Categories: Meaningless Twaddle

30 Sep 2012, Comments (2)


Author: Helen

Spring in Melbourne: Truly four seasons in one day. We were promised rain, hail, sleet and possibly plagues of frogs for Grand Final day. Some suburbs got these while the TV showed the players at the MCG running around in the sun. You can enjoy a bath of warm sunshine at the tram stop and then suddenly move into a freezing eddy of wind straight from the snows of Mount Hotham, or be drenched by a passing shower.

The first sign of spring in our garden is the almond tree, which blooms in August while everyone is still freezing in their uggs and polar fleece.

Almond tree just starting to bloom

It’s then I get out into the garden to try to remove some of the acreage of weeds built up by the winter rain.

Yarraville’s streets were lined with plum trees when our pocket was built some time in the 1950s.

Some of them still survive, black and gnarly, with pink blossoms appearing in September.

Gnarly old plum tree trunk with fluffy pink blossoms appearing close to the trunk

Very Hokusai.

Plum Blossoms and the Moon by Hokusai

Some of the plum trees have been replaced with new ones. These come out with a fresh burst of pink and green.

Another plum tree in bloom

Close up of the plum tree blossoms

Another failsafe sign of spring is the appearance of red buds covering the jasmine along our side fence. Then bam, flowering, and the heavy scent. The jasmine will go soon because we have to replace that fence in a month or two; I’ll miss it next year.

Picture of a Mayan temple with words 2012 DOOMSDAY
There’s a hilarious discussion over on Facebook between my niece, former officeholder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and her friends.


Friend 1: I’ve used my $160 from the gubbament to construct a rudimentary shelter from the carbon. That’s what it’s for, right?

friend 2: Am I to understand this Carbon Tax will tax me a vital organ per month?

I’ve already had the smarmy letter from our electricity purveyor:

The variation follows a review of Neighbourhood energy’s costs and mainly reflects the impact of the Australian Government’s Carbon Pricing mechanism and Neighbourhood energy’s increased operating expenses.

Of course the red mist is supposed to descend after “Carbon Pricing mechanism”, obscuring “increased operating expenses” AKA “Spending on infrastructure we got away with not providing when the SEC was carved up and privatised and which now is going tits up on a massive scale.

This is my prediction. Thousands upon thousands of businesses will take the opportunity to jack their prices up and blame the carbon tax. The increase will be out of all proportion to any real cost increase the carbon tax has caused. Then the Herald Sun and various other mouthpieces will come out to say “see, we told you so!”

Manga character says "Girl Cooties"!

All right.


I wasn’t going to take the bait. Trollumnists want attention and clicks, and it’s all very well to take my frustration out on the blog by pounding out a reply – that’s one of the reasons we blog – but it gives them the attention the advertising manager of their media outlet craves, and sends the signal to the media outlet that more trollumning is required. But to hell with it, I can’t leave rubbish like this unfisked.

Here, Elizabeth Farrelly protests: “Here’s the truth. I’m not a misogynist. It’s 13 weeks, give or take, since I was accused of misogyny in these pages… but in the intervening weeks I’ve searched my soul and decided no, not true.”

Trouble is, Farrelly goes on to demonstrate some sterling misogyny in the very same article.

Feminism always had a strategic choice; either to escape the sewing circle or to make it legitimate. I’m with the escape artists. Most of what passes for feminism these days, however, just legitimises girliness.

Scorn for crafts and pastimes associated with femaleness? Check.

I don’t usually read women authors but not because they’re women. Because they’re boring. My female friends are shocked by this, urging me to revisit my Margaret Atwood or Jeanette Winterson. But I tell you, if I never read another intelligent female devoting her first page to how she felt when her husband left her it’ll be too soon.

Valorisation of male writing over womens’ writing? Denigration of womens’ writing in its entirety (with a few exeptions-which-prove-the-rule thrown in to convince us she’s being fair)? Using an obvious straw-writer (all novels written by women begin with a woman musing about how her husband has left her, O RLY) to provide some weak argument for this? Check.

