Archives: February 2007

25 Feb 2007, Comments Off on Tess McKenna at the Brunswick Green

Tess McKenna at the Brunswick Green

Author: Helen

Image from

I’m playing with Tess again in March.

Where: The Brunswick Green again (Sydney Road, Brunswick).
When: Every Saturday in March at 4:47 sharp (yeah, right)

Go here for information, clips and downloads.

Light blogging and hiatus definitely possible here till April.

22 Feb 2007, Comments Off on The dreadful results of excessive reliance on homeschooling

The dreadful results of excessive reliance on homeschooling

Author: Helen

Andrew Schlafly (Yes, son of that Schlafly) and some like-minded geniuses, enraged by the pomo relativism, poor spelling and liberal bias of the leftist Wikipedia, have started their own superior and truer version – Conservapedia.

Screenshot from Conservapedia

It’s not doing very well.

21 Feb 2007, Comments Off on Just throw Money

Just throw Money

Author: Helen

Education– especially public education versus private, or public education, the parlous state of– is all over the news again. How long will it be before some conservative will come out once again with the perennial classic, “well, you won’t solve the problems in public education just by throwing money at it“.

Money may be the root of all evil and all that, but unfortunately we often need it to achieve certain ends. It’s strange that in these ideologues’ world, the purchasing power of money is actually variable based on whether it’s spent by the wealthy elite or by the great unwashed. I call this new principle the purchasing-power-differential (ahem! Wow, that sounds impressive. I’ve spent too much time on Crooked Timber and Quiggin, and it’s given me Jargon Envy.)

Therefore, if I throw a lot of money at a private school by paying their astronomical fees, and the Federal government decides to give them even more money, this is not throwing money. this is totally defensible. And people such as the Associations of Independent Schools are always going into print to defend it. Oh, how they defend it.
If the money was spent fixing the public system, you see, that would be throwing money, but if it’s spent on the private system, it’s a prudent allocation of funds.

It’s all in the purchasing power differential.

Wealthy people fail consistently in applying this principle in just about every aspect of their lives. Can you imagine this conversation?

“Charles, that little beach house at Portsea is sweet, but so run down. It’s going to need a lot of rebuilding and redecorating, darling! Shall I ring the architect?”

“Nah, you know don’t solve the problem just by throwing money at it.”

“Don’t you think it’s time we updated the Beemer?”

“Darling, that would just be throwing money at the problem!”

“It’s time I paid young Phoenix’s fees for Scotch next term.”

“Look, you can’t solve Nix’s education by throwing money at it!”

“Possum, can you shove a wee bit into my credit card account this week? I need my outfits for the spring racing carnival.”

“Forget it! That’s just throwing…”

[Cross posted at Road to Surfdom]

20 Feb 2007, Comments Off on Little Kidults

Little Kidults

Author: Helen

Sorry possums. This blog should be renamed the Bludger on the Cast Iron Balcony, as we lie about in pools of our own sweat, panting and riding out the heat wave. Shoutout to people who have newborns or are just about to go— I hope you can keep cool.

The bad news I have for you is that the gender politics in popular culture, especially as relates to being a parent, they are still stuffed.

On Sunday, we decided an afternoon movie was a good way to survive the heat. We were aiming for Notes on a Scandal, but we got the session time wrong and ended up seeing Little Children (Dir. Todd Field). How much did I hate it? Let me count the ways.

Here are some of the messages you’ll get from this movie:

Women at home with children are all neurotic, Martha Stewart-esque bitches.
There are occasional exceptions to this- the nice mums are the ones who put out.
Women who are the primary breadwinner are ballbreakers. They’re reversing the natural order!
Women who are primary breadwinners, therefore ballbreakers, can only expect to be cheated on.
Men who are the primary caregiver must be losers, because they would never choose to do such a thing of their own volition.
Men who are the primary caregiver can make statements to perfect strangers like “Aren’t you going to ask me who wears the pants in our marriage?” and that is no way sexist or neurotic or passive agressive, not at all.
If a woman’s husband turns out to be a complete dickhead, that gives her permission to bonk another woman’s husband. Because the solution to pain is just to pass it on to others, right?
Reading Madame Bovary proves that infidelity is admirable. And feminist! Because feminism is, like, er…
People who disagree with the last point must be one of those neurotic, Martha Stewart-esqe beyotches (see above).
Child molesters are instantly recognisable in a Gollum type of way. They do not look like normal people.
Child molesters get that way because of their bad, smothering mums. (I remember this handy theory being used for all kinds of villains in the old black and white Hollywood movies. Pop Freud, I guess.)
Actually, all older mums are crones and bad and evil. Actually, all mums are smothering and evil except for the one who puts out.

