Archives: April 2008

30 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Now that’s really going too far

Now that’s really going too far

Author: Helen

Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, has faced court on charges of genocide.

An Austrian dad has been arrested and charged with keeping his own daughter in the cellar for twenty-four years and repeatedly raping her, fathering seven children, three of whom were also incarcerated.

The controversy continues over John Yoo and his involvement in torture at Guantanamo.

A Frankston man has shot and killed his former girlfriend, in another example of killing one’s former wife or girlfriend, which is the Australian Way of honour killing.

A British teenager has just been jailed for life for beating a Goth girl to death for no reason other than that she looked Goth-y.

And Miley Cyrus has been doing some rather inappropriate photographs for Vanity Fair.

Guess which one of these miscreants has been made to issue a public apology.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

25 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Lest we Forget

Lest we Forget

Author: Helen

…to write something for Anzac Day:

I’m just going to send you to this comment at LP by Jack Robertson on Anzac day last year. Because you might as well have the best.

25 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Friday Dogblogging: Sad

Friday Dogblogging: Sad

Author: Helen

I got another distressing image, or set of images, through the email: a friend sent it to me with a link to a petition to exclude Guillermo “Habacuc” Vargas, a Costa Rican artist, from the 2008 Bienal Centroamericana Honduras.

I won’t show the accompanying images because they are so sad, and it won’t help its subject, a dog called Natividad, who was allegedly trapped in a shanty town by children paid by Vargas to do so, and then tied with a short length of what looks like elecrical cord to a bare room in an art gallery, with nothing between his skeletal body and the bare floor. He was left like that without food and water until he died. Some accounts state that the dog was able to see and smell food.

As always with these things, I went straight to Snopes. Unfortunately, the bare details seem to be true, although the exact nature of the dog’s treatment seem murky enough for them to put a question mark over it. Here’s an article by the WSPA, which seems a fairly respectable source.

Confusion reigns about whether the dog actually died in the gallery as stated or escaped within a day and disappeared, but I’m not really interested in that; the photographs demonstrate how horribly he, or she, was treated.

The “artist” has come up with various explanations justifying this “installation”, some of them less chickenshit than others. To bring home the hypocrisy of the viewer, who would walk straight past the same dog if they saw him in the shanty town. True. I would add also that we see starving humans daily via the media, now that electronics have made us a (cliche alert) global village, and do we instantly take action? No. or seldom. But ultimately, I find these excuses as inadequate as Vargas’ moral compass. Once that little dog is in our hands we have a duty of care, if only to euthanase him. And animal abuse is a psychological pointer to violent crime.

Among Vargas’ ever-changing stories is that the “installation” is a kind of puerile payback for a burglar or thief called Natividad, who apparently was apparently killed by a rottweiler; therefore the dog was named Natividad, and “Remember Natividad” was the name of the “work”. If he really came out with that one, I have no words. Get him to a psychiatrist, and quickly.

It might be a good idea to sign the petition. Have a great Anzac weekend – I’m off the Apollo Bay Music festival.

18 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Worst. parent. ever.

Worst. parent. ever.

Author: Helen

Last Friday, I had to attend one of those team bonding exercises for work, which meant that our manager took us all out to a slick CBD bowling alley and bar. I’m not much of a bowler but we all started on the snooker tables afterward, a game I do find absorbing. Like the pokies venues which dot this city, the place was artificially lit, noisy and had no clocks, so I ended up going over time and had to desperately phone around to get Boychild picked up from his after school care.
Image pinched from

This after-school care centre, like most childcare places, has a drop dead deadline of six pm and they are forbidden to release the sprogs to walk home, even though Boychild lives only a block away and his sister would be home by then. Eventually I arranged for Girlchild to pick him up – but not before I’d had to speak to the after care staff a couple of times, yelling into a mobile from a noisy bar.


Oh well, at least with modern smoking restrictions, it wasn’t a noisy smoky bar™.

