Tags: cast iron balcony

The Cast Iron Balcony is undergoing renovation. Although cast iron is likely to figure prominently in the future, the old lace in the header has been biffed off the Balcony and taken away in a skip to restore a nice old Victorian somewhere else. At the moment I’m using the generic template – think of it as one of those house renovations where all the studs and frames are exposed for a while with a tarp hastily tied around some bits of it.

The old look was just getting a bit beige for me. Any cast iron lacework images featuring colour and rust would be greatly appreciated if anyone has any. I’ll be doing the redesign when I get around to it – and as anyone who knows Australian amateur renovators would know, that could be a while!

This is a repost from the old Blogspot Cast Iron Balcony in March 2004. I was going to link to it in this LP post about Desmond Moran and the Melbourne gangsta thing, but the old blog has lost its template, and its paragraph breaks, completely. For those who perhaps aren’t familiar with Victoria and its obsession with things “Gangland”, I’ve reposted it here instead.

The gangsters of Melbourne have been having something of a killing spree lately. Killing each other, that is. There is even a special Task Force out on them called Purana, which the radio meeja takes great delight in pronouncing “piranha”.

None of us are perfectly consistent: I may be a bleeding heart pinko most of the time but I, too, have an inner right winger. It is hard to feel any sympathy at all for these characters and the temptation is to think “There goes another one! You Bewdy!” and perhaps award a mental Darwin Award.

Callousness is a two edged sword and something that there’s too much of these days, both in the blogosphere and the world at large. It’s to be resisted. Justice can be counter intuitive. Once you say it’s OK for one idiot to blow another away because the other lowlife blew his brudda away and anyway they’re less human than the rest of us, then you’re heading for Rwanda or Northern Ireland. And you’ll be no better than Ronnie Reagan. Remember that 80s joke? Reagan says, “Hmmm, you say there’s a new disease, it’s always fatal, and it affects homosexuals, prostitutes and injecting drug users?… And the problem is…?”

One good reason for ridiculing our homegrown Dougs and Dinsdales is that we need to stop portraying gangstas as cool. The Meeja pretend not to do it, but they can’t help themselves. I guess it’s too easy for a journalist on a deadline to whack in some Hollywood imagery to help a piece along. On the way to work the day after Lewis Moran’s death I saw a Herald Sun poster: GANGLAND KING DIES. Terrific! The Hun, usually of the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” persuasion, promotes this sad man to King status. This wasn’t on the online version, but we did have “Drama plays like a movie”.

A couple of weeks ago in the Australian, the wife of one of the gangstas had a bit of a grumble about it. Sorry, can’t find the link. Her opinion, that a group of younger wannabes at Andrew “Benji” Veniamin’s funeral, standing around in dark suits and black sunglasses, were pathetic and up themselves, reflected the views of many of us out here in the, ahem, wider community. She also mentioned, revealingly, that Veniamin was full of valium and on his way to his mum’s to get his washing done when he was killed.

Think on that, you young boys and girls. Is that glamour? Is that excitement? Valium, the drug of choice of bored Tennis mums in the 60s, and in the boot of the Merc, instead of another wasted gangsta, a load of smelly washing. Boys, organised crime isn’t glamorous; it’s boring. Gangsters are not people to admire; they’re clueless. ‘Benji’ wasn’t shot down in an exciting, Bonnie and Clyde-type scenario; he was sitting in a restaurant with a mouthful of Fettucine Carbonara*, on his way to his mum’s to get his washing done. As a crusty old feminist, sorry, I can’t resist a final poke: If he had simply learned to bung a load of washing in the machine and turn the knob, instead of being a knob, he might still be alive today.
*Embellishment alert: I do not know what type of pasta Veniamin actually was eating. It may have been Alfredo.

13 May 2009, Comments (24)

At Home on the Cast Iron Balcony

Author: Helen

Spine of an old hardback copy of Ogden Nash's "Good Intentions" He who must not be named came home from school complaining that poetry was stupid.

He mentioned that he’d had a poem set in class by someone called “Ogden Nash” and that was the quintessence of stupid.

Reader, I did what anyone would have done in my place (i.e. obsessive Ogden Nash reader when young.) I ran to the bookcase and searched until I’d found the aged brown copy of Good Intentions, rescued from the last big cull of family books, bought by my mum, who died in the Summer of Love, 1968. I wanted to show HWMNBN that Ogden Nash wrote wacky and offbeat poetry which ought to be right up his alley.