Oh, and we’re supposed to believe that Kate Winslet’s a Plain Jane character. Please.


The presence of so many objectionable memes in one movie irritated what Twisty would call my obstreperal lobe severely, so while I was physically cooler at the end of the experience, my collar was considerably hotter. I felt as if I’d stepped into a Tardis and returned to the 60s.

If you want an escape-the-heat movie, I recommend staying home with a fan and a straight-to-DVD 2005 release, The Big White (Dir. Mark Mylod), which is set in Alaska, so there’s plenty of snow. This movie has been variously described as ‘the funniest release of 2005’ and ‘Coenesque‘. I can vouch for the Coenesque, as the plot is based on the guy who wants to pull off just one Insurance scam which will set him up for life and everything goes pearshaped from there… you know, that plot. Of course, a frozen dead body is involved… naturally, the film’s a bit derivative of Fargo and A Simple Plan. But it’s a romp, and at least you won’t be throwing things at the TV, and the setting is extremely chilly. Watch out as Holly Hunter makes a meal of a hilarious supporting role.

12 Feb 2007, Comments Off on World domination one step closer

World domination one step closer

Author: Helen

A belated public announcement: the Balcony is now publishing selected rants over at Tim Dunlop’s Road to Surfdom.

Here on the Balcony we’re very excited, because RTS was one of the first, if not the first, blogs I ever read. I stumbled on Tim’s blog from Margo Kingston’s Webdiary, which was a really interesting read. Kind of like a blog, only not. From there I discovered people like Gianna of She Sells Sanctuary, who’s also writing for Road to Surfdom now, Virulent Memes (which was dead, but now is alive again) and What’s New Pussycat, and from there on to the US blogs. That was it. I was hooked.

As a wise man said, I was doomed to spend the rest of what I am pleased to call my life in squalor, typing furiously or scrolling and cackling while the kids drink the bong water.

As if to prove the point that the Balcony’s tentacles* are reaching ever further into the public discourse, Tim just emailed to point out that Tony Abbott has revised his favourite statistic** – 100,000 abortions a year – down to 75,000. (I still think it’s inflated.)

Cue maniacal evil overlord laughter.

*Whaddya mean, mixed metaphor?
**Get out of here with that Post hoc Propter hoc rubbish. He caved, I tellya, caved.

Cross posted, with some of the rubbish cut out, at Road to Surfdom.

10 Feb 2007, Comments Off on Dalla-Riva and police culture

Dalla-Riva and police culture

Author: Helen

As well as asshat, one of my favourite US slang works is squick. As in, the idea of Purity Balls squicks me out. The idea of a middle-aged married alpha male hitting on a girl less than half his age (and being so undignified as to text her the next day when she’d told him to get lost) squicks me.

So the sad story of Mr Dalla-Riva squicked me no end. Of course, part of it was the usual welter of apologists bemoaning the idea that such a talented man could damage his career simply by having the understanding of personal boundaries, and of civil behaviour, of a thirteen year old (and I apologise to those who have savvy and well-socialised thirteen-year-olds). He’s a knockabout bloke! Why can’t those sheilas, both male and female, just realise that being a complete arsehole is an advantage in political life?

Although it’s mildly funny that according to this Onion wannabe, Shane Warne’s suing Dalla-Riva for trademark infringement.

No, but what really squicked me was the quote from Dalla-Riva that

A police detective before he embarked on parliamentary career, Mr Dalla-Riva admitted he used “colourful language that can often be misconstrued if in the wrong setting”.
“Clearly, that was in the wrong setting to use such colourful language,” he said.

