eyes with Red-Nosed Reindeers and other such aural slush. There is gentle banter that reminds you of pineapple slices at the Junee CWA.

Once the counter ladies have your clipboard they disappear into a vast set of shelves filled with shoeboxes. None of this newfangled computerised stock control here! Using their Special little-old-lady Powers they locate your stuff and give it to you to pay for at the big old cash register. Most of them are seventy if they’re a day, some older. They do this for the love of it.

I don’t see any Little Old Men working there– Perhaps they’re at home watching the cricket and moaning because Mavis isn’t bringing them afternoon tea.

Now if I could only find time to write, address, stamp and post all these cards.

15 Dec 2006, Comments Off on In Which I demonstrate my multi-tasking skillz by combining some good blognews with Christmassy cheer, Friday Cat blogging and more!

In Which I demonstrate my multi-tasking skillz by combining some good blognews with Christmassy cheer, Friday Cat blogging and more!

Author: Helen

Image from

Pavlov’s Cat has a post on How To Tell Whether It’s Christmas. I know it’s coming because friendly spammer ‘Engel Everett’ is emailing me about ‘View horny elves’. Can hardly wait.

Back in September of this year, I had a post burbling away on the back burner about the health system in the US and its many shortcomings from what I read about it. Also how much I fear we’ll end up with the same. I was going to hang this unwritten post off a post by Grannyvibes, who had a wonderfuly tart and acerbic blog and was diagnosed with lymphoma in, I think, July. So you could say she had more than a passing relationship with the US health system.

I haven’t linked to Grannyvibes because it’s gone. She took her blog down shortly after she started posting about her cancer, and many of us were sad for not getting to read her excellent blog, never mind worried about what could be happening to her.

She’s back, Thanks for the headzup to Kate, commenting on Pav’s Christmas thread.

Here’s something to put your Christmas Angst in perspective: The existing deprivation gap in relative survival for both men and women confirms that cancer survival depends on socio-economic background and is inequitable.

Friday Cat blogging? well, that was a bit of a fizzer, because WordPress for some reason didn’t want to upload this fine picture (Warning – PDF).

Update 18/12/2006: Cat image reoptimised to less huge proportions, now appearing.

15 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Mass Murder

Mass Murder

Author: Helen

I could hear their voices before I found them in the small room at the front of the house. There must have been five or six of them there. It only took a moment to release the poison into the room and slam the door shut.

After a time, everything was quiet.

I went in to investigate. One of them was lying on her back, next to the wall. Something was coming out of her. I peered cautiously.

She wasn’t defaecating in her death struggle – she was giving birth. Pale, doomed, feebly moving things.

I’d have to kill them too, before they lived to carry on their parents’ work.

I used a tissue to put them in the bin. Argh, bloody flies.

13 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Stuff I didn’t have time to blog in November

Stuff I didn’t have time to blog in November

Author: Helen

November whooshed through like a freight train, and now I’m strapped precariously to the howling juggernaut of December. One thing’s for sure, I’m happy I said yes to playing those four November sessions with Tess McKenna. The best singer-songwriter in the world, in space. One of the things we’re told we have to learn at this parenting and working life stage is how to say no – and I’m getting better at it, honest. But there are some things you should really say yes to, as well, because if you don’t you could be impoverished. If I hadn’t played with Tess the house might be cleaner and the Christmas cards done, but a certain something which buoys me through the December madness would be missing.

Tess’s stuff is more like psychedelia than nu country now. The songs are big and wide and (mostly) slow and funky and filled with space and light and harmonies that could break your heart.

The courtyard of the Brunswick Green is shady and comfortable, like your own back yard ought to be. There is a boxed-in verandah like your gran’s. The clientele span every demographic from crusty dreads and goths to grandmas and grandpas and young parents with toddlers who run around and play on the soft strip of grass by the fence. There are two massive lemon trees. The Bloody Marys and chips with aioli are wicked. And the guys who run the place are lovely.

Playing a low-down and syncopated back beat is more fun than possibly anything else you can do sitting down.

Playing a big 6/8 is like flying.


The Agdars were quiet, friendly, straight-backed and careful with speech. Their kids didn’t come, they were off doing their own thing, so I didn’t get to meet Shahin. I nearly got his name right – it’s pronounced Shaheen with a long e.

