Archives: September 2008

30 Sep 2008, Comments Off on SenselessBoy and other time wasters

SenselessBoy and other time wasters

Author: Helen

“AdSenseBoy”, you are such a fucking genius… not. Could anybody be so moronic as to send spambot comments to somebody’s genuine blog, where they are forced to expend valuable time deleting the illiterate rubbish people like you send out, inviting them to do the same? We’re the victims of your scamtastic activities, you complete douchebag.

Oh, wait. Yes, some bloggers really are stupid enough to buy automated trackback software. Not surprisingly, some of them have been scammed by NonsenseBoy, whose name apparently is Mindaugas Lipskas. Oh, and here’s Mindaugas Lipskas’ contact details (Google also shows his email address is

I notice SenselessBoy has a Contact form here. Visitors to the Cast Iron Balcony, if you’re feeling like a bit of a vent today and you would like to tell him all about how much you hate spam comments and what a huge waste of space he is, have at it. A simple “You suck!” will suffice.

Another piece of lowlife is scraping email addresses and sending around a chain email, claiming you’ll get an Ericsson computer if you send it on to 20+ addresses. Delete this one – it’s a scam too. Remember the old maxim, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Why can’t these people devote their considerable computer skills to doing something worthwhile? Is it because their written English skills are so appalling?
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

29 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Brave


Author: Helen

Far from wanting my children to grow up like mini-me, I rejoice the most in the ways they’re not like me. One thing I admire about them is their physical courage. Girlchild learned to ride a horse in a fraction of the time it took me, and she took to downhill skiing immediately. Both of them love scary rides.

I am an abject coward, never more so than at a fun fair like the Royal Show. The ferris wheel, to me, is a white-knuckle ride. I’ve been on the Scenic Railway and the Big Dipper at Luna park, once each, so I could say I’d done it, and I fully expected to die the whole way. But Boychild and Girlchild love those really big rides, the ones the size of giant cranes or tall buildings which roar and scissor their way about like giant enraged robots, with human bodies as soft and vulnerable as shellfish in their steel-and-vinyl padded grip.

“That one!” says Boychild, pointing to the Hangover, a leviathan with two long blade-like structures which scream overhead with its seats, or cages, upside down at the dizzy height of the arc. He’s already been on the Hard Rock, a huge swinging claw which rotates as it swings hundreds of metres through the air.

“Are you sure about that love?” asks the Carnie at the ticket window. “Just that a lot of them ask to get off once they’re up there, and then they can’t get a refund,” she tells me apologetically. “That’ll be OK,” I reply, and we understand that I’m saying I won’t ask for a refund.

As the riders pack into the right-side-up contraption I notice he’s right at the front. The great swinging blades have seats in them one behind the other, but Boychild’s got the first. I would really rather he’d been sitting with people in front of him. I can’t imagine how scary it’s going to be. A tough, tattooed Carnie snaps the padded seat cover shut. I can’t help thinking that my child’s life is in the hands of this complete stranger. What if he didn’t snap it shut completely?

Yes, he’ll be OK, but I am not OK. As the giant machine starts to warm up I find myself turning to look at the sideshows, to grope for a drink of water, to do anything but watch. Then I turn around for a quick look.

The machine is high, so high and so fast. The blade thing screams around and then hangs in mid-air, the people upside down and screaming. I can see boychild in his red T shirt and white volleys in the front seat, so far away up in the sky. I’m imagining that he must be beside himself with fear, regretting getting on the thing. I gear up to comfort a traumatised, sobbing child. My stomach clutches.

A mere speck in the sky, I can just see him. Quickly, before the machine gathers momentum and comes screaming down, he sees me, sticks one hand up, and gives me a little grin and a wave.


27 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Melbourne Show nostalgia

Melbourne Show nostalgia

Author: Helen

Can’t blog – Boychild and I are off to the Show. Girlchild has already put away childish things and has done the evening trip with the teenage posse. I thought I’d repost this from my old Blogger Cast Iron Balcony, September 2003. This will be my first experience of the show since they’ve torn the old horse and cattle sheds down and rearranged the whole thing, so I expect to wander around lost a fair bit.
Melbourne Royal Show
The little boy and I went to the show. I was suffering sensory overload from the fairground and rides so we wandered through the horse pavilion. This is an old building left over from the old ones built in the 50s, a run down, lofty shed. The loose boxes occupy about four rows in the space and at the end of every row there is a little tea room area, with an electric jug and some ratty old chairs and a table. This is where the people from the country hang out in between competitions and beauty treatments (for the beasts, not themselves).