In part this is an aesthetic thing. I like writing with a higher IQ and lower pH than most women can manage: tougher, edgier, stringier. But it’s also, unavoidably, political.

Praise for attributes coded by the writer as “male” (without stopping to consider whether these attributes are intrinsically “male” or whether she just assigns these to maleness in her personal world view)? Claiming men ipso facto have a higher IQ? Check!

To my mind it is the task of writing to lace the personal into the supra-personal – bridging from the self to the political, the abstract, the cosmic. To fail in this, to wallow about in the personal, is a muscular dystrophy of the mind.

Associating women with the “personal” (domestic, earthed, grounded)? Associating men with the cosmic, transcendent world of affairs? Check.

Remember when people used to take offence at women athletes being called ”girls”? Now it seems feminism has given up. Far from liberating us into the tough, exciting world, it has simply stretched the circle, like some outsize marsupial pouch, to encompass it. We’re all girls now.

This makes no sense. The feminist objection to the use of the word “girls” for grown women is to do with infantilising female adults, not hating the very notion of girls and girl-ness. Moreover, Farrelly uses the term “girls” to patronise the reader a few paragraphs on.

I hope you don’t think men escape Farrelly’s beady-eyed gender policing:

At the gym you hear men earnestly sharing tips on diet products. Over coffee they dissect fashion, babies, relationships. “I said, then she said, then I said …” Neo-boys’ natter.

Fearing some kind of contamination of male society by female qualities? Check.(Don’t forget, this is the woman who fears modern building codes and environmental oestrogens are effeminizing our little boys and putting the entire nation at risk. seriously. Obviously, these girly-men are those poor kids, grown up.) See also.

Just as suddenly the Women’s Weekly, which for me growing up symbolised everything frilled, dumb and domestic – everything I did not want my life to become – is a cultural icon, with its own TV drama and a National Library project to digitise it as “nationally significant material”.
Now you can catch up on all those stain-removal tips and sponge-making recipes online, secure in the knowledge that you’re engaged in something of national significance. Super.

Thinking that womanhood or girlhood is defined by womens’ magazines? check. Assertion that material aimed at women can have no archival, educational or historic significance? Check.

Everywhere you look there’s women’s stuff. Websites, blogs, zines and e-groups. The explosion of social networking, and not just the ability but the expectation that you indulge, is a symbolic victory for the X chromosome. But how feminist is it, actually?

Interpretation of proper feminism as abandoning anything which could be coded “girly”? Obsession with avoiding Girl Cooties? Check.

But it’s more than that. The sub-heads of the Parlour blog, for example, go unconscious bias, leadership, mentoring, pay equity, career paths, work/life, and so on.) It’s run by writers and academics but none of it – not a word – deals with architecture the stuff, the content, the juice.
It makes me want to scream. Stop self-obsessing, girls. Leave the sewing circle. You want respect as architects, get on and bloody do it. Build something brilliant, funny, sweet, enchanting, weird, crazy – I don’t care. Do it, and they’ll come.

Women concerned with building professional networks as “self-obsessed”? Check. “Sewing Circle” (Girl cooties, eww!) used as insult? Check. (Have the Melbourne Club, the MCC and other male social networking organisations anything to do with the actual work their members do? What might be the role of a magazine like the one she’s bagging?) Use of “Girls” to denote adult women? Check.

I have a lot of time for Zaha Hadid for this reason alone. I recall her as a young thing in London, sweeping all before her with her retinue of black-clad gay boys like the Persian princess she was. She didn’t bother whingeing about work-life balance. Balance be damned. She just did it.

Yes, “gay boys” are so useful as a social/interior decoration prop, aren’t they? We wouldn’t want to only patronise women, after all.

I believe Greer is right (she too is labelled misogynist, as is Paglia, so I’m in good company). There is a level at which men hate women, for a very simple reason. They’re jealous. Women are core, men are luxuries.

After such a litany of “Girl cooties, eww! Be more like men!”, suddenly Farrelly is concerned to show she’s really on the womens’ team. Somehow, it rings less than true. And Camille Paglia “good company”? I guess if you believe environmental chemicals and female teachers are wrecking society with their “oestrogen-heaviness”, Camille Paglia suddenly seems quite rational.