I wanted to say something like “I apologise for our Government and all that has been done to you” but the moment never came, and it probably would just have been naff and embarrassing.


When Donald Rumsfeld got the push, I was reading Thoreau’s Walden and meaning to post about it, and I came across a quotation attributed to Confucius which seemed very familiar, somehow:

The message is that there are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns, that is to say there are things we now know we don’t know. But there also unknown unknowns, there are things we do not know we don’t know.

If you know, to recognize that you know,
If you don’t know, to realize that you don’t know:
That is knowledge.

Perhaps that’s what Rummy was trying to say in his inarticulate fashion.


Ironically, I found a link to this article by Michael Kimmel via Crikey, directly beneath another link to the Gardasil story. Because apparently, even though Tony Abbott thinks girls’ lives are worth less than $450, and conservatives in the US and developing countries seem to think sexually active women deserve to get cervical cancer, we’re supposed to be in the middle of a war against boys?

Reading the article, something smells familiar… oh yes. This little shit.

Fortunately, Michael Kimmel is refusing to play the us-against-them , and does a fabulous hatchet job on the MRAs who think that the problems boys have are all Teh Feminists fault.

Read the whole thing.


In the leadup to the election, there was a lot of ink and hot air expended on how wonderful the Victorian Labor government was in their response to climate change and water issues, but they were still impervious to any requests to stop logging the forests around the Thomson river catchment area. The other side didn’t inspire confidence, as the Liberals only think of forests as “Timber” (you know, a “resource”) and their election “pledge” was to protect not the forests, but the timber industry’s access to them. Since my expectations of them were nil, I wasn’t too disappointed.


The Larvyprod thread, “We’d better get back in the fridge“, looked at the Sheikh Hilaly / Michael Leunig / blame-the-victim ethos from all angles. The general consensus is that this idea is still pervading most levels of Western society, never mind the Muslims for now. Some of us decided a spell in the fridge, with cold stubbies close to hand, was an attractive proposition as the weather heats up.


Boychild’s music concert: Images that will stay with me for ever. Not just Boychild, cool and competent behind his keyboard in a stand-up, ravin’, cast of thousands, all-black-hat wearinfg rendition of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” from The Blues Brothers.

I will never forget the drum teacher’s big black kit on stage, apparently playing itself, because the little Prep drummer was too little to be seen over the rack toms. Occasionally we would see a stick gamely wave over the top.


Definition of a nanosecond: the time between when Howard appoints his Prime Ministerial “taskforce” and when he decides that Nuclear is the Answer to all our Problems. (Of course he hadn’t already made his mind up! Of course Ziggy Switkowski was a totally appropriate choice of advising nuclear physicist! Of course he weighed up all the alternatives! Of course I’m my grandmother!)


That’ll have to do for now.

12 Dec 2006, Comments Off on A red heart

A red heart

Author: Helen

Two weeks ago I woke up to a familiar smell. Our bedroom window faces north, and I could smell gum tree logs burning – a scent I’m addicted to, of hearth fires and campfires and barbequeues outdoors.

Except it wasn’t.

Up in the mountains the dragon was uncoiling early. A thick grey blanket covered the city. Drivers switched on headlights.

I looked on the Parkweb site, which has a link to a PDF map, updated regularly, of the bushfires. Here is the restricted zone, and fires, from last week (December 7), shaped like a big, red, beating heart in the middle of Victoria.

Image from

The bright red bits are the fires; the paler red is the restricted area.

Here is the same map from today’s PDF.

Image from

Now, when the hot northerly wind is blowing too hard, we are on edge, although not as much on edge as the people who live near the dragon’s mouth. We went to a garden party at Mount Egerton on Sunday. The weather cleared, then the foggy blanket started drawing in again. The conversation stuttered.
People checked the internet, left perhaps an hour or so earlier than they planned to.

My thoughts are with the people in the little mountain hamlets further out, with their fire plans and determination, and the CFA firefighters. I emailed the people at the Alpine School, which is just on the topmost edge of the red heart. They are OK. The fourth-term kids went home three days early.

Barista has more.

