Archives: March 2008

29 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Ten minutes to Earth hour

Ten minutes to Earth hour

Author: Helen

I’m not turning the fridge off. Not. SO reckon’s I’m cheating. I reckon throwing away a heap of food would be an act of unthinking bourgeois symbolism which creates more environmental damage than it would save.

Anyway that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

28 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Friday Dogblogging: Crate

Friday Dogblogging: Crate

Author: Helen

Li’l Ollie has settled in a treat. Every sunday, he goes to the Hobson’s Bay dog obedience club (which is in Port Melbourne, just to be different.) We take Maggie too. She used to go there when she was a crazy little basket case from the Lost Dogs home, and now she is a real goody two-shoes, heeling, staying and dropping like a pro. I don’t watch Ollie because he’s in the beginner’s class, but he comes to call better than I ever hoped he would after this long, and he responds to Sit and Stay, and he walks nicely on the leash.

He’s everybody’s friend and teenage girls, in particular, think he’s adorable – they’ll stop you in the street to squee! over him. Boychild doesn’t yet appreciate how this will work in his favour in a few years’ time. He (Ollie, not boychild) does like to race up to other dogs and people somewhat precipitately, but because he’s so delicate looking and has such a funny face, we haven’t had any screams of terror and/or glares from parental units yet. You can put a leash on him without chasing him around and he hops in the car without a thought. He still thinks he ought to be able to hang out in the kitchen and put his front paws on people, two habits which I’m still trying to get out of him, but in general he’s a cute, cuddly, intelligent little dog. Both his owner (boychild) and Maggie love him dearly. He does get called “the little bug-eyed freak”, but with love.

Ollie only has one major flaw.

When we first got him, he’d poo on the floor about once a week. This always happened overnight and always on a friday or saturday night – the nights when we’d have visitors over, or disappear somewhere else for a few hours. So I wasn’t too worried. He’d demonstrated he had the ability to go the distance and dogs who have been rehomed always have a few psychological kinks to straighten out. Once he was confident and secure, he’d get over it.

Unfortunately, the little devil upped the ante and now he thinks he can poo on the floor every night. I bought some repellent spray from the vet, but it seems to work only intermittently. So, today the boy and I went to Ascot Saddlery in Flemington, one of those places that’s heaven to poke around in (all those saddles!) We bought a crate.* It’s not one of those plastic ones, but a metal mesh one which allows him a good view of the surroundings.

At the moment it’s sitting there with the door open, and a nice thick sheepskin pad inside, onto which I toss the odd good-O to encourage him to go in and have a wander. Let’s see what happens tonight. Will Ollie go into his crate? Will he make a god-awful racket at 3 am, forcing us to get him out again? Stand by for the next exciting episode of Ollie Learns Bowel Control.
*For non-dog people, the idea is that a dog will not go anywhere that’s too near to its bed.

26 Mar 2008, Comments Off on The Kids are All Right redux

The Kids are All Right redux

Author: Helen

The World’s Greatest Shave is a fundraiser in which the participants shave their heads and are sponsored for doing it. The money goes to the Leukaemia Foundation. Many of you remember when John Quiggin shaved off his iconic beard for the cause in a father-and-son shave. (This year, he’s coloured his hair instead.)

Our friends’ daughter has gone the full Telly Savalas, and she is only eight, so I think she deserves MUCH KUDOS. Girlchild, you bitchin’. “During” and “After” pics under the fold.

Worlds Greatest Shave: Before


25 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Crawling out of the woodwork

Crawling out of the woodwork

Author: Helen

You might remember that I blogged last year on the possibility that the Victorian government might vote to decriminalise abortion. Well, of course the move was brilliantly undermined by the minister Bronwyn Pike and conservative laborites, who hinted darkly that nonstop abortion parties! might result if this kind of hussy-enabling legislative change was allowed to go through. So the State government did what they always do when they don’t want to make their minds up about something: commissioned another study.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission is due to present its report on March 28 or shortly afterwards. So, guess what has come crawling out – right on cue?