My parents were of a generation that wrote their names and dates of purchase on book flyleaves, so I looked inside the dessicated brown cover and I found this. See over the fold: My mum must have bought this from a second hand bookshop.

12 Nov 2008, Comments (6)

I write Letters

Author: Helen

Image from http://www.greenlivingpedia.org/Brown_Mountain_old_growth_forest

I’ve written to three State government ministers begging them, begging them, to reconsider the logging of the Brown Mountain / Valley of the Giants area next to the Errinundra Plateau in Victoria.

There are more details here (H/T to Joe2 at LP). But all you really need to know is that the Brumby government made a promise in the 2006 election campaign to protect all significant stands of old-growth forest in Victoria, of which Brown Mountain is one. Now they’re letting VicForests clearfell it.

It’s really unutterably depressing. I’ve used up my letter writing capacity for the year now, any more and I’ll be written off as That Crank on the Cast Iron Balcony. Please write or email, if you have the time.

John Brumby – Premier of Victoria
Department of Premier & Cabinet
1 Treasury Place
Melbourne Victoria 3002
Ministerial Phone (03) 9651 5000; Electorate Office Phone (03) 9300 3851

Gavin Jennings – Minister for Environment and Climate Change
Ministerial Phone (03) 9096 8830; Electorate Office Phone (03) 9888 1910

30 Sep 2008, Comments Off on SenselessBoy and other time wasters

SenselessBoy and other time wasters

Author: Helen

“AdSenseBoy”, you are such a fucking genius… not. Could anybody be so moronic as to send spambot comments to somebody’s genuine blog, where they are forced to expend valuable time deleting the illiterate rubbish people like you send out, inviting them to do the same? We’re the victims of your scamtastic activities, you complete douchebag.

Oh, wait. Yes, some bloggers really are stupid enough to buy automated trackback software. Not surprisingly, some of them have been scammed by NonsenseBoy, whose name apparently is Mindaugas Lipskas. Oh, and here’s Mindaugas Lipskas’ contact details (Google also shows his email address is manxp@freemail.lt).

I notice SenselessBoy has a Contact form here. Visitors to the Cast Iron Balcony, if you’re feeling like a bit of a vent today and you would like to tell him all about how much you hate spam comments and what a huge waste of space he is, have at it. A simple “You suck!” will suffice.

Another piece of lowlife is scraping email addresses and sending around a chain email, claiming you’ll get an Ericsson computer if you send it on to 20+ addresses. Delete this one – it’s a scam too. Remember the old maxim, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Why can’t these people devote their considerable computer skills to doing something worthwhile? Is it because their written English skills are so appalling?
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

27 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Melbourne Show nostalgia

Melbourne Show nostalgia

Author: Helen

Can’t blog – Boychild and I are off to the Show. Girlchild has already put away childish things and has done the evening trip with the teenage posse. I thought I’d repost this from my old Blogger Cast Iron Balcony, September 2003. This will be my first experience of the show since they’ve torn the old horse and cattle sheds down and rearranged the whole thing, so I expect to wander around lost a fair bit.
Melbourne Royal Show
The little boy and I went to the show. I was suffering sensory overload from the fairground and rides so we wandered through the horse pavilion. This is an old building left over from the old ones built in the 50s, a run down, lofty shed. The loose boxes occupy about four rows in the space and at the end of every row there is a little tea room area, with an electric jug and some ratty old chairs and a table. This is where the people from the country hang out in between competitions and beauty treatments (for the beasts, not themselves).

We tiptoed along one row which was full of heavy draught horses. It seemed as if the owners had ordered the horses by size, so that every one we looked at was huger than the last. The very last one had a head, I swear, the size of a man’s torso. Or at least a teenager’s. I’m not sure but I think I saw cloud around the withers. That was a BIG horse. He looked at me the way I look at Maltese terriers. Next door was the little tea room – rest area thing. There, slumped on a director’s chair, was a grazier type, in his 60s I think. He had the checked tweed jacket and the moleskins, and he had three or maybe four championship ribbons and sashes swathed around his shoulders like an evening wrap. He was fast asleep.

13 Feb 2008, Comments Off on Cast Iron Balcony is sorry

Cast Iron Balcony is sorry

Author: Helen

On July 20, 1969, our classes came to a stop and we sat in the Assembly hall to watch the first moon landing.