We tiptoed along one row which was full of heavy draught horses. It seemed as if the owners had ordered the horses by size, so that every one we looked at was huger than the last. The very last one had a head, I swear, the size of a man’s torso. Or at least a teenager’s. I’m not sure but I think I saw cloud around the withers. That was a BIG horse. He looked at me the way I look at Maltese terriers. Next door was the little tea room – rest area thing. There, slumped on a director’s chair, was a grazier type, in his 60s I think. He had the checked tweed jacket and the moleskins, and he had three or maybe four championship ribbons and sashes swathed around his shoulders like an evening wrap. He was fast asleep.

21 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Lie down with these dogs and you’ll get up with a world o’fleas

Lie down with these dogs and you’ll get up with a world o’fleas

Author: Helen

On one of my link-following jaunts I noticed a conservative blogger quoting approvingly from Camille Paglia’s latest “WTF is she saying now?” piece.

Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.

I think that in their haste to welcome Paglia as the enemy of their enemy, some people are ignoring what some of her chest-pounding libertarian rhetoric implies.

Futurism was a very nasty movement. Yes, it had some cool elements like appreciating the beauty of the machine and it predated the cyberpunk ethos, I suppose. But otherwise:

Woman — even in the limited role as a means of reproduction — was deficient and should be abandoned and replaced by some prosthetic device as soon as science had made the required discoveries. Seeing an airplane lift its passengers into the sky makes Futurist poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti reflect:

I confess that before so intoxicating a spectacle we strong Futurists have felt ourselves suddenly detached from women, who have suddenly become too earthly, or, to express it better, have become a symbol of the earth that we ought to abandon. […] We have even dreamed of one day being able to create a mechanical son, the fruit of pure will, a synthesis of all the laws that science is on the brink of discovering. (Marinetti 1991, p. 83)

The politics of Futurism was proto-fascist. Their enthusiasm for the future was closely tied to a hatred for the past (and a few other things as well). Their enthusiasm was reserved for technology, speed, noise, power, pollution and war. Futurist founding father Marinetti was standing beside Mussolini at the 1919 inception of the Italian Fascist Party. He was elected to its Central Committee and for a short time ranking second in the party hierarchy, just eclipsed by Il Duce himself.
Part of the Futurist program was clearly designed to terrify and to shock the public. In the Futurist Manifesto, Marinetti spews forth his hate for humanity (in general) and women (in particular).

Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice. […] We will demolish museums, libraries, academies, moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice. […] We will glorify war — the world’s only hygiene — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman. (Marinetti 1909) [My bold]

By tagging Palin approvingly as “futurist”, admirers like Camille Paglia are aligning her with people like Oswald Mosley. Is that what they really want?

19 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Friday Earworm

Friday Earworm

Author: Helen

It’s been one hell of a week. It seems natural that this song has been following me around.

This old town is filled with sin,
It’ll swallow you in
If you’ve got some money to burn.
Take it home right away,
You’ve got three years to pay
But Satan is waiting his turn

This old earthquake’s gonna leave me in the poor house
It seems like this whole town’s insane
On the thirty-first floor your gold plated door
Won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain.

Here’s the original version.

The Great Feminist Denial by Zora Simic and Monica Dux - Melbourne University Press

MUP have generously sent me two copies of The Great Feminist Denial by Monica Dux and Zora Simic, so I’m giving one away to the first commenter to tell us who wrote this and supply the missing words: “When I’m good, I’m very good. When I’m bad…”

This is an expanded version of a review I did for the Big Issue, thanks to Jo for the opportunity.

When I read in the AGE op-ed page that a book would be coming out in 2008, to be called The Great Feminist Denial, the title led me to expect another (as the authors call it) “feminism-gone-wrong story”. If we’re to believe the media, feminism is responsible for everything from low birthrates to the women in Sex And the City.

If post feminism implied that we could move on from feminism because it had already succeeded, the new millennium version… invites us to abandon feminism as a failure that has actually made womens’ lives worse.

But Dux and Simic ask: how accurate is the popular image of feminism that’s held up for constant criticism? The answer is, not very. “(B)efore feminism can make sense, we need to get past a huge wall of bullshit. So, let’s unpack a bit of that bullshit.”

This book is equally readable for the self-identified feminist and those who don’t know much about it. (Who was Andrea Dworkin really? was she as scary as people make out?) It also has a great time demolishing lots of strawfeminists: “[The] poster girls for feminism-gone-wrong: the deluded pole dancer, a victim of false feminist ’empowerment’; the thirty-something career woman who will miss out on babies because feminism told her she could have it all; …the heiress without panties; the actress with an eating disorder; the pop star with a shaved head; the oppressed Muslim woman whom feminism ignored and abandoned…” and many more.

But also, look – Hoydens!

