Categories: Yartz

Picture of Margaret Clement of Tullaree wading through the swamp with her dog, Dingo.

Waaaaay back in May 2012, after listening to a fascinating and creepy story from a friend with a house at Venus Bay, I wrote a post called Gippsland Gothic, about two eccentric women who lived Misses-Havisham style in a crumbling homestead in marshland. One died, the other disappeared, and the mystery continues.

I’m not really fussed about blog stats – this isn’t a commercial blog after all – but I noticed something interesting after that: Not a day has gone by without someone hitting that post or using search strings on Tullaree, Margaret Clement and other keywords relating to the story. There really is a lot of interest out there about that story.

Commenter Jane-Louise Hobson has written a play called Tale of Tullaree about Margaret Clement. There’s a reading on at the Wonthaggi Theatre Group next weekend, with matinees both days and one evening show. Details are here.

I’m going with the friend who first told me the story, and we’ll stay the night down at Venus Bay, where Margaret’s bones were found.

Or the bones, that is, which might have been hers, and which have also disappeared.

Le Chien qui Fume – A Smokey Life. from Liz Burke on Vimeo.

If you were a reader or writer at Larvatus Prodeo you’ll remember Fine – with the adorable whippet avatar. Blow me down but Fine isn’t a whippet at all but a filmmaker. This Pozible page is raising funds to make a feature film, Le Chien Qui Fume (The Smoking Dog).

We’re raising finance to produce a preview/trailer for this feature film. We’ll then use that preview/trailer to showcase all the elements of the film and approach financiers, to raise the money for the feature.

We know we need to produce a high standard trailer to convince potential funding partners that our concept will work. The money raised will go into minimal cast and crew costs, location and catering fees, art department and post-production. We can make a great preview/trailer for this money. So, please come along for the ride.

Follow the link above for more info on Fin… er Liz Burke, Donna Rae and Michael Vale. Here’s the Facebook page. And please, kick a few dollars in for the Smoking Dog.

And, blow me down again (and I’d only just got up again and dusted myself off) when I watched the little promo vid, who should pop up but that ubiquitous and brilliant pair Dave Graney and Clare Moore, who I’d just been to see play at the Newport Substation, where they blew us all away. They’re doing the music for the movie. Quelle Coincidence!

The AGE must have thought At Home With Julia was a doco, because they had an item about it in the News section today. “Slight it certainly was, but not fundamentally unkind – to the Prime Minister at least.” Er, no. Mocking Gillard’s partner doesn’t leave her untouched. Not the way they did it. I switched it on in trepidation, wondering what antidiluvian gender-policing tropes they would serve up. I wasn’t undisappointed. Besides Amanda Bishop’s HILARIOUS take on Gillards voice (She’s got such a FUNNY VOICE HURH HURH HURH – That stuff never palls!), the focus is all on her partner, Tim Mathieson (Phil Lloyd). And it’s all hanging on the side-splitting scenario of Man Living with a woman who’s More Successful than Him ZOMG!! WEARZ TEH PANTZORZ!!111!!

It’s relentless, from the first bar of the cliched piano intro. As the first episode opens, Tim is followed by a bunch of subteen boys who taunt him about his lack of manliness as he puts the bins out. That sets the monotonous pattern from then on as Tim fails again and again to live up to masculine standards. He even visits JG’s workplace with a sandwich. Emasculating! His day continues as a mounting litany of humiliations. Gillard calls him “my little T-pot”. And while the Tim Mathieson character bears most of the weight of the superannuated tropes, as he becomes ever more irritated and frustrated (and as oblique jokes about his manhood are made by the minute) we’re given to understand that JG’s relationship is doomed to failure. A woman simply shouldn’t be under work pressure. Everyone knows it’s the woman who makes the damned sandwich, amirite? Even in the first episode we feel the relationship is so strained it must eventually crack, and then she’ll be all alone with only Bill Shorten the terrier and Bob Katter for company, won’t she? And serve her right for being an emasculating prime minister and destroying her man.