Today, Girlchild and the other school classes will do the same to watch the national apology.

To hear some increasingly desperate politicians, you’d think the degree of difficulty was about the same.

None of the people complaining “but I didn’t do it” have ethical objections to saying “oh, I’m so sorry!” to their friend Deb when young Wayne has totalled his Holden and joined the invisible choir at two am the night before when they were securely tucked up in bed.

19 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Now it can be told

Now it can be told

Author: Helen

First Kruddy, then the Inner Northern chapter of the Melbourne blogosphere (also the outer outer northern, as in, Canberra): Cast Iron Balcony lifts the lid on corruption.

I was there, purely in an information gathering role, of course.

Shame, shame.

20 Feb 2007, Comments Off on Little Kidults

Little Kidults

Author: Helen

Sorry possums. This blog should be renamed the Bludger on the Cast Iron Balcony, as we lie about in pools of our own sweat, panting and riding out the heat wave. Shoutout to people who have newborns or are just about to go— I hope you can keep cool.

The bad news I have for you is that the gender politics in popular culture, especially as relates to being a parent, they are still stuffed.

On Sunday, we decided an afternoon movie was a good way to survive the heat. We were aiming for Notes on a Scandal, but we got the session time wrong and ended up seeing Little Children (Dir. Todd Field). How much did I hate it? Let me count the ways.

Here are some of the messages you’ll get from this movie:

Women at home with children are all neurotic, Martha Stewart-esque bitches.
There are occasional exceptions to this- the nice mums are the ones who put out.
Women who are the primary breadwinner are ballbreakers. They’re reversing the natural order!
Women who are primary breadwinners, therefore ballbreakers, can only expect to be cheated on.
Men who are the primary caregiver must be losers, because they would never choose to do such a thing of their own volition.
Men who are the primary caregiver can make statements to perfect strangers like “Aren’t you going to ask me who wears the pants in our marriage?” and that is no way sexist or neurotic or passive agressive, not at all.
If a woman’s husband turns out to be a complete dickhead, that gives her permission to bonk another woman’s husband. Because the solution to pain is just to pass it on to others, right?
Reading Madame Bovary proves that infidelity is admirable. And feminist! Because feminism is, like, er…
People who disagree with the last point must be one of those neurotic, Martha Stewart-esqe beyotches (see above).
Child molesters are instantly recognisable in a Gollum type of way. They do not look like normal people.
Child molesters get that way because of their bad, smothering mums. (I remember this handy theory being used for all kinds of villains in the old black and white Hollywood movies. Pop Freud, I guess.)
Actually, all older mums are crones and bad and evil. Actually, all mums are smothering and evil except for the one who puts out.

Oh, and we’re supposed to believe that Kate Winslet’s a Plain Jane character. Please.


The presence of so many objectionable memes in one movie irritated what Twisty would call my obstreperal lobe severely, so while I was physically cooler at the end of the experience, my collar was considerably hotter. I felt as if I’d stepped into a Tardis and returned to the 60s.

If you want an escape-the-heat movie, I recommend staying home with a fan and a straight-to-DVD 2005 release, The Big White (Dir. Mark Mylod), which is set in Alaska, so there’s plenty of snow. This movie has been variously described as ‘the funniest release of 2005’ and ‘Coenesque‘. I can vouch for the Coenesque, as the plot is based on the guy who wants to pull off just one Insurance scam which will set him up for life and everything goes pearshaped from there… you know, that plot. Of course, a frozen dead body is involved… naturally, the film’s a bit derivative of Fargo and A Simple Plan. But it’s a romp, and at least you won’t be throwing things at the TV, and the setting is extremely chilly. Watch out as Holly Hunter makes a meal of a hilarious supporting role.

30 Nov 2006, Comments Off on Sunday Barbeque

Sunday Barbeque

Author: Helen

This is a repost from the old Cast Iron Balcony archive, August 2003.

On Sunday, my mum’s having the family over for a barbeque. They live in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne now. She’d like us to come and help out. Of course, we’d be more than honoured.

Our Gulags, 2

There’s this boy, see. An intelligent boy, good at school. He’s only fourteen years old. Back in 2001, his eyes started to feel sore. He was living in a hot, dusty place. His mum and dad took him for eye tests, of course. They were worried about him. The tests showed he was nearly blind in both eyes. Nearly legally blind. And in pain every day.

