Archives: April 2009

30 Apr 2009, Comments (9)

My latest eggcorn

Author: Helen

The kids keep me up to date on current top-100 music, so I don’t go all niche-y. I did think it was odd that a band would write a song about being shocked by an electric eel.

That’s a Moray.

That's a Moray

Talking of niche, I’m off to see the Laughing Clowns tonight at the Forum.

Jonathon Green writes about ancient technology they had when he was a boy. Ah yes, my little ones, we used to have these brick-shaped “cassette recorders” into which you’d put tape cassettes, which were easier to use and more portable than reel to reel (should I add a tag for “archaeology”?) but nevertheless were dreadful little cursed demons which would jam, break, tangle and inevitably lose their audio quality as the magnetic tape deteriorated – or they’d stretch the tape so they sounded like the dying HAL 9000, a character from a story also about ancient technology.

Panasonic cassette player, 1970s

My first cassette recorder was just like this. I got mine when our family stopped over in Hong Kong on the way to the UK. (My Dad had a job close to Oxford, and the family relocated to a little village called Ewelme for six months.) It was a primitive system. There was an attachable, not built-in, mic which we used to record “radio programs”. My brother R, whose birthday it is today, was eleven at the time. I was thirteen, or “old enough to know better”, as you’ll be muttering darkly when you’ve finished reading this story.

Ewelme was the cute English village from central casting to a ridiculous degree. Think Midsomer Murders (in fact, it’s been used as a location for filming MM on occasion.) We had fair-dinkum stone cottages, narrow hedged lanes, streams full of watercress and a lytel church going back to Chaucer’s time. My stepmother, being the bright and sociable person that she is, started enthusiastically forming friendships with people nearby.

One rainy weekend, my brother came up with a wicked idea for the tape recorder. He put a blank cassette in the machine, fast forwarded it to about ten minutes in, then he shrieked and howled and moaned for a minute or two like a soul suffering the tortures of the damned. So, you had ten minutes or so of silence and then all hell broke loose.

That morning, mum had invited one of the nice local ladies over for tea. R hid the tape recorder behind the sofa, plugged in with the tape rewound to the beginning. When he heard our unsuspecting visitor coming in to sit down, he pressed Play and we scarpered upstairs to await the ensuing consternation and LULZ.

We were horrible children. I apologise to my parents, to that poor woman, to everyone, really. Happy 50th Birthday, R.

Across the US,…of thousands of republican voters have been participating in “Tea Party” protests, because Boston Tea Party and taxes are bad. Just think of your primary school American history and join the dots. (April 15 is the deadline for tax returns in the US.)

Unfortunately, Fox News and the right-wing astroturf organisations which promoted the Tea Parties have decided to try to be all colloquial an’ appeal to the younger generation an’ stuff, so they have referred to themselves as “Teabaggers” and the protests as “Teabagging”.

Much hilarity has ensued.

P.S. Just for comparison, now that you’ve probably seen these entitled babies on the news making fools of themselves, you might be interested in a real (non-astroturf) protest, at real risk to themselves, by genuinely courageous people who deserve our support.

So, to revisit my “Home ATM is out of order” post, I think that while subprime mortgages have been getting a lot of attention with regard to the Great Financial Crisis, the problem we have here in Oz is more to do with all debt and how our whole economy has become dependent on spending more than we earn. Mining home mortgages for their equity, because house prices always rise, don’t they? has been a very popular way to do this for people who are relatively well-paid and settled, but it can’t go on forever. What happens when it stops?

Where did those home equity loans and lines of credit go? Irvine Renter points out that the situation went really toxic when people realised that they could take out money, not just for renovations – which would then increase the house’s value – but for consumer spending. Boats, cars, holidays, that kind of thing. But I can see that many people who would balk at spending on these kinds of things might consider using their home equity for something they consider more important, more reasonable, more of an investment.

Back in the Australian context, I’m wondering how many households have been mining their home equity for education.


You might like to read the first paragraphs and second page of this Bloomberg article.

