Archives: January 2013

31 Jan 2013, Comments (3)

Freedom of speech. Shut up!

Author: Helen

Tim Mathieson said something naff in an attempt to be all jokey about prostate examinations; When challenged on it, he realised what was wrong with it, and apologised, because he’s a grownup. If only there were more grownups in the commentariat.

No, criticising privileged white men who make unfunny jokes about women and other ethnic groups isn’t an attack on our freedom of speech. It’s the opposite. It’s the extension of freedom of speech to the former targets of these jokes, who are now talking back. Get used to it, Mark Baker (“Poor Tim, prostrated by a prostate gag that gets him the finger”) and Tony Wright (“First Bloke Back in Doghouse after poking fun at prostate”).

Who are the worst enemies of Freedom™? Those annoying feminists, of course! Baker paints the new confidence of women resisting sexism in politics and society as “confected’ and “phoney”. Like other members of the old media, he fails to understand the significance of Gillard’s “misogyny” speech and the chord it struck with the lived experience of so many women. This failure in the journosphere didn’t go unnoticed in new and social media elsewhere.

Baker and Wright fire familiar damp squibs from their bunkers, hoping to chase these annoying people off their lawn, like “straighteners” and “correctness” and “puritan”. We know these are code for “STFU”. So who’s on the side of free debate here?

While people with money and privilege have used the courts to stifle the speech of others for generations, Baker sees this unseemly deconstruction of blokey jokes as the thin end of the wedge which will lead to legislative “threats to media freedom and individual speech”. The present situation is the reverse: People are daring to talk back to and challenge the chorus of guffawing lads (his words), and they really don’t like it.

It’s been a long time since my last update, when Maggie was diagnosed with failing back legs and taken to the Monash Vet clinic to participate in an experimental new stem cell procedure for arthritis and other joint problems.

Maggie was knocked out for extensive X rays which revealed her arthritic spine to be in a pretty horrible state. One or two of her vertebrae were pretty much collapsed, as I understand it. To do this, they had to shave her tummy. Fortunately that was back in January and it all grew back very quickly (Plus, if you’re going to have an exposed tummy, January is the time to do it.)

In March she went in again to have the stem cell treatment in both hips, spine and her front elbow (a different, old injury) again under a general anaesthetic. To accomodate the needles delivering the stem cells, they shaved two circles on the hips and a smaller area on the elbow. At this point when she came to she must have decided she’d been abducted by aliens and subjected to inexplicable experiments. “Every time I come to this place I get knocked out and another bit of me gets shaved!!”

Shows bare patch on Maggie's hip

For some reason, while the fur on her elbow grew back right away, the circles on her hips are still growing. So in winter, I bought her a spiffing blue coat to wear in the park. She’d never needed such a thing before, as a double coated dog living in Yarraville, but she thought it was pretty good.

Maggie wearing her new blue coat

Then we waited. And she’s seen every six weeks or so. The vet checks her over and updates her progress for the stem cell study.

Most dogs on the program so far have experience some kind of surge of wellbeing soon after the treatment. That didn’t happen with Maggie. I kept on with the other stuff we were doing, which I’ll list for you dog people, because it’s a great routine for an old dog:
Glucosamine/chondroitin and fish oil, both 1000mg daily
Hot packs for five minutes twice daily on the spine (or a massage if it’s heatwave conditions)

Treating dog's back with a hot pack

As well as this, and this is on vet advice only:

Gentle back leg stretches (best to get your vet to show you how this is done.)
Steroid tablets
Six weekly vet checks with a Cartrophen injection.

But she held her own, and was happy. Then, sometime in December, something happened. She started to run a little. Just here and there. Her body language has changed – there’s a swagger in her step.

The vet says it’s because we’ve got that back more comfortable.

She’s still in two minds about that vet. No more alien abductions and shaved bits, but she gets a needle every time. Not her favourite thing, those vet visits. I like them though, because he’s always pleased with her, so far.

Maggie was given maybe a 6 month prognosis last January if nothing was done. A year on, and she’s enjoying life to the full. She still walks a little bit skewwhiff, but she’s happy, healthy and having fun. Now let’s see how long we can keep that going.

15 Jan 2013, Comments (14)

On the Ridge

Author: Helen

My dad died. It was sad, and it wasn’t. He had had a long and really quite wonderful life. Age, injury and illness had taken away, one by one, the things he loved to do. In the end, he was ready to go.

We took his ashes to Namadji National park and scattered them from a cluster of granite tors on a precipice looking down to the Orroral valley, with the outline of abandoned Orroral Station showing. The rocks were on a ridge above the Honeysuckle Creek campground, where the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking station (the Deep Space station which received the first images of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk) used to be. How appropriate for a man who grew up with a love of astronomy.

We were lucky. It was an afternoon in early January. The extreme bushfire weather which as turned NSW and ACT into a patchwork of fiery outbreaks the following week hadn’t arrived yet. The ACT National Parks association, of which he was a life member, turned up in force. The park gates were closed, but fifty of us crowded into the Visitor’s centre and then drove up to the campground, then to the trailhead on the ridge. No toilets, no barbecues or ashphalt parking lot, just a clearing in the forest.

Tables and chairs were unfolded, eskies and bags and bottles came out of car boots. We ate, drank and chatted there up on the remote ridge in the evening sunlight. Two groups of overnight pack walkers had to pass through our circle as they crested the hill and walked on down the track. The expressions on their faces as they found a noisy party at that remote place after park closing time were unforgettable.

Some of us were quite old – My mum is 91 and there was an ACT walking group member who looked very old indeed, a little slip of bone and spirit walking with two sticks. The lookout to the valley was only a few steps down the walking path and then another few steps on a side track. Everyone made it, at least to the Granite tors. That’s my mum there – she went all the way and sat right on the edge. There were many hands waiting to grab her if she went over.

Lizzie sitting on a granite tor looking down on Orroral valley - scattering Dad's ashes

We scattered Dad’s ashes over the cliff and the valley as the sun took on that velvety, golden afternooon light. The ACT walkers told stories of his love of walking and his often erratic navigational skills, combined with an enthusiasm for side trips and brilliant alternative routes which would often have his walking groups bushed and nearly benighted.

Scattering Dad's ashes at Namadji national park

Scattering ashes, looking out over the Orroral valley

Now he’s out there forever, with (I’m told) quite a few other former members of the walking club.

15 Jan 2013, Comments (1)

Down Under Feminist Carnival #56

Author: Helen

Down Under Feminists Carnival
Tis Herself, Chally, the doyen of DUFC and writer at Zero at the Bone, curating this month’s Carnival.

Next month’s DUFC is at Scarlett Heart. Make your suggestions via the Submissions form, or scarlettheartt [at] gmail [dot] com.