Four weeks later an optometrist (not an opthalmologist) tested the boy and claimed he must have always had very poor vision. The parents knew that wasn’t the case. Something very serious was going on.

They have been out of their minds with worry.

What would you do?

You’d go round all the specialists you could. You’d hassle the specialists, the hospital, everyone. You’d get your kid treated in the best way you could.

Except that the boy’s parents had no say in the matter. They were incarcerated behind razor wire at the Curtin Detention centre, at the mercy of ACM, a subsidiary of the US Wackenhut corporation which keeps prisoners for profit. Curtin is in a remote area of WA. The boy needed specialist treatment on a weekly basis, but that would have meant a move to the capital city.

ACM and the Australian department of immigration (DIMIA) delayed and denied treatment to the boy until he had completely lost his sight in one eye, and the other was severely compromised.

You’d be beside yourself. It’s bad enough to know that your child is losing his sight. It’s worse to know that if you had access to treatment, it could be prevented. It’s worse still to know that that treatment is available in the country you are in, but a muddle of incompetence, misdiagnosis, bureaucratic sadism and politics are preventing him from getting it. It’s such a waste, such a wicked waste.

This is what happened next.

Shahin was finally admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth as an emergency on April 1 – four months too late. Despite a delicate operation, he lost the sight in his right eye.

DOCTOR WILLIAM WARD: The right retina was pulled off and pulled up into the middle of the cavity in the back of the eye and the left retina was in the process of being pulled off also.

So the outcome in the right eye, even though the retina had to be put back on surgically, was very compromised. The left eye was better because it was caught before that happened but it was on the verge of happening in his left eye also.
Although treatment stabilised Shahin’s condition, it could flare up at any moment, threatening the sight he has left. He also has cataracts and glaucoma and requires further surgery.

Against the advice of doctors, when the Curtin camp closed, the family was sent to Port Hedland. Shahin’s mother, Fakhonda, is desperate to move.

FAKHONDA AGDAR, SHAHIN’S MOTHER (Translation): I would love it because he has lost one of his eyes. Now he only has one eye and even that one is in danger because it is so infected and inflamed.
(In early July 2003) in Port Hedland, Shahin’s eyes showed signs of secondary infection.

(SBS, Blind Justice)

Unable to bear the thought of his talented son losing his sight, his father attempted suicide.

At least, after adverse publicity from SBS and the ABC, the boy and his family were moved the the Maribyrnong Detention centre in Melbourne. At last, he is able to get the treatment he needs. If the ACM guards will let him.

On the 30th of July in an ABC interview, Philip Ruddock showed his deep compassion and understanding thusly:

TONY JONES: Now you say that there is no problem with the way he was treated inside detention, but the specialist ophthalmologist Dr Ward says he was treated four months too late and, as a result, his right retina was pulled off, the left was in the process of being pulled off, before he had a proper operation and that there was a misdiagnosis initially by optometrist, not a specialist, and this resulted in him going blind in one eye.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I simply make this point, Tony — I suspect in relation to people who receive care and attention in detention where they have a higher level of specialist access and general service access while they are in detention that they get better service than many Australians.

(My bold. Pause, while we digest the full meaning of that bloody egregious statement above.)

And I suspect in relation to the places that they have left and the places they have transited, the attention that they receive here would be not just many times but hundreds of times better than might have otherwise been available.

TONY JONES: If a boy can go blind while in detention, what does that say, in the end, about your duty of care?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, first of all, I understand he has one damaged eye and he is continuing to receive treatment for the other.

So, I mean, he hasn’t been made blind in detention.

TONY JONES: When you say he has one damaged eye, he’s blind in that eye, isn’t he?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I mean, that’s not the point you made before.

I don’t want to get into semantics.

TONY JONES: Well he wasn’t blind in that eye when he came to Australia and, according to Dr Ward, the 4-month delay while he was detention in a remote camp, he went blind in one eye.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I am not an ophthalmologist, I’m not an optometrist.

No, Phil. You’re not an optometrist. You’re just a bastard.

2006 update: Shahin is now living in TPV limbo, but attending Box Hill TAFE studying english and maths. So he still has some sight. He has two sisters here, 19 and 20, who are also studying, and a younger brother, 14. Fortunately, they have not all been traumatised and damaged to the extent Shahin and his parents have been.