(Although I have zero sympathy for any of the protagonists in this story, to most of us, “£1.17 million” =/= “broke”.)

9 Apr 2009, Comments (11)

Pratt, you’re a prat.

Author: Helen

Me (Watching football) Oh, he’s a nice looking guy. But unfortunately wearing the North Melbourne jumper. Thugs!*
SO: No, it’s not true any more. They’ve changed!

Ah mmm, no.

And don’t tell me their oh-so-sincere apology had nothing to do with keeping their major sponsor.

2 Apr 2009, Comments (9)

Walkin’ back to Happiness

Author: Helen

The AGE: “The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has begun distancing himself from his controversial internet censorship policy in what one internet industry engineer has dubbed “the great walkback of 2009”.


He laid aside his foolish pride, learned the truth from tears everyone he cried.

Of course, it’s another example of where a politician revises a bad decision and someone who wanted that outcome nevertheless mocks him, for doing a backflip, or a backpedal, or in this case a walkback, which is an artefact of an old software language. IT humour, hurghhh hurgh hurghhhh. Hilarious. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: UR DOING IT RONG. But I guess he just couldn’t resist coming out with something so side-splitting.

Helen looks very Amy Winehouse in this clip. Mess up that scary, scary beehive and apply the thick upswept kohl eye makeup and you’d have doppelgangers. The resemblance doesn’t end there, either. They’re both London girls from vaguely similar backgrounds and they both started performing very young, but while Amy’s crashing and burning, Helen only looks in danger of perishing from wholesomeness.

Never mind. The Clean Feed is dead: Let’s talk, hep cats! Work that tweed jacket.

Black Dust Dancing - Tracy Crisp, Wakefield Press
A friend of mine, who was a jewellery maker and silversmith, decided she needed to brush up on her hand drawing technique and bought a book called Drawing on the right Side of the Brain. As I remember (this is a while back) the book used exercises like “‘upside down drawing’, ‘blind contour’ and ‘modified contour’ drawing. A whole chapter is devoted to negative space drawing”. It approached drawing in a way that was diametrically opposed to my then idea of a technique that started mostly with outlines. That’s as close a simile as I can find to describe Tracy Crisp’s writing. In the Ozblogosphere, we know Tracy as Thirdcat.

Black Dust Dancing is Tracy Crisp’s first novel. It’s set in a provincial town dominated by a lead smelter, a blokey setting but the women in the novel are kept firmly front and centre.

Oh, and I’d like to know – as the mother of two primary school-aged boys, how does Tracy get the voice and manner of a teenage girl so exactly? It’s uncanny.

Deborah Strange Land:

I have clear visual images of Suzie the hairdresser, and Vicki the doctor’s receptionist, and Libby the mother-in-law, which I have not because Tracy wastes words in drawn-out descriptions, but because I have a sense of the sort of people they are, and then just a few words are enough to flesh out their physical realisation.
…The action comes in conversations and small movements, the little actions and pauses of everyday life. They all build together, piece by piece…

Piece by piece: if you’ve read Tracy’s blogopera, Adelaide Sprawls, you’ve experienced the way she builds a world this way. I loved Adelaide Sprawls, and it frustrated the hell out of me, because the vignettes were like pieces of a vast jigsaw that’s only just begun, with a smattering of pieces in the centre and one or two out on each side, with no bigger picture visible. I was eager to get my hands on Black Dust Dancing but I wondered whether I’d love it or chuck it across the room, unable to understand What in Hell Is Going On. Well, reader, you’ll have a pretty good idea what goes on in this novel, but you need to pay attention. It has the courage of its convictions, but it’s not going to yell at you. There are some story strands that are murkier than others, and there is a point where things do get murkier and more obscure, then tail off. Like real life.

Black Dust Dancing is a story you’re shown, not told, as Deborah says, by the little actions and pauses- the negative space- of everyday life. Jokes, complaints, gestures, eavesdropped gossip and asides. It seems to deal in little things, but out of these little things, big things grow.