Women have contacted Women’s Health West to complain about an abortion pamphlet they recently received in the post.
An anti-abortion group called the Tell The Truth Coalition included graphic images of foetuses, sent in an envelope addressed to the “adult householder: viewer discretion advised”.
Footscray resident Sally Camilleri said the ambiguous warning left her feeling violated and tricked.
“This group should have indicated who they were on the front of the material, so I could have chosen not to open it,” she said.
…A blog on the Tell The Truth Coalition website, purportedly written by a Ronald Van Wegen, said the pamphlet was delivered to hundreds of thousands of homes.
“Though some were offended by the graphic photos of dead children we also know that many were pleased that the truth was finally being shown,” the blog said.

Apparently the Tell the Truth Coalition has a website, but I’ve been unable to find it, and my google-fu is fairly good. One thing I do know, however, is that serial forced-birther and pest Marcel White (familiar to readers of Suki and the sadly departed Flute) is behind it, according to these reports.

The good news is that the citizens are frothing at the mouth with rage at the pamphleteering fruitcakes, so the campaign has backfired bigtime, but I am sure they have additional stupidity in the pipeline to unleash on the media around March 28. Time to get your letter-writing fingers flexed, my pretties, and if you happen to get one of these charming pamphlets in the mail, remember to mention it to the Advertising Standards Bureau at administration@adstandards. If there’s a return address, put them in an envelope and send them back with no stamp – to be paid for by the recipient.

24 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Author: Helen

Ariel tagged me for a meme on weird and wonderful things your kid does, which reminded me I’ve been sitting on a meme that Bernice tagged me for aeons ago. So I’ll do that one first and tackle the Quirky Kid next.

The rules of this meme are:
Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names, and links to their blogs.
Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. Procrastination is one of my worst faults. (“NO SHIT?!” I hear you say.)
2. I lived in Adelaide until the age of 15, so although I’m a rusted-on Melbournian now, I was a crow eater. I feel a pleasant nostalgia now when I read Adelaide blogs and see references to Burnside, North Terrace, Rundle Mall and other evocative names.
3. Unlike it seems 99% of humanity, I love all things brassica. A pile of brussel sprouts steamed with some butter and garlic and salt and I’m in heaven. Broccoli, Chinese or Italian, and cauliflower, stir fried or with cheesy sauce. Mmmm, cheese…
4. I just got my first grey hair. It’s sitting in the middle of the front of my hairline, waiting for others to join it.
5. I’ve got a vertical scar in the middle of my forehead, a bit like Harry Potter’s but not from any attack by Lord Voldemort. It’s from a flat stone flung by my friend, Gary, when I was six. (Not flung in anger, or flung at me at all; we were skipping stones at Short Beach, Connecticut, and his hand slipped. He was mortified, and gave me one of his plastic dinosaurs, which I kept for years, after I’d had my stitches.)
Cute lovable kid stuff coming up next soon at some point.

I’m tagging Ariel, L., JahTeh and the Hoydens (both of them).

21 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Friday Dogblogging

Friday Dogblogging

Author: Helen

We haz beleef in Ceiling Cat

Good Friday

Good Dogs

18 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Compare and Contrast

Compare and Contrast

Author: Helen

Tom Towle, Father of the Year 2007, speeds down a highway near Mildura one dark night at speeds in excess of 120 KPH; drunk, with his four year old son on his lap (it has not been completely established whether the infant was, in fact, steering). He ploughs through a group of teenagers who are walking on the verge, killing six. He flees the scene and disappears into vineyards, abandoning his two distressed and bruised children in the car to be managed as best they can by emergency services. He has numerous prior convictions including burglary, assault and of course, numerous driving offences.

Later, in court, he is found not to be guilty of “six counts of culpable driving causing death” (Wasn’t manslaughter even an option here?), but instead, guilty of a lesser charge of “dangerous driving causing death”.

A few months later, there is a serious non-fatal accident involving a bicycle hitting a pedestrian (there has been one fatality in similar circumstances two years before this.) The response? Change the laws so they’re tougher on cyclists than on someone like Towle.

A new crime for cyclists, possibly similar to culpable driving for motorists, will be introduced into State Parliament later this year.

Roads Minister Tim Pallas revealed the new tough line on irresponsible cyclists after a hit-run accident on Tuesday night that left a man, 62, in intensive care.