Hoyden About Town [is] one of our favourite blogs…

The Hoyden About Town community started off with just one person- ‘tigtog’, who started blogging in 2005. Since then she’s blogged extensively at Larvatus Prodeo, one of Australia’s more lively left-wing blogs, and helped launch Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, a one-stop shop for all your feminist queries. Click under “Stop the Strawfeminist”, for instance, and you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions such as “aren’t feminist just hairy legged makeup haters?” and “Don’t women have ‘female’ privilege?” In March 2007, tigtog invited Lauredhel to share Hoyden duties with her. With tigtog in New South Wales, and Lauredhel in Western Australia, the Hoydens have only met face to face once. But in cyberspace geography is no obstacle.
…To those who caricature blogging as “slacktivism”, Lauredhel is dismissive: “I have a strong belief in the power of words as well as in the power of non-verbal actions. I don’t think talking is the only answer, the only type of activism; but I think it’s under-rated.”
…tigtog: “Keeping track of and exposing the bullshit, that is essential. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The crucial tool in keeping the backlash contained (and shrinking it) is to debunk it and make it more and more ridiculous.”

The book’s failing, as Lauredhel and many others point out, is that in their haste to disasssociate from “cliches” of the textbook Radical Hairy Feminist, they place too much emphasis on “we’re all quite feminine, really”. In doing so, they do marginalise women who are “ugly” and “fat” (I think the authors, being young, might not quite have internalised the sad fact that most of us have been consigned to this patriarchal dustbin once we reach a certain age.) In the op-ed article which are came out today, this argument is placed too much to the front and caricatured into “Oh, no, we wouldn’t dream of looking ugly or fat or hairy or any of those things, We’re normal and nice, please love us.” In their eagerness to throw off balance what they know is an essentially hostile audience (see chapter 1), they make the mistake of coming over all submissive. As a much loved radfem points out, most women perform femininity as a necessary survival skill, but it’s disappointing that that should be the central point of an op-ed article on this book, which really has so much more to offer. (Note, Lauredhel has pointed out that it was largely the AGE op-ed by Monica which she herself is referring to, also, my remark about “submissive” is about the article too – the book is much more robust).

If you’re “not a feminist, but…” you need it. If you’re an antifeminist, I dare you to read it.

15 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Bullshit generates Methane

Bullshit generates Methane

Author: Helen

You’re all familiar with the populist narrative that greenies and lefties are all out-of-touch elites who like to “sneer at” ordinary (suburban, small-town) people. (Current example: the Sarah Palin campaign vs. the elitist, arugula latte-drinking Obama). It’s so popular in Australia at the moment, you can hardly open a newspaper without being scolded for daring to suggest that the way we build our cities, and travel around them, could possibly be improved. Public transport is a concern for upper middle-class wankers; Real people love their cars so much, they don’t care that they’re trapped into using them. As for the price of fuel, well, er… something will come along, don’t worry.

As for not building great swathes of housing development, inappropriately sited, overlarge, artificially cooled and out of reach of train or tram lines, that’s just those greeny lefty elites forcing their elitist concerns on the Real People again. Real People want big houses and they want them to look Tuscan and have no eaves and anyone who wants to take that dream away from them is just an over-educated latte-sipping poopyhead. Development good, conservation – and re-thinking our ways of building and getting around – bad.

This view is as popular in Labor and certain self-identified “left” groups as it is in Liberal and right-leaning groups.

I do wonder whether the deep and abiding love for Tuscan-style villas built to the fenceline isn’t the product of lavish and expertly targeted marketing rather than something deep in the Australian soul, and such marketing couldn’t have created an equally enthusiastic market for more appropriate housing, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Last week, an entire suburb was evacuated because the developer had built on land next to a landfill containing methane gas. The developer chose to build on the land to make money, and probably got the land at a bargain price because of the proximity to landfill. The council which owned and operated the landfill first opposed building so close to the area, as did the toothless Environment Protection Authority, but the developer went to VCAT. The bureaucrats at VCAT overturned the opposition and now we have a complete dog’s breakfast out at Cranbourne. None of these entities are from the greenie left. They represent the “hooray, development!” mentality.

This is a disaster. Without warning, these people have had to pack up their houses and find accommodation for themselves and their young children for an indeterminate period. If and when they’re allowed to return, their houses may be worthless. Many of them are walking a financial tightrope already and this will send them to the wall.

Cranbourne and Casey have been a byword for urban sprawl for years. We’ve had item after news item about the lack of infrastructure, social isolation and car dependence, debt, poverty and disadvantage. It’s time the boosters of road-based suburban sprawl admitted the problems with this social model. The methane problem is acute, but the problems of this area are chronic.