But this very core-ness can turn us into ruminants, and saying so is not misogynistic. Quite the contrary. It’s recognising that it’s bigger than us. The world needs heroic females more than ever; it needs us out there, muscular, mindful, purposeful and strong. That’s funny.

Women compared to “ruminants”, i.e., cows? Check!

Well, Farrelly’s protestations have failed to convince me that misogyny has no place in her world view. We’re being asked to accept that someonewho looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck may not be one. A goose, perhaps.

24 Jun 2012, Comments (1)

Trip Envy

Author: Helen

My brother and his lovely companion are travelling up North using a combination of hire cars and the Ghan, using this site to blog about their trip. Stuck at home on the Queen’s Birthday, when it was quite sunny and the current floods/earthquakes/hail/plagues of frogs hadn’t yet started, I was siezed by Trip Envy. If I couldn’t take the Ghan up to Alice, by golly, I could take the bike along the Federation Trail!

My aim was to start in Yarraville and ride halfway to Werribee. Yes, I know, ambitious. I started off at Williamstown Road where a new section of the trail is meant to link Yarraville to Altona.

Thanks to the Baillieu Government’s abrupt discontinuation of bicycle infrastructure funds, this discontinued abruptly. They didn’t even have the money to fix this front-wheel-devouring drain in the first section.


Thanks for the bonus sheet I discovered when I unfolded the thing for the first time last night.

A crumpled pair of pink satin knickers

The bonus satin knickers under the sheet, not so much.

2 Aug 2011, Comments (11)

The neighbours have moved on

Author: Helen

A brewing kit in a front yard with about 100 beer bottles neatly lined up around it

Oh, how we will miss them.

Green bin full of beer cans

30 May 2011, Comments (5)

Easter Road Trip, Part 2

Author: Helen

The Grand Ridge Road only took two days, so there was still plenty of Easter/Anzac long weekend to check out the tourist attractions of East Gippy. Near Thorpdale, you can see this sign:

Road sign - "Site of World's Tallest Tree"

Road sign - "Site of World's Tallest Tree"


30 May 2011, Comments (7)

Easter Road Trip, part 1

Author: Helen

In the Easter break I did something I’d wanted to do for quite a while – go for a road trip along this road, which follows the top of the Strzlecki ranges in East Gippsland. Just myself, while the family fended for themselves at home (Mr Bucket works on weekends, of course, and the kids are allergic to country air.)

Looking north from the Grand Ridge Road, somewhere between Tarra Bulga NP and Gunyah

Looking north from the Grand Ridge Road, somewhere between Tarra Bulga NP and Gunyah


The O’Reallys are the typical so-called “well-off” family who are now staring down the barrel of the Gillard government’s crushing “middle-class welfare” reform. Our intrepid editor sent this reporter out to one of the up and coming suburbs to get the real lowdown on how hard hit these families are by this merciless class warfare.

One of the countless Aspirational Families in these tree-lined streets™, Tom and Sue O’Really work as a teacher and a construction estimator. They have two children, Lily and Bradley. Lily, 6, has started primary school and attends after-school care. Bradley, 3, is in daycare. Sue’s income is just over $150,000, making them rich in the eyes of Labor and Leftist types who choose to ignore the stark, brutal reality of their suburban struggle.

“Are you joking?” laughed Sue when we pointed the mike at her so she could tell us how the government, hellbent on redistributing wealth and closing the gap between the alleged haves and have-nots, has reduced their lifestyle to a nasty and brutish struggle for survival. Here is a transcript of the interview which followed:

Newsfax Ltd: Now that the rate at which the family tax benefit cuts out has been frozen at $150,000, will this spell the end of your middle class lifestyle?

Sue O’Really: Well, of course, a lump sum in your tax return is always nice. But really, isn’t government income distribution meant to be targeted at, you know, really struggling families, on $40,000 and less? I mean, of course your wants always expand when you get more money. (Laughs) but shouldn’t we be directing Family Tax Benefit to families who can’t afford to send their kids to the dentist? Or use the money to put dentistry on Medicare?