The “colourful language” bit is meant to give the impression he was just telling dirty jokes or something, but in fact it’s supposed to have involved an actual proposition. So, hitting on young women is considered OK in the police force?

Ponder that one. Your friend or daughter has been stranded far from home, has been the victim of a crime or accident, maybe has had a blow to the head or has just been “saved” from an intimidating situation from the boys in blue… who offer her a lift home in the police car.

It doesn’t fill me with confidence that Dalla-Riva blamed his immersion in police culture for his sexually harassing behaviour. I’d really like to think that if Girlchild ended up in a police car in a situation like the above, that the people with such power over her would have been properly trained and have well defined social boundaries.

Actually, I’d wish for the same from the people who are elected to govern and form policies for me. So, yes, it’s a fair cop. No pun intended.

7 Feb 2007, Comments Off on We need Parental leave. And we need it now.

We need Parental leave. And we need it now.

Author: Helen

This is why.

Pain is not seeing your bear all day. In the morning she’s feeding as soon as you get up, and resting between feeds as you leave. You get home, it’s evening, she’s feeding. After, she’s asleep. Then she wakes after a good sleep. Sleep is good. You change her, you hold her to comfort her. She looks at you like ‘you’re the guy who used to be around all the time but isn’t any more’ then wriggles and cries until mum takes her off you. You go to bed. You get up in the morning, she’s feeding, you pull on an iron-free business shirt, button the cuffs, understand why people buy lottery tickets…

…The pain is like having an oxy-torch going inside your intestines.

5 Feb 2007, Comments Off on Goodbye, boy

Goodbye, boy

Author: Helen

Image from

What a good dog you were.

1 Feb 2007, Comments Off on A million monkeys banging on a million typewriters for a million years

A million monkeys banging on a million typewriters for a million years

Author: Helen

I was happy to see this article about logging in the Thompson Dam catchment area on the front page of the AGE a couple of weeks ago. Well, when I say happy, I mean in a gloomy Eeyore-like, “thank f*cking Christ someone’s taking some notice of this”, kind of way. But after reading the article, I was gloomier than ever. Just because it’s a terrible and urgent problem doesn’t mean the Bracks government is going to do anything about it.

Against all reason and logic, the Victorian government continues to allow clearfelling of temperate rainforest in catchment areas such as the Central Highlands (Melbourne) and the Otways (Warrnambool). Once logged, these areas suck up exponentially more water in order to regrow the vastly inferior and drier regrowth– it ain’t rocket science. And if science is what you want, the point has been demonstrated by hydrologists here and in the US in numerous studies from the 1950s onwards.

But the Victorian government wants another study:

Despite the existence of studies dating to the 1950s, in 2004 the Bracks Government decided to conduct more research into the reduced water yields caused by logging. It is scheduled to be completed in May 2008.

…All the scientists spoken to by The Sunday Age questioned the need for further studies, saying the numerous existing reports, many of which were commissioned by the Kennett and Bracks governments and on which this article is based, were sufficient.
A Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman said the Government’s new study would use an updated model for determining water yields, examine timber substitution and look at economic, social and environment issues involved in logging in the Thomson. “Using the latest modelling for hydrological studies (the Macaque model) will produce more accurate and far more useful results, as previous models had wide margins of error,” the spokesman said.

However, Dr Watson, who developed the Macaque model, said when he applied it to the Thomson it didn’t produce fundamentally different results from the previous “Kuczera curve” model.

“Macaque model” – now that’s a name to conjure with. Macaques are monkeys, of course, so it suggests a roomful of monkeys employed by the Bracks government to bang out hydrology studies in the expectation that one day, one of the monkeys will come up with a result which supports clearfelling in catchment areas.

Cheap jokes aside, however, this means that even the scientist responsible for the Macaque model has said that his model isn’t going to give Thwaites what he wants. But it seems the Victorian government is just going to commission study after study until they finally get the answer they want, and probably until all the rest of the old growth is gone. After all, their cosy relationship with the forestry union and the woodchipping companies has to be more important than just… water.