Categories: Melbourne

12 Apr 2013, Comments (3)

Friday Earworm and gig guide

Author: Helen

Throwing this post up late, but Tess and the Shapiros are playing at the Union Hotel in Brunswick, this Saturday night (13th), 9-11.

Tess hasn’t advertised this one, perhaps because it will feature a lot of new material from the Bob sessions at Pure Pop, where, you will recall, <>Tess recreated the Times they Are a’Changin album as part of the Summer of Classic Albums series.

This is one of the songs we’ll be doing.

Tess’s version sounds nothing like this.

This has song has haunted me especially in the days since Thatcher died. Seems downsizing and outsourcing wasn’t invented by the neoliberal 80s but they certainly took that ball and ran with it.

They say in the East that they’re payin too high
They say that your ore ain’t worth diggin
That it’s much cheaper down in South American towns
Where the miners work almost for nothin

Substitute “China” or “Special Economic zones” for “South American towns” (except it wouldn’t scan) and change the miners to people who make things, and nothing’s changed.

Image of Andrew Rule article. For text, follow link in post

Image via Clementine Ford on FB. Full text, with “no follow” tag, is linked in the post

In the light of a young woman’s recent abduction and murder, there have been many comments – both in the press and in comment threads on social media – implying that women who walk in dark places have it coming to them. But it’s not only the tabloid jocks and the comment thread meatheads. More sensible people have been panicked into calling for a curfew on women.

Because that’s what it is. If you say that women are impossibly reckless for insisting on walking home less than a kilometre from the pub or workplace, or inhabiting the university campus, or radical things of that nature – then you’re calling for limits on womens’ freedom of movement and association, no more, no less.

If you still insist this is a fundamental right, they will deploy their best argument. One I’ll call the Tethered Goat argument. Remember the goat in the movie Jurassic Park, tethered in the clearing as a tasty lunch for the Tyrannosaurus? So, they say, we can argue all we like that women have an equal right to move freely about the city, but this is just idealism. In reality, if we try to act on our theoretical freedom, we are setting ourselves up as the tethered goats for the tyrannosauruses walking our streets. These tyrannosauruses don’t care about your feminism. So suck it up.

These statements are often accompanied with “Well, in a perfect world…” which implies that the Tethered Goat argument is in touch with reality, while its opponents are hell bent in following ideology in the face of all evidence.

It’s a compelling argument, and it has a visceral logic to it. I don’t blame people for holding it. If we look at the facts as they really are, we must reject it. Here’s why.

When we say women have an equal right to the city, we don’t advocate simply taking a tethered-goat stance. Women have written before on the lengths we already go to, all the time, to try to minimise danger. What I’m objecting to is the view that women need to be more defensive than men and that that defence needs to take the form of vacating the space. We know that men need to be careful, as well. The city has dangers for men. Different things tend to happen to them – instead of the abduction-and-rape scenario, we have the random-stab or king-hit or knocked over with head on kerb scenario. What we don’t get are the calls for men not to walk alone in the city. The blame is directed squarely at the perpetrators (e.g. calls for crackdowns on crowds and nightclubs) and not on the victims. Comments of the “he was at the Wrong Place At the Wrong Time” sort are made in the spirit of homespun philosophising on the Randomness of the Universe, not the culpability of the target of the violence.

So let’s advocate street smarts and defensive behaviour and cunning all we want – but let’s advocate it for everyone, and let’s not tie it to a limitation of movement for one gender. Notice that the tethered-goat theory is also based on woman as irresistable prey for male biological urges. This is watered-down Wahabism.

The other reason why the tethered-goat theory is harmful is that the numbers are against it. Do I have to point out that the statistics are overwhelmingly clear that, here and elsewhere, most male-on-female rapes, assaults and murders are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, and/or in the home? The home, not the streets, is statistically the most dangerous place for a woman to be. This conflicts with the visceral rightness of stranger danger and the look of the dark alleyway, but this point has been made time and again. We just haven’t internalised it, perhaps because the Law and Order SVU genre is so popular.

I didn’t know about those statistics when I was a participant in the wonderful resurgent music scene of 1980s St Kilda. I remember asking the question of myself while bumping drums out to the scary carpark of Hosie’s hotel, a notorious bloodhouse of the time, at 2 AM, and thinking, what is the alternative? Giving up? Yeah, really, fuck that.

The tethered goat theory is put forward as the realistic option, but if you want realistic, the idea that all activities – from skydiving to walking home from work – carry some risk is more so. Everything we do in our lives is a matter of weighing up risk and reward. Sure, there will be that one guy out there and there is a vanishingly small statistical probability that you may meet him in a vulnerable situation, but there are more drunk drivers out there and a much higher statistical probability that you will be hit and killed by them while walking or driving with your muscular husband. To forgo opportunities and life experiences because you give undue weight to statistically unlikely events, and, worse, to deny them to others and blame them for lightning-strike adverse events, is a counsel of despair.

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.

We used to describe the Liberal party’s attitude as “born to rule”. Seems that attitude has seeped into the Labor party, both State and Federal. Labor is keen to portray the Greens as naive and starry eyed idealists, unfit for the pragmatism of real government. I’m sure the Labor party would have been similarly portrayed back in the day when it, too, had principles and some genuinely social democratic policies.

So, Daniel Andrews, your party won the seat of Melbourne (Jennifer Kanis, Labor, v. Cathy Oke, Greens) by a bee’s dick pretty much. Yet you’re described by the Hun as having “taunted the Greens for blowing their chance”, yada yada. Really.

I’d like to think that if I were the leader of a party which had scraped in on the back of the preferences of an ultra-right party like Family First, and my opponents had won the largest number of primary votes, I’d be pulling my head in and keeping a bit quiet about it instead of crowing and preening as if my mob had actually achieved something to be proud of. 51.4% to 48.6% two-party-preferred isn’t exactly a rout, you know.

Rather than carrying on like nerny-nerny-ner schoolboys I’d be going away to think up a few policies for the next State election, actual progressive ones that is, instead of just “overdevelopment, freeways, coal, woodchip, hooray!!”

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.


Tess McKenna, Helen Smart, Karen Rush and Drew Hancock. Union Hotel, Brunswick Sat May 26, June 9, June 16, 9 pm with Blackeyed Susans

Tess McKenna and the Shapiros (me, Karen Rush and Drew Hancock) are thrilled to be playing at the Union this Saturday, and Saturday 9th and 16th of June.

I’m really looking forward to playing, especially because we’re doing a double bill with the Blackeyed Susans, who are all kinds of wonderful.

We’ll be playing 9-11, instead of the earlier sessions we usually do. It’ll be a bit louder!

Today it was reported that police are searching near Cann River for the body of a teenage girl who was abducted in 1992. One of the “persons of interest” in that case is Craig Minogue, one of the nasties responsible for the Russell St Bombing.

Months before the bombing, one of the key planners, Craig Minogue, warned that if anyone spoke to the police he would kill them and their families, pointedly telling Hetzel’s de facto wife, Julie: ”It would be a shame if anything happened to your sweet little Prue, wouldn’t it?”
The girl was eight at the time.
Police say Minogue made a similar threat on at least one other occasion.

In 1988 Minogue was sentenced to life with a minimum of 27 years for the murder of Angela Taylor [the policewoman killed in the bomb attack]. And…

OK, are you sitting down? You’d better swallow that coffee before you read any further:

…he is now completing his PhD in applied ethics and moral philosophy inside prison.

I’m sorry about your keyboard, but I did warn you.

Now I don’t mean to come all Heraldsuntele on your arse, complaining about people furthering their education in prison and implying that they should be picking oakum for most of the time they aren’t being flogged on triangles, but there is a point at which an occupation and the person engaged in it appear to be, let’s say, an unlikely fit.

I’m fascinated to know what his thesis topic might be. “Abduction: a Comparison of Satisfaction levels from Ransom Collection versus Just Killing ’em”? “Persuasion: the Efficacy of large Explosions in protesting the Failure of the Justice system”. “Shame: What the F**’s that?”

Perhaps some people need to complete a PhD in ethics and moral philosophy before they’re able to make basic ethical decisions of the kind most of us master in kindergarten. Not killing people, for instance.

And recent online discussions suggest that some people might think the completion of a PhD is punishment enough.

Ha, ha, joking – the world hasn’t gone to shit noticeably more in one week, and it was fairly unsurprising that Martin Ferguson and (presumably) other members of the Labor right would be spying on their own electorate. Anyone who was active in the 60s and 70s has a file on them as thick as a Stephen King novel. Yet the details were especially sickening in a creepy, Peter Hoeg-type way – a bland suburban residential development housing a not very Top Secret cubicle farm, NOSIC. (Got to love that acronym!) There, the cubicle jockeys, presumably sad, underemployed students and recent graduates, trawl through the Facebook and Twitter accounts of anyone who’s been active in environmental protest…

…OH HI Cubicle jockey who is reading this over at NOSIC, brought hither by various keywords! How good do you feel about yourself, working for Marn’s Stasi Lite? I was once underemployed and desperate myself, but yeah but no. This is a disgrace. I was so angry I went out today and participated in a demonstration covert surveillance operation on Ferguson’s office with these excellent chaps.

Sorry about the picture quality, snapped clandestinely with the shoe phone:

Facebook group at Keep an Eye on Martin Ferguson protest at Marn's Preston office, 10 January 2012

One of the spooks pictured above is the author of this opinion piece in today’s AGE.

Anti-coal activists pose a political threat. That’s why we’re being spied on.

I’d like to know how the government can justify employing a private company to spy on me. As an anti-coal activist, and member of one of three main community groups in Australia campaigning against the coal industry, I was alarmed by revelations in The Saturday Age that the Australian Federal Police has singled us out as a potential threat and is employing a private company to spy on us.

The AFP were there before we were, natch, because the other spooks at NOSIC had read the Facebook group. Of course. This is your taxes at work: Pimply postgrads being paid to spy on your nephew’s facebook page; Police missing their lunch to stand outside Martin Ferguson’s mostly empty office protecting it against a piece of harmless theatre. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so bloody depressing.

Some parents around here are up in arms about the sudden axing of the Steiner education stream which has been maintained at Footscray Primary school for the last few years.

Footscray Steiner parents, I am sorry to hear that this was done so suddenly, and – according to newspaper reports – in such a cackhanded way. The program should have been phased out gracefully over another year, allowing parents to plan and children to transition more easily.

On the other hand, the situation should never have arisen because a Steiner stream should never have been allowed into a State primary school in the first place.

Public education was supposed to be free, secular and compulsory. The “secular” part is under siege, as it is, from Liberal government initiatives to put chaplains in schools and to force them to accept religious education classes, often by dubious practitioners. Steiner education is based on a kind of quasi-religious “spirituality” (I’d say “the random thoughts of an early Twentieth Century German crank”, but let’s go with that), and as such it drives the non-secular wedge in a little further. What’s the argument against having a Scientology stream if we allow this in our schools?

A Steiner parent at Footscray Primary was able to have a complaint about the Steiner annexe closure published in the Opinion page of the AGE, no less, by a prominent grandparent. This was published soon before the National Day of Action for public education, but the article made no mention of this. Come November 15, it would have been wonderful to see famous grandparents protesting about the ongoing defunding of public education in the AGE editorial, but there were none. Public education really needs defending in Victoria; it’s an inestimably valuable public good which we take for granted and fail to properly appreciate.

Educate your child at a Steiner school if you must, but keep religion and “spirituality” out of our Government school system, please.

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