Newsfax Ltd: But food, clothing, gas electricity — it all adds up. Not to mention childcare and your private medical insurance, for which you now get only 20% rebate instead of 30%. With the cost of living increasing, shouldn’t eligibility for family benefits should have been lifted?

Sue O’Really: Look, of course the cost of living goes up. I’m not arguing with that, I just wonder whether “adrift in ocean of debt and despair” isn’t over-egging it a bit. Half of all workers earn less than $44,146 per year. Shouldn’t you be interviewing one of them? I mean, they’re taking money away from Leonie three doors down, for god’s sake, she’s on the single mother’s benefit and they’re going to put her on Newstart when her daughter turns 12! And… wasn’t it your paper and others like you who used to be against “middle-class welfare”, anyway?

Newsfax Ltd: Well, Wayne Swan said himself you weren’t that well-off!

Sue O’Really: Well, I can see how he would have been under pressure to say that. But it’s something thats easy enough to resolve through 10 minutes on the ABS website and some Year 8 maths. We’re not “battlers”. We’re not even “average”. According to the ABS, I’m in the top three percent of income earners individually and we’re in the top ten percent of households. So, yeah, sure, childcare is very expensive, and we did remodel our California Bungalow to twice its former size, and that means high repayments. And we try to eat healthily, and the cost of fruit is ridiculous. But to claim we’re doing it tough is just an insult to that half of the workforce that’s on less than $45,000 – not to mention disability pensioners, unemployed, single parents…I mean, they’re paying the same for fruit and vegetables as we are!…

[Newsfax Editor’s note: You failed to get a proper response from this interviewee. Bin this story.]

18 Jan 2011, Comments (15)

A 1950s Alternative Universe

Author: Helen

I’m taking some weeks off work courtesy of the wonderful 48/52 , and having an at-home holiday with a rare respite from early mornings and reasonable bedtimes. So it was that on Saturday night I found myself watching a late-night 1950s black and white movie – something I haven’t done much of since the demise of Bill Collins and Ivan Hutchinson’s shows. Oh, how I used to love those old black and white movies (cue massive eyeroll from the kids). Some of the interest lies in a mixture of plot points which appear to have been written while dropping acid combined with gender and class expectations which are all too real.

This one was No Sad Songs For Me, starring Margaret Sullavan, who was quite a hoyden in her youth, with Natalie Wood as her abnormally well-adjusted daughter. According to,

…Sentimental melodrama about a ridiculously self-sacrificing wife based on the book by Ruth Southard and starring a 12-year-old Natalie Wood. Mary Scott (Margaret Sullavan) is pregnant when she finds out that she has terminal cancer with only a few months left to live. She keeps this information a secret from her husband, Brad Scott (Wendell Corey), who is carrying on an affair with his assistant, Chris Radna (Viveca Lindfors). Mary encourages her husband to pursue Chris as a replacement wife and mother after she dies.

Heavy stuff, eh, especially as I was in Natalie Wood’s shoes in 1968, except that I was a year younger and not nearly as adorable, co-operative or conscientious with my piano practice. So the movie should have had me wallowing in memories and grief, except for that other marvellous feature of the 1950s B&W: the LOLWUT!? factor.

Consider the events which the writer of this weepie considered believable in 1950.

The movie opens with the happy family at breakfast discussing a new pregnancy. Mary says she’s off to the doctor that day to confirm. When she does, the doctor tells her sternly that she’s not pregnant and is never likely to be again. We’re given to understand that the doctor’s an old family friend, but this is all he tells her. Oh, and the hilarity – Doctor lights up a cig while giving her the bad news! In the surgery. Oh, the ’50s, those were the days.

Dr. Bedside Manner obviously has no intention of telling her anything at this point. He only tells her about her terminal cancer when she leaves the surgery, walks out to the car, is overcome by an unseemly attack of patient curiosity and walks back into his office to ask him for more details. We are asked to believe that the doctor has diagnosed the cancer some weeks ago yet hasn’t seen fit to tell the patient, who, remember, is also an old family friend. RIGHT.