I wonder how deeply these non-elitist, non-green, pro-development business suits and bureaucrats care about the people in that suburb. Let’s call this Roveian anti-elitism for what it is: an excuse for governments to neglect infrastructure and due process and private companies to extract maximum profits from the “ordinary Australians” they’re supposed to represent, and then move on. They are the out of touch elites.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

12 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Friday Earworm

Friday Earworm

Author: Helen

I’m trying to start Girlchild off on guitar, so I asked her to give me a list of songs she liked to sing so that I could look them up and get the words and chords.

Here’s one she came up with.

Here’s the lyrics and chords. I took them for a cranberry-esque Irish band at first, but they’re from Texas. The bridge is quite creepy in a Flowers in the Attic kind of way, but do I understand what it means? Hell no.

Gorgeous harmonies. Girlchild will have to wait, though, because there are a few too many chord changes for her. And I don’t like F chords for beginners. They are a bey-otch.

Gianna Jessen with priests outside Parliament House, Victoria

This is a strange image for Victoria in 2008: The man of science flanked by religion and what can only be called, without a shadow of hyperbole, the Patriarchy. And embracing (literally) US religious fundamentalism.

I’ve mentioned Bag News Notes before, the blog which analyses images from the US news. I’d love to hear what they would have to say about this image.

8 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, continued

Decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, continued

Author: Helen

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Why has the “debate” on abortion decriminalisation in Victoria turned, again and again, to late-term abortion? Late term abortions are less than 1% of the total at present. So why is it that the coverage is all about abortion after twenty weeks? It crops up in just about every article on the Victorian Bill. I’ve been trying to avoid writing about it, because, well, then I’m just giving oxygen to the damn thing and becoming part of the problem. Like feeding the trolls. Late term abortion is really irrelevant to the discussion of the legislation, because the way it works will be virtually unchanged, and if we stop putting barriers in front of people who want an early abortion, it might even decline a bit. So why are the media and the anti-choice elements leaning on it so hard?

My initial guesses were, first, that late term abortion has a higher ick factor than early abortion, so that by focusing on gory pictures of foetuses and graphic descriptions of “partial birth” abortions (jargon imported, of course, from the US), the Tell the Truth crowd can play more effectively on emotion and uninformed reactions. Second, that by hammering the late-term abortion topic so relentlessly, they can make people assume wrongly that the proportion is higher than it really is.

Commenter Bingo Bango Boingo at LP offered a third possibility: that the battle for decriminalisation of abortion up to 24 weeks is pretty much lost now for the forced-birthers. Recognising that fact, they’re concentrating all their efforts on late-term abortion, as it is the part that will be more restricted under the proposed Bill and is therefore more susceptible to tightening amendments. (Anna Winter also remarked that those abortions, being so rare, are easier to make shit up about.)

I hope BBB’s right, as that is a relatively optimistic outlook. But still, the media obsession with late-term abortion prompts a few questions, for me. I think most rational people are aware that late-term abortions happen rarely in very tragic cases, mostly to do with foetuses which won’t be viable outside the womb, mothers whose lives are at risk, and very rarely for psychosocial cases which in themselves are very traumatic. But to read most newspaper accounts and comments from anti-choicers, you’d think that once abortion is removed from the criminal code, women will be thoughtlessly aborting for any trivial reason right up to the moment of birth. We’ll even be doing it just to get the baby bonus!

It’s such a jaundiced view of women. So many people seem to think that we’ll have abortions, even late term abortions, because we suddenly decide we want to fit into our Melbourne Cup frocks or some shit. OK, let me play their game for a minute or two. Let’s suppose that I’m a completely shallow party animal who just wants to look good, avoid personal issues and not lose my gym-toned sixpack or my partying lifestyle. Am I likely to have a late term abortion? Think about it.

Will I wait until I’ve got a grossly distended stomach (there goes the gym-toned sixpack, already) and have had to buy a second wardrobe of elastic-waisted garments; I’ve gone up two bra sizes; the people at work and at the club have all started asking interested questions; the family have all noticed; I’ve got puffy ankles and likely one or two other physical side-effects; I’ve kissed goodbye to my wine, cocktails and lots of my favourite foods; I haven’t had a proper sleep in weeks… Hmmm. Do you get my drift?

Media articles on decriminalisation are studded with words and phrases like “open slather“, “abortion on demand“– very popular this one, conjuring up images of women being all horrible and aggressive and demanding, and other loaded language all adding up to the impression that the decriminalisation of abortion will lead to non-stop abortion parties.

It’s based on exactly nothing, except for a deep cultural residue of contempt for women which the anti-choicers like Campbell may not even realise they carry. But it’s a cheap way to push people’s buttons. It’s a crock. And unfortunately, we appear to be stuck with it.