11 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: All Connex ads

Ad Nauseam: All Connex ads

Author: Helen

Ads which actually put you off buying the product

This post has been delayed and delayed while I searched the web fruitlessly for images from the last few Connex advertising campaigns. Wouldn’t you know, they’re not to be found. Presumably the expensive advertising company knows having these available anywhere would only encourage blog snark. Well, too bad. Here’s an excerpt from the latest campaign, Don’t Hold Others Back. And here is a picture of the grim reality. (This is actually quite good, compared to some of the peak hour trains I’ve taken.)

Image from the old Public Transport Users Assocn site

When Melbourne’s public transport system was privatised, what did the new owners do to make it more efficient, lean and mean than the old Government service? Besides sacking most of the station staff, that is? Why, they went out and found the slickest, most smartarse advertising company they could. (With a partner who was also the Connex Melbourne chairman). Ah, that’s private efficiency for you. Jobs for the private mates, none of your Government or Union mates. Totally different.

The Sheena Easton “My baby takes the Morning Train” ad was simply tasteless and irritating in the way most ads are, but other Connex ads infuriate all the more because they highlight the very gaps in service on which they should be spending money, instead of on all this spin. There’s one series with gorgeous young things reclining in bed, etcetera, with “we know where you’d rather wait”. For non-melburnians, this means that Connex provides a SMS service so that if your train’s cancelled, you can theoretically spend another ten minutes in bed instead of on the platform in the cold wind with someone who’s forgotten their medication.

This, of course, assumes (wrongly) that Connex can provide SMSs in an accurate and timely fashion- rather like, you know, trains. It also highlights the fact that they cancel trains all the time. What about fixing the actual transport system instead of giving SMS addicts another excuse to obsess over their phones?

Then there’s the series of poster ads, in 70s bulbous typescript, aimed at fare evaders. You know the ones: “Fare evaders! Please thank the person next to you! He has paid for your journey. Maybe you should offer to mow his lawn!…Maybe you should cook them a nice meal!” …

To which the only response when one is straphanging, sardined, bloodshot eyed and ripe for murder on the 8:12: “Get f***ed!” or “Please thank us for putting up with your bloody system. Maybe you should provide a system worth paying for!” (Unfortunately, I’m a wimp, and pay for my ticket.)

But the crowning glory appeared earlier this year, an advertising campaign so expensive, so high in production values, so out there and full of creative juice that noone on the balcony could understand it at all. Even Girlchild and Boychild, usually so good at explaining the modern world to us, could only shake their heads pensively. It was vaguely apparent that it was about Connex, but apart from that the message was far from clear.

Wretched souls, washed in a blue-grey arthouse ambience and dreadfully expensive lighting, struggled through streets and over pavements, literally carrying others, to hysterically tragic music, like some modern day Victor Hugo ripoff. I was bemused. The role of advertising is to portray the product or service in a flattering light, but this seemed like a realistic portrayal of the hellish journey through Footscray “premium” (hah!) station to the fourth circle of Hell City Loop, complete with the wails of the damned. In my abortive attempt to find a jay-peg for this post I came across this description of the soundtrack: “The music for the advertisement, an evocative Stalinist mood-piece entitled No(t) Home, was written especially for the video by Russian born, Tasmanian based singer Zulya Kamalova, a leading proponent of Tatar music in Australia.”

Imagine the fulminations from Bolt and co. if a public company had come out with an ad containing a Stalinist mood-piece. Oh, the irony.

The ads were linked to a website, which probably cost Connex another bucket of our money, but it was impossible to load it until the other day – one of those dratted Flash sites which just kind of sit there and never load. Nevertheless, we eventuallly worked it out: the Don’t Hold Others Back campaign is to inform us that we, the passengers, are the cause of all the trouble. Yes, forget about the cancellation of the 5.11 and the Faulty Train at Flinders Street which the crackling PA is ranting about. It’s YOU, you wretch, you’re thirty seconds late and you’ll make the train wait for you! Which makes us all suffer!

Except, of course that most of it’s bollocks because trains don’t wait, do they? If you’re slow, you just have to catch the next one. If it comes, of course. The primary offender in holding us all back is Connex itself, and this kind of conspicuous consumption just rubs our noses in it.

If Connex could just shut up with the advertising and spin for a year or two and spend the money on improving the system instead, we’d all cheer.