Mary then says “I remember you’ve been taking dozens of X rays for the last few weeks!”

Wouldn’t you think a woman who thought she was pregnant, instead of harbouring a fatal illness, would question having “dozens of X rays” taken in the (presumed) early stages of the pregnancy? But these were the days of smoking in the doctor’s surgery. They didn’t have those namby-pamby, politically correct safety procedures.

In 1950, it appears, cancer was universally a death sentence. Mary asks Mr People Skills if operations or radiotherapy will do anything, and he replies that the treatment’s still in the experimental stage. Well, perhaps IF HE HAD TOLD HER EARLIER she might have had a chance to get a second opinion, or something.

Instead of going straight to a solicitor to file a medical malpractice suit – seeing as he’s a family friend, I guess – Mary swears the doctor to secrecy so that she can conceal her condition from her family. The doctor readily agrees with this, since obviously he’s given to withholding information anyway. Incredibly, although he can’t do anything at all about Mary’s cancer, he is able to give the most detailed prognosis: Nine months to live, six months of which will be “on her feet”. Modern oncologists would be amazed at the ability of cigarette-smokin’ 50s doctors to pinpoint the exact course of the illness.

The rest of the movie pretty much consists of Mary becoming more and more saintly. Her terminal cancer appears to involve no painkillers, curtailment of social activities or even symptoms, apart from the occasional frown and clutch of the hand to the abdomen, or a brief lie down on the couch. We are not told where this cancer is. One imagines that the ending will be Mary lying on lacy pillows becoming ever more beautiful and radiant as death approaches. However, it’s even more hokey than that.

After participating in a batty, and saintly, ruse to make sure her husband’s affair partner/girlfriend, Chris, is around to replace her(!) (LOLWUT!), Mary spills the beans. Husband, suitably devastated, breaks his philandering and working routine to take her on a second honeymoon to Mexico, where they dance together to a mariarchi band, after which Mary obligingly drops dead, thus eliminating the need for the sad bedridden final phase, and making the handover to Chris more seamless.

Although Chris is an exasperating entitled little shit, one can have some sympathy for her as she enters the movie in the guise of a professional draughtsperson working on a dam project with the husband, Brad / Wendell Cory. Thus we have the classic 1950s/1960s scene where the new worker turns out to be a WOMAN! Oh the HILARITY! The world turned upside down! The exchange between Brad, the hirer, and Chris, the prospective employee, illustrates perfectly the complete disdain for female employees and her need to plead and supplicate to convince him to give her the job despite her manifest inferiority. He demurs because the job’ll require her to go outside and it might rain! A woman might… melt, or something.

The plot then requires them to fall in lurve, but this is just predictable, because she’s a member of the sex class. That’s why we can’t have them on the job! They’ll distract the men!

In the final scene, the LOLWUT!? factor goes off the charts. Chris, the replacement mother, and the child Polly are sitting together at the piano playing a tragic musical piece. At this point, as far as Polly knows, Chris is the family friend/babysitter and Mum and Dad are just away on a nice holiday. The phone rings and Chris answers. It is terrible news from Mexico! Well, terrible for Mary, anyway. Chris makes some cryptic remark and they keep playing. Are they ever going to tell this kid anything? She never knew her mum was even sick. When are they going to actually let her know she’s DIED? The Wikipedia article on Margaret Sullavan says that her family life was fairly tortured and marked by suicide and institutionalisation. If this was the way 1950s families were supposed to handle family crises, I’m really not surprised. “Here’s your school lunch, dear. By the way, your mum’s not coming back from Mexico. She’s dead. I’m your new mum now. I’m sure Dad will explain everything when he gets back, but he’ll be a while because of organising the cold storage for the coffin ‘n all…”

Ah, those old black and white movies. If you’re ever tempted to join the conservatives in yearning for the Good old Days before the counterculture and modern medicine changed the world, when a man could still light up a satisfying fag in his doctor’s surgery and women knew their place, watch one of these and marvel. On the other hand, there’s no room for complacency yet; Judd Apatow and Charlie Sheen still churn out stuff which future generations will watch and…LOLWUT?!
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town