It’s obvious that according to this grouse new parenting site I’ve found, I’ll never cut it. (Via John and Belle).

Bad parents everywhere, read it and feel empowerfulled.

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13 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Babysitter?


Author: Helen

From the AGE, “Heckler” section, Sunday, April 6.

Babysittin’ Man

…There were shades of one of [Damon] Runyon’s classic stories – Butch minds the baby – at Collingwood Football Club HQ the other day when Mr President Eddie McGuire recognised a large, earless, tattooed man with a small boy.

Eddit tossed babysitter Chopper Read a bag of Magpie merchandise to keep Read junior occupied…

(For the benefit of un-australians, Mark “Chopper” Read is a local bad boy who has attained some notoriety as a crime writer and entertainer. )

The AGE has been reporting regularly – in its news and opinion pages – on the push for parental, maternity, and paternity leave. My recommendation, for what it’s worth: get rid of ‘maternity’ and ‘paternity’ and use ‘parental’ in all documentation and legislation to do with leave to care for babies, and let the parents work it our for themselves. But clearly, some of the paper’s staff hacks (there is no name attached to the piece) are still living in the good old days of Harry the Horse and speakeasies.

Has anyone else heard people using the word “babysitting” to describe a father looking after his own children lately?

12 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Gig guide: Apollo Bay Music Festival

Gig guide: Apollo Bay Music Festival

Author: Helen

W00t! I’m going to the play two gigs with Tess McKenna at the Apollo Bay music festival.

Also, we’re going to use the bass drum this time, rather than the semi-acoustic snare and brushes shtick which I did last time, so I can lay down da funky grooves better. So much more fun to rock it out a bit more.

Drive down Friday, look at the ocean, stay at a convent, play in the early afternoon on Saturday and again in the evening, check out other performers, drive back on Sunday. Doesn’t sound too tough, does it?

6 Apr 2008, Comments Off on A silent, underground river of misogyny and racism

A silent, underground river of misogyny and racism

Author: Helen

My SO received an email the other day: “Fwd: Mu$lim pu$$y”.

Except, it wasn’t from a spambot, but from a friend of ours. (He’s married to one of my lifelong friends from olden times.) A middle-class, middle-aged, well educated (=should know better) inner-suburban professional dad.

The attachment was a powerpoint presentation, so I’ll just do a digest of it for you here, shall I?

(Slide 1) Text:
“In case you were wondering what a Muslim pu$$y looks like…”

(Slide 2): This.

Cat dressed as a suicide bomber

(Slide 3) Text only:
“Oh, come on! What were you thinking? Get your mind out of the gutter!”

Oh, how I laughed. You can imagine.

What was interesting was the list of email addresses in the forwarded email. Unless he was using “bcc” for some people and not for others, he was only forwarding it to certain members of the family – all male. His partner’s brothers, who work and study with indigenous and Timorese communities and are probably somewhat to the left of him, didn’t receive it. None of the female members of the family received it. What does that suggest to you? It suggests to me that he understood very well what the “jokey” powerpoint was saying.

Let’s just unpack a few of the hilarious concepts in this wonderfully witty artefact.

Muslims = suicide bombers.

We can humiliate people of another ethnicity by humiliating “their” women.

Because women are “owned” by the people (who are presumed to be dudes) of the other ethnicity.

We are at war with all Muslims. Humiliating (up to and including raping) “their” women is a legitimate war tactic. (Oh, and we also accuse them of having medieval thought processes!)

It’s OK to verbally bully an entire ethnic group in my society, which is already undergoing considerable hardship (suspicion, false imprisonment, hijabs ripped off in the street, rocks thrown) because of the actions of a criminal minority.