I don’t like cyclists who flout the road rules, but sometimes I can understand where they’re coming from. How can young hotheads respect the law when they see it applied like this?
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

15 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Ephemera


Author: Helen

Here are two links to things which might not last. Get ’em while they’re hot.

Thirdcat is blogging here while the Adelaide Festival’s on. An unexpected bounty of Thirdcatty writing! Go, read!*

Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber writes:

One of the more annoying aspects of academic publishing is that articles are usually behind a paywall and thus effectively unavailable to people without an institutional affiliation. I’ve felt this especially keenly with respect to the Public Choice special issue on blogging that Dan Drezner and I co-edited.
…The good news, via my colleague Eric Lawrence, is that Springer Verlag are making Public Choice available for free to everyone via the WWW until the end of April, as a promotional exercise. So if you want to read my or (more likely) the other contributors’ thoughts on blogging, click on this link and click through to the January 2008 issue. For a limited time only, as they say in the business.

Here’s a direct link, which will work until April, I hope. It’s a collection of articles on blogging by a who’s who of Crooked Timber bloggers (Henry Farrell, Laura McKenna, Eszter Hargittai and others), as opposed to print journalists who are typing more slowly than usual because they’re using the other hand to hold their noses.
Well done that Eric Lawrence man.

Crooked Timber is one of my favourite reads- it’s fun and a great antidote to the “academics are all pointy-heads in an ivory tower” crap we’re so used to in Australia.

*My pathetic personal rebellion against US cultural imperialism; the blog convention is “go read”, which isn’t our syntax, but somehow, “go and read it” (the Australian usage) seems too wordy, somehow. Is blogging accelerating the trend to US speech? Is this a bad thing? discuss.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

10 Mar 2008, Comments Off on Mugged by Mugler, Galled by Galliano

Mugged by Mugler, Galled by Galliano

Author: Helen

I’m cool with the idea that a bloke might write an article on a feminist topic and get it published in a broadsheet for IWD. I’ve not doubt that someone like, for instance, Mark Lawrence, Richie or Luke could do a great job. But I can only sigh and roll my eyes when I open up my usual broadsheet, on International Women’s day, to read an article by a bloke giving feminists a right old scolding for being so mean and horrible.

Mean to who? To the fashion industry! Oh noes!

Shorter Nguyen: Feminists are shrinking the feminist tent and alienating women from the movement by not embracing the world of haute couture, which is woooooonderful (and shut up already about cruel shoes and restricting clothes).

His evidence for this is sketchy, but he cites “the feminist tradition, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton [who was a nineteenth century activist] all the way through to Naomi Wolf.” All the way through to Naomi Wolf? The Beauty Myth was published seventeen years ago! OK, anything else? He nods briefly to Andrea Dworkin saying that extremely high heels make it difficult to walk – which is simply a fact – and the homophobic Sheila Jeffreys, who doesn’t appear to have much of an influence on the femoblogosphere that I’m familiar with. So that’s kind of it.

A cursory glance at the current blogosphere would show that self-identified feminists, in fact, are quite fond of their clothes and shoes – just not quite the kind of clothes and shoes that the fashion industry might like to dictate. Also, making is quite important, not just buying. Most of us are quite happy ignoring the high-end fashionistas, and no, it’s not because we’re all in boiler suits. As one commenter at IBTP said,

I see a lot of defending a woman’s right to wear skirts and heels around the blogosphere lately. I’ve yet to have a hairy second-waver confiscate my lone skirt and lip balm, but I’m on the lookout.

Feminist commentary on fashion isn’t always hostile by any means. Here’s Amanda Marcotte asking why, since conservatives equate sex and childrearing with marriage in a high-end white dress, why conservative commentators would tut-tut about wedding dresses being too “sexy”?

Jill Filipovic of Feministe actually participated in a fashion show, which set out to deliberately avoid the use of professional models and use real women instead. This was the result: a barrage of harassment. In other words, she paid a considerable personal cost for participating in the show. This was hardly feminism’s fault.

But as we all know, it’s a sad fact that sometimes elements of the fashion industry- like elements of the food, auto, health and other industries– just deserve a good sharp kick up the arse- and a good feminist blogger is there to give it to them.

Should Dolce and Gabbana have been given a free pass for their “gang rape ad” back in March 2007? Pavlov’s cat asks: “So here’s a question: if they think this image conveys a ‘game’ about ‘seduction’ and ‘beauty’, [as quoted from D&G], what sort of image would they have come up with to illustrate an actual gang rape?”

Feel free to defend that kind of thing, if you want; it’s a free country. But don’t tell other people not to call them on it.

Closer to home, Bluemilk dissects the double-whammy of the use of a 12-year old model as the “face” of Gold Coast Fashion week. Her title says it all: “Look 19, only with 12 year old freshness.. but be 24-44.” (Presumably beyond 44 there are only those polyester sack dresses with drawstring necklines in a corpse-strewn wasteland, but I digress.) Not good for women actually wanting wearable clothes, being given an impossible ideal to live up to, and not good for the child. Then there’s the issue of little girls being pressured into being fashionable and sexaaaay while they’re still pre-teens, rather than exploring their world and enjoying the last of their childhood.

Twisty is hilarious when she takes aim at fads like the “Sport Corset” and “crippling sexbot footwear“. She points out (not the first to do so, or the last) that wearing such clothes and shoes is just as much adaptive behaviour as pure enjoyment, and to gauge just how much the average woman leeeeerves fashion, you’d have to allow for the first.

As for this kind of thing, there’s just no. bloody. excuse. Ditto for women having toes surgically removed to allow for pointy shoes.

If I started on the thin model / anorexia / eating disorders / body hatred subject I’d be here all day. Let’s just say that feminists are pointing out the sickness in some fashion industry practices, and good on them. They are fighting a rearguard action on behalf of our little girls and increasingly, boys as well. So suck it up, poor beleaguered fashion industry.

“Fashion” in feminist and feminist-sympathetic blogs often means the quest for looking good while being mobile and comfortable. Just because it ain’t on a catwalk doesn’t mean it’s not fashion; but there’s fashion and then there’s … fashion. Feminists indulge in street or indie fashion with joy and esprit de (non-tortured) corps.

Feel free to defend the idiocies of the fashion industry, the shoes in which you can’t run or even walk properly, diaphragm-crunching corsets, designs which place fabric over the model’s mouth or eyes, photo shoots which place models in gang-rape scenarios or valorise torture, and the airbrushing and manipulation of stick-thin girls to make them thinner still (and airbrush away their exposed ribs and spine). But it’s drawing an extraordinarily long bow, and it’s incredibly disrespectful, to take up space in a newspaper on International Women’s Day moaning about how “feminists” are against “fashion” and that’s what’s holding us back.

Preview of next year’s IWD special: Sam Neill writes on how not eating enough red meat is standing between feminists and world domination.

7 Mar 2008, Comments Off on International Women’s day: A day without feminism

International Women’s day: A day without feminism

Author: Helen

Today I’ll be busy driving up to Healesville with TessMckenna and Karen Rush to do a gig for the Sista Fest, an IWD event organised by two women. Apparently it’s not the name of a one-off music festival but an ongoing moveable feast, raising money for women’s services:

Warburton entrepreneurs Cindy Smith and Dawn Holland make up half of Sista Fest, a new group which will present its first festival event in Healesville on 8 March, International Women’s Day…
…With Merryn Tinkler and Jennifer Grinter, Cindy and Dawn founded Sista Fest, a not-for-profit organisation aimed at raising funds for women’s health and education within Australia and around the world by promoting women’s artistic expression.
Dawn said the seed for Sista Fest was sown last year when the women shared their grief at too many friends lost to diseases such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancers.
Sista Fest will be officially launched at the IWD Music Festival.

We’ll be playing one hour set and the rest of the time will just be a weekend away from the family, with a late night, a leisurely brekky and then an equally leisurely drive back to town. Hard graft, I know, but I’m willing to step up and make that sacrifice.

In lieu of an actual IWD post, then, I give you this PDF by two 1970 born women: a day without feminism. It’s an interesting thought experiment. It would be good to try adapting the idea (with attribution) to an Australian historical and social context. A project for another time.

H/T to the Power Liberal, who offers some sartorial suggestions for IWD.