Clearly – still – the idea that men taking the role of partner to a successful woman are pathetic, and they’re pathetic because they are then comparable to a woman, which is terrible, still has great traction. I’m just about to watch Rush: a woman running about in a flak suit with a gun might be frowned on by some conservatives, but no-one sees her as pathetic and laughable. Women taking on mens’ roles might meet with resistance, but it’s because they’re a subordinate moving up. A man taking on (what’s still defined as) a woman’s role is looked on as moving down.

I can’t help but wonder what this meanspirited and patriarchy-fellating little show will do to the real-life relationship. No matter how Mathieson presents himself in his everyday life, he now has the “man emasculated by successful woman” lesson rammed down his throat weekly, and it can’t help but affect how he’s treated by the public when he goes out. I imagine it can’t help but affect the dynamic between the two of them. And if anything happens to their relationship, then the world will be all, “See, there you go, ball buster.”

And I can’t help but wonder how many teenage girls are abandoning plans for a bigger role in the wide world, because you know, it just makes you unloveable and makes your partner miserable.

Thanks, ABC.
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo

I hired a DVD a couple of days ago, The Tunnel. It’s a new Australian horror movie in the style popularised by Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, although better, we thought, than either; a faux-doco complete with jumpy camera and white-on-black text. It’s interesting in several ways. Visually, it manages the jumpy-grainy-camera style much more gracefully by the simple and inspired move of making the characters a professional TV news team. It’s also interesting in the way the film is made and funded, through the new concept 135K project. But what really grabbed and held me about this film was the location – a network of subterranean tunnels underneath Sydney, which are real, and of which I was completely ignorant.

Journalist Steve Dow has visited the tunnels and other secret places in Sydney.

In the inky darkness, we sweep torch lights side to side and slosh through sludgy earth in Sydney’s great unfinished eastern suburbs subway – which would never actually see a train, but instead become an air raid shelter.

Thin tree roots drape from the ceiling and glisten in the spotlights like spiders’ webs; thicker roots that long ago sprang through wall drainage holes twist across our path. Could these gnarly tendrils really belong to the old Moreton Bay figs guarding Hyde Park above?…

…(A)fter planners and politicians disagreed on the route, work on the eastern suburbs tunnels was abruptly halted close to the ANZAC Memorial. During World War II, the tunnels were converted into a public air raid shelter, which Sydneysiders thankfully never had to press into service. Brick dividing walls were added to create smaller bomb shelter chambers. Australian Imperial Forces officers stationed down here scrawled their messages that can still be seen, including their regiment number and the date, many in 1942.

We step into a rectangular chamber flooded in ankle-deep water, in which stands a rustic steel bell with a pointy top almost as tall as a person. One of our group whacks the bell with a plank of wood: the gong sound is deafening. Sydney sound-sculpture artist Nigel Helyer created and installed the work, known as An UnRequited Space, as part of ArtSpace Sydney’s Working in Public project in 1992, employing a wooden mallet “to sound out the midnight chime on ABC National for 21 consecutive days”, Helyer says. Memo to the ABC: your microphone cable missing for 16 years is still connected between the bell and wall down here.

The bell features in the movie and you can see it in the trailer. I had wondered if it was real. The room it’s in is dry in the film, probably because of the extended drought.

As we trek north, the air becomes more humid. We climb up a rickety metal ladder through a hole only half excavated and slip down a muddy embankment, meeting the edge of “Lake St James”: the drainage system of the city outer tunnel next door, the water stretches left and out of sight for a kilometre, 10 metres wide and about five metres deep.

The NSW Government says it aims to collect rainwater in tanks from the roofs of Parliament House, the State Library and Sydney Hospital, store the water in Lake St James, and recycle it back through the non-drinking system. Well, you certainly wouldn’t ingest this stuff, its fine film of brake dust floating on top.

The lake is home to an eel named Eric: “I’ve seen him, but no-one believes me,” one CityRail employee says. He spreads his palms a metre wide. “He’s about so big. An albino!”

The abandonment of the NSW government plan to use Lake St James as a water storage reservoir for Sydney is the real-life event on which The Tunnel hinges. In the film we see some of the old wartime air raid shelter rooms and hear the story of General Macarthur possibly having an emergency bunker down there. Unfortunately, my googling failed to find any regular organised tours of the tunnels.

This film is a must-see for anyone who likes to think of the strange, secret and eerie places which exist under our feet.

Tess McKenna at the Northcote Social Club, 20 February 2011 - Poster

Tess will officially launch her latest CD, The New Everything, at the Northcote Social Club on Sundee week (Sunday 20th Feb). It’s been out in the wild for a few weeks, and you can buy it here.

Tess McKenna’s fourth album, The New Everything, was recorded over a year in the low-fi setting of Fatsound Studio, with Barry Stockley & an ensemble of long time playing pals including Ash Davies on drums. The New Everything eases in between barefaced folk and dirty bang bang blues to sonic rock overdrive. This is singer-songwriter McKenna at her best – authentic, soulful & intimate.
Tess has toured her music extensively, supporting artists such as Nick Cave & Lucinda Williams; has played her music from as far as the Woodford Folk Festival to the East Coast Roots & Blues Festival in Byron Bay, from the Melbourne Concert Hall to Austin’s SXSW Music Festival in Texas, USA. Tess McKenna & her longtime band The Shapiros will be joined by special guests for an afternoon of pitch-perfect harmonies and shimmering guitars to launch The New Everything at the Northcote Social Club 20th February 2011. [Doors open at 2 PM – $12.]

The New Everything is out now on HEAD RECORDS & is distributed through MGM.

Ashley Davies, who plays drums on the CD, is off touring with The Dingoes. So I’m occupying the drum seat for the launch, and thereafter. Which is a huge honour, and an exciting day to look forward to.

Come and celebrate with us.

OK. I know some of you readers work for the Labor government or are Party members and are people I like and respect. So, this may cause pain to a few of you, and I apologise for that in advance. If you’re a “labor insider”, you might like to stop reading now. Alternatively, you might gain some pointers as to why you’re losing so many votes to the Greens.

I’ve never been a swinging voter. From the time I was old enough to vote I was a rusted-on Labor voter. Rusted on. Here are just a few of the reasons I won’t be voting for them in the next State election and why I haven’t been able to do so for some time.

Because they won’t commit to a properly funded and resourced public education system and instead, they tinker around the edges instead of fixing the structural problems that our public system faces. This seems to be because they aren’t in their own system’s corner. Instead, they allocate an extra 40% of funding to private and Church schools – a huge slap in the face to the parents who are sending their kids to public schools. And while developers and real estate agents and “consultants” buy new BMWs, they treat our teachers like shit.

Because they have set city against country people by building a pipeline from the already overstressed Murray Darling Basin to Melbourne, which many city people don’t want and which is an environmental disaster from start to finish. Because they are building a huge white elephant in the form of a desalination plant which will be run at least in part on fossil fuels such as coal and gas. Because when the rains came recently, instead of keeping water restrictions, they eased them and then published a photo of John Brumby happily washing a car. Way to make country people hate us.

Because they have signed a memorandum of agreement allowing their police force to pass confidential details of protesters to the consortium building the desalination plant.

Because their “planning” minister, Justin Madden, gives a tick to any project which the consortiums and developers want, over the objections to any informed protest, destroying priceless environmental and architectural treasures as he goes. They plan for sham consultations and then add insult to injury by trying to paper over this by starting a “department of respect”, headed by…? Justin Madden!

Because they are so much in bed with the Roads lobby that they can’t see beyond the construction for roads, roads and more roads, especially freeways. Oh, god are they in love with freeways. As well as the social and environmental damage caused by poorly planned developments there’s the opportunity cost of all the money that isn’t spent on public transport.

Because, speaking of public transport, they spent $775-850 million on the MYKI project, which still isn’t working properly. Rolling stock and infrastructure, meanwhile, is run down and neglected and many Melbourne suburbs limp along with only unreliable and infrequent buses. Those of us lucky enough to live near public transport are still packed in like sardines and subject to train cancellations and random system malfunctions. Meanwhile, our taxes are pissed up against a wall with nearly $50 million spent on a car race.

Because all these bloated projects are carried out through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) which represent an orgy of profit for developers and unions with sufficient muscle to extract a fair share of that profit. Because they accept donations from the people who profit. Because this is a symptom of how your “party of the workers” has adopted neoliberal, corporatist, managerialist values. As the title of the linked article says, they’ve become a Labor party in name only. Because these are steps down the disastrous road of privatising our most basic needs, like tap water.

Because they encourage urban sprawl, ignoring boundaries set out by wiser governments and destroying the Green Wedges, urban boundaries and city parklands that made Melbourne livable.

Because they broke their 2006 election promise to protect the last remaining significant stands of old-growth forest in Victoria, gazetting acres of low-value vegetation for “protection” while continuing to chainsaw Victoria’s old-growth forest, like the cool temperate forest of Brown Mountain. They mouth platitudes about “sustainable” forestry while leaving areas a smoking ruin which a Supreme Court judge, Jack Forrest (heh) compared to the battlefield of the Somme.

Clearfelling at Brown Mountain

Because although they got rid of Stephen Newnham, they have kept their dirt unit under the new guy, Nick Reece, doing stupid stuff like this. “Super Attack”? How old are their staffers, twelve?

Because “don’t criticise Labor because the Liberals might get in, and they’re worse,” doesn’t really inspire me, and that’s pretty much the best their supporters can come up with.

Now I’ve run out of time, but not out of reasons.

See you at the polling booth tomorrow.

11 Oct 2010, Comments (10)


Author: Helen

I have a sinking feeling about this press release printed in our school newsletter:

“Drink Think” a play performed by a group of young women will be held at The Substation, Newport on Thursday October 14th at 7.00pm. This FREE, not for profit event has been organised by students from Victoria University’s Sport and Recreation course as part of their Event Management class.
The play focuses on the dangers of teenage binge drinking and is an educational yet entertaining play that is followed up with question time after it. On the night there will also be a special A-list guest speaker and free meals and beverages for everyone who attends.
We strongly encourage our Year 9, 10 and 11 students to attend this performance and welcome all parents and teachers along as well. It has been recommended however, that children of a young age do not attend as there is strong language in the play.

Well, how could that possibly end up as “”Hey, “Girls”, think before you drink because you’re the one responsible for not being raped!” Yes, happy to be proved wrong.

We’ve all been talking quite a lot about victim-blaming and slut-shaming failure in the way we talk to our girls and boys about sex and safety. Just look at the comments thread on any article on the topic of s8xual assault and r8pe in bloke culture: if a woman is dressed counter to current standards of virginal modesty or present in a vulnerable situation after hours, they assume men have the right of access to her. The same people, on another thread somewhere, will be condemning immigrant societies for their medieval attitudes to womens’ dress and freedom of movement (you know, because of our superior Western Civ and all, in which women are completely equal). Excuse me while my head meets the desk.

I’m sure the subject of drinking and driving will be addressed as well, which is good, as long as the young ones listen.

I’m just wondering whether, as a study of binge drinking, this play is going to reflect the new call for male responsibility (and refusal to treat men/boys as animals who can’t control their primal urges), or whether it’ll be just more of the same exhortations to women not to get themselves raped.

Anyway, if any Melbourne femmobloggers and allies are reading this and are not too busy on Thursday night, I encourage you to get along to the Substation in Newport (if you like cool architecture, and Melbourne’s old substations are Victorian classics, that’s another reason to go), and participate in the Question time. I have a feeling that if it’s another “ThinkUknow”, this bunfight might be needing a feminist voice.

You never know – my low expectations might be totally unfounded. I’ll report back!
Update: OK… Debrief!

It was a student play. “Drink Think” was the name of the group. The play itself was called “West Side: My Story”. There were six or seven young women acting and only one man, who was played as a dead-set sweetie. It passed the Bechdel test. It did not slutshame. Because the only male role was kind-of modelling ideal behaviour, well, there’s that, but they bypassed the toxic dynamic we’ve been talking about by not addressing it at all. In a way, perhaps, that allowed them to present binge drinking as something that damages everyone (car accidents, death, losing sight of important life goals), and get the male actor to demonstrate being a good human being rather than the predator. I’m not sure how many hardcore entitled douchebags it would really convert, but they’re taking it around the secondary schools and apparently it’s shutting year 10s up stone cold on their lunchtimes, and that’s got to mean something.

It was supported by the Victorian Womens’ trust, which does some wonderful things. I didn’t offer any questions at question time because the slut-shaming and “personal responsibility! For girls only!” stuff really wasn’t apparent, and to introduce a big new (sub)topic didn’t seem appropriate.

Kudos to the Victoria University students who put the event on and gave us free sandwiches, choccies and coffee!

27 Aug 2010, Comments (8)

Friday Earworm: WAGONS!

Author: Helen

Orright, so I’ve gone from Earworm of the Week back to Friday Earworm. My blog, my rules.

You have to admit, the psychedelic-mushroom munching-hillbilly-slightly creepy and scary but hilarious vid for this song goes really well with the events of the week just gone.

And I love this quote from an old interview:

“When my relatives ask, ‘What have you been doing with yourself?’, and I tell them I’ve been playing in a country band, a grimace comes over their faces,” he says, “and they pretend to be supportive.”

15 Jul 2009, Comments (2)

Death of a Piano

Author: Helen

Via a comment by Nabs at Still Life with Cat.

Hauschka – Morgenrot from Jeff Desom on Vimeo.

Morgenrot is an animation made from old photos of New York from the Library of Congress. That haunting music is from Hauschka (Volker Bertlemann), a modern composer from Dusseldorf.

More about it here.

3 Dec 2008, Comments (1)


Author: Helen

Image from

I only heard the term “site-specific” for the first time last week, and I saw it again today, like a make of car you’ve just come to notice.

I love decaying, secret urban and industrial sites. Love. them. When Barista put up a post on the Japanese ghost island Gunkanjima, I was happily googling it for days on end. Same with the motorcycle rider of Chernobyl and the wonderful secret tunnels under the city of London. I’m too chicken to go where the Cave Clan used to go in Melbourne, but if they ever decided to do guided tours, well.

We saw Collapse last weekend – a site-specific installation/play, which uses the heavily patina’d wharf area between the boat clubs and the shipbuilding factories at Williamstown.

In November 2008, Melbourne based company Red Cabbage will be installing a large-scale site-specific performance which will transform a secret historical location in Williamstown.
The Melbourne premiere of Collapse is a tale of human survival within a society in crisis. Audiences will embark on a journey by boat to discover a post-apocalyptic community seeking grace in the midst of adversity.

We had to assemble at Spotswood Scienceworks jetty (Scienceworks is another collection of cool old industrial archaeology, and that whole precinct is a great hangout for the industrial landscape lover, although it’s not what it used to be.) A boat took us to the wharf where the Red Cabbage collective used the old buildings (the same ones used for the Tall Ships project, I think) where I got to enjoy some vintage decay plus interesting weirdness. We weren’t really expecting a plot and suspected it might be quite installation-y, so we weren’t disappointed.

They also take you into the old morgue, which is a bluestone building smaller than the average school portable, with hefty shelves all around the perimeter. Not many ghostly vibrations there, though, with so many people crowding in.

We finished up at the Pirate’s Tavern, which is the hidden hideout of the game fishing club. It’s got a great scruffy personality. They hire the place out for parties– it’s worth a look, the fact that it’s all so hidden is the best part of the fun.