I’m sure you can add more to that. Of course, I’m used to seeing this stuff on the intertubes. But on a blog or forum you can see that the writer is a known wingnut, or if it’s an anonymous commenter I tend to set the poster’s age at 23 or less and picture the receding brow, pimples and cheezel dust (that’s Australian for cheeto dust). Guess what I’m doing? Yes, I’m falling victim to the urge to stereotype, just like the authors of that powerpoint. It’s still a jolt to be reminded of the underground river of misogyny and racism that still informs Western society to a far greater extent than the bum-fluff and Grand Theft Auto set. It’s your workmate, it’s that inoffensive suit over there, it’s the nice professional looking woman. It rears its head whenever we have a family barbeque. It’s everywhere.

So you know what I did? I did just what the originators of the email (sucks be to them) would have wanted me to do: I forwarded it on! To Twisty, Feministe, Shakesville, Hoyden and a few others. Thanks to Jill for mentioning it and for googling the above image, so I didn’t have to – as she said, not enjoyable.

Now for the less fun part: having a little talk with my friend’s husband next time we get together.

2 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Author: Helen

Fafblog’s back!

I’ve kept the faith for the better part of two years. I never un-blogrolled them, because some little part of me, deep inside – my anterior ulna maybe – believed the Medium Lobster, Giblets and Fafnir would return some day.

*Wipes away a little tear*

Some commenters are cautious because, well, that day was April 1. But the new blog design suggests they’re going to stay for a while.


1 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Don’t Fuck it Up part 2: We can haz some secondary schools?

Don’t Fuck it Up part 2: We can haz some secondary schools?

Author: Helen

Exodus! screams this newspaper article.

Official figures released yesterday showed 66.4% of the nation’s 3.4 million full-time students were at government schools last year, falling from 66.8% a year earlier and 70% in 1997.

In Victoria, which has the second highest proportion of students in non-government schools after the ACT, just over 35% of students, or 297,970, now go to non-government schools, compared to 262,948 a decade ago.

It’s articles like this one that have me holding my head and whimpering “wrong way, go back!…” I’m not referring to the government schools, but the State and Federal governments who should be supporting them. Given the level of neglect, they are actually surprisingly good, if you have the opportunity to look beyond the media hysterics and private prejudices. Sixty-six percent, as a letter writer pointed out the next day, would be seen as an overwhelming mandate if it was a government majority. And given the onslaught of scare propaganda we’ve had from the private schools, their advertising companies and their lobby group, telling us we really don’t cut it as parents unless we can cough up the money for private, I’d have expected the “independents” to do better, quite frankly.

Girlchild is starting year 11 and Boychild is in year 5. So for the next two years I’ll have my youngest in the pointy end of primary school, with the associated decisions to be made about secondary school, and my eldest at the much pointier end of VCE. My mood gets gloomier by the day as I contemplate the lack of an actual, well, revolution, post-November ’07.

I’ll just gloss over the perfomance of our State government, which according to this quite incredible headline a few weeks ago, has increased in popularity, apparently. Evidently Victorians have no wish for social justice, vital infrastructure (as opposed to, for instance, car races and encouraging more imports), environmental survival – or decent public education. Teachers in Victoria are paid 10 percent less than their counterparts in NSW and other states, which makes life interesting for parents of kids on the Vic/NSW border.

Not that I had immensely high hopes for fundamental changes from the Federal government side, leading up to the election. Since then, I’ve heard Julia Gillard stating their intent to improve the dire situation of higher education, which is pleasing, but their attitude to secondary schools seems to be “don’t say anything that might frighten the aspirationals.” Pre-election, I heard Rudd declaring in a radio interview that he (hand on heart) wouldn’t think of getting in the way of a parent and their “choice” of education, and expertly deflecting the question of whether the government should continue to fund private schools. Since then, he and Julia Gillard have been talking up the national curriculum and a computer on every desk- nothing about the relative funding of public education and the death spiral that’s resulting.

It’s the weasel word choice which makes me recoil every time I hear a government or private lobbyist pronouncement. It’s the deliberate misinterpretation of “choice” which has our education system becalmed in a third-rate system.

A commenter on a post by Mercurius Goldstein at LP, The true story of the Education Revolution, demonstrates exactly what’s wrong with this “choice” shibboleth:

I think there is an unecessary prejudice against [a voucher system] amongst the Left. The last time I was in a left-wing political organization (2 years) discussing these aspects of policy the issue of choice was met with an obtuse insistence in bolstering up the public system. The person bringing up choice was not advocating a voucher system merely bringing up his own experience. He grew up in a small town with two schools: a “working class” Catholic school and a non-functioning state high school. He said: if I’d gone to the public school I’d be unemployed.
The response was a condescending request that he not show up to the Education policy discussion the following night!

It’s the commenter and his friend who are obtuse. This isn’t choice; this is the absence of choice. Or, the kind of choice we call “Hobson’s”. Attend Catholic or private school and have a job, or a substandard public school and be unemployed.

Families who are sacrificing beyond their means to send their kids to private schools, or families who are sending their kids to cheaper private schools of dubious quality, aren’t really exercising choice – they’re being railroaded. They’re straining their family lives and increasing their debt risk because, with the combination of genuine poverty in the public system, plus a “values” moral panic, plus the guilt and fear being whipped up about children competing with each other for jobs and tertiary places, they feel they have no choice. (Just as an aside, how much of the “sacrificing” that the lower and middle income families do consists of getting even deeper into the debt trap? What will happen when the credit party ends, as there’s every indication is about to happen? What impact does the debt have on the rest of their lives?)

If you read the first linked article in the paragraph above, and you’re a parent and you live in Australia, did you find it as disturbing as I did? Without actually having a child enrolled at a government secondary school, you’d think only the most poverty-sticken misfits and sad cases would stay there. Fortunately for me, when I go to fundraising meetings at Girlchild’s school, I meet some awe-inspiring parents and teachers (as well as some very nice and, yes, brainy kids.) It’s a very good school. I have no fear that Girlchild will miss out on a tertiary place because of the school she attends. But one day, out in the workforce, will a HR person scan her CV and cross her off the short list simply because of the hotbed of drugs and crime Government school she went to?

What should the Rudd government do about it? The fact that responsibility for education mainly falls on the states, but is tinkered with by the Feds, doesn’t make things any easier. But teacher salaries need to be increased. Hugely. The teacherly career path needs to be made attractive to gifted individuals again. The SES system needs to be scrapped and the richest schools weaned off their government subsidies. That money, and more, needs to go to the public system. We need well-paid teachers, buildings and grounds which are in good repair, decent libraries and other facilities such as science labs (yes, computers, of course, but they’re not the be-all.) Long story short, we need to make the notion of choice a reality, and that can only come from restoring the public system so that it’s an excellent and viable alternative. In every suburb. Oh, and to achieve this, we need to kiss goodbye to this fetish for tax cuts (Federal) and yearly budget “surpluses” (State).

Cue the screams of “But but but, that would mean more tax!” Yes quite. It’s a matter of priorities; instead of insisting on tax cuts and upper-class welfare payments to elite schools, the new Federal government should be biting the bullet and doing the infrastructure spending that the previous government wouldn’t do. And they should be prodding their state counterparts to wake the fuck up and do the same.

I think there’s a silent majority of parents out there who would rather pay a few hundred more in tax every year than go into debt for ten thousand plus, per year, per child, and before incidentals. Or who, at least, would be amenable to the idea if the picture wasn’t so distorted by advertising and media panic.

But, you know? this isn’t going to happen. Not only has education failed to score its own category in the 2020 talkfest, but the move to private schools has been reframed now by the media as white flight. Because, you know, parents aren’t worried about public schools because their most able peers are being poached or scared off, the facilities are worn and grubby and the teachers underpaid. Nothing to do with any failure of government policy. It’s because they’re all so racist, don’t cher know.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom