May 12, 2004
I know I'm supposed to "sleep when the baby sleeps" but I still resist going to bed at 7pm. And regret it in the morning when I've only had the 11pm-3am sleep. Instead, I have just spent an evening stuffing around with a totally new blog because I discovered by accident that Blogger has relaunched with all these excellent changes like integrated comments, recent posts etc. (I normally just enter Blogger via a shortcut, bypassing its front page, so I've completely been in the dark.)
Anyway, from now on I'll be blogging from here so please adjust bookmarks.
I'm still working on it though. Somehow I managed to get the header to be solid yellow with white type on this blog, but it won't work on the new one. Sigh. Can any techheads help? Thanks.
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May 11, 2004
Operation Desert Ostrich
Why doesn't this surprise me:
THE Australian Government was told at least two months ago that prisoners in Iraq were being tortured by US soldiers, human rights groups have revealed.
Prime Minister John Howard did not respond to a question yesterday about when he first learned of torture claims against Australia's coalition allies.
What's the bet his carefully formulated response today will be: "I know nothing!" And then we'll hear that some underling at the intelligence agencies neglected to pass it on. Oops.
Geez, if this is true Howard's as bad as Rumsfeld. Did they think this stuff would just quietly go away?
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May 10, 2004
After all we've done for you...
The Foreign Minister is accusing East Timor of trying to bite the hand that
feeds it is trying to steal from it:
East Timor's existence is under threat because of Australia's claims over the poor nation's natural resources, President Xanana Gusmao claims. In a Four Corners report to be aired tonight, Mr Gusmao said Australia was defying international law with its claims over oil and natural gas deposits in the Timor Sea. Australia and East Timor are at loggerheads over the boundary that separates the two nations. At stake are key energy deposits which, when developed, will be worth billions in tax revenues to the respective countries.
But Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said Australia had done nothing wrong in its negotiations over the disputed maritime boundary. He said East Timor was wrong if it believed it could win support for its claims by attacking Australia.
"I think they've made a very big mistake thinking that the best way to handle this negotiation is trying to shame Australia, is mounting abuse on our country, accusing us of being bullying and rich and so on when you consider all we've done for East Timor," he said.
Gee, Australia wouldn't defy international law, would it?
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Salam Pax at Sydney Writers Festival
Anyone going to see famed Baghdad blogger Salam Pax talk at this year's Sydney Writers Festival (also via swanker)?
"Salam Pax’s web-log during the Iraq war resulted in him being cited as the Anne Frank of the war. He has only recently been able to show his true identity and he’ll talk to audiences at about blogging, the war and Iraq today. Thurs 20 May, 6.30pm, Parramatta Riverside Theatre, free, no bookings required."
Shame to miss him, but maybe someone will go along and blog about it. Good to see blogging being showcased at the Fest, eh.
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According to a (self-described) Sydney wanker:
"The Catholic Club in Sydney's CBD has poker machines. When I was in there the other day, I noted a decrepit old man seated on a stool, staring mindlessly at a fruit machine screen, entirely motionless except for the periodic twitch of his finger to lay a bet. It was a sad sight. Nowhere is out of bounds for these bloody things, it seems, even a Catholic Club. The Catholic Church shouldn't be encouraging gambling...It smacks of hypocrisy to be countenancing social justice whilst at the same time operating poker machines."
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ABC News reports:
Labor claims a leaked Cabinet document shows the Government is considering spending $16 million on an advertising campaign to promote a range of work and family policies expected to be announced in tomorrow night's Budget. Peter Costello is not confirming that, but says such advertising is normal. "I'm just saying if you're going to pay pensions to people you have to advertise how to get a pension," he said.
If it's not political advertising, but just about informing the public about new policies, then isn't that something the news media does for free?
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May 09, 2004
A fraction too little fiction
I guess I'm not going to win the Vogel again this year--it closes May 31. Only two more years before I'm too old to enter the competition. I'm thinking of doing some formal study in creative writing next year though, which may force me to produce something. I think I need to be whipped sometimes.* Of course, I said the same thing last year...
If you've been a regular reader of my blog you'll have noticed I've been writing vignettes about my life now and then. It's basically just a form of writing practice. I find it quite hard, actually, because under my self-imposed 'rules', I can't embellish, even when it seems pretty banal. And I can't write up the more interesting material because ultimately people could be identified. For example there was a rather sinister encounter at a local shop the other day that I can't write about. Well, I can--but I'd have to pretend it was fiction!
A writer told me recently he needs the distance fiction provides. I know what he means, the problem is I plagiarise my own life to use in fiction anyway, so I reckon if I ever get published people in my life will still recognise themselves or situations from life that have been reworked as 'fiction'. Sometimes I feel bad becuse I know it's cheating. I should be able to come up with entirely original fictitious material just from my imagination, right? But then, reality-writing is kind of cheating too, in the sense that I feel insulated from any criticism: If a vignette's boring, it's not my fault; that's just what happened. It's a bit gutless, really. Anyway, Vogel 2005, here I come...
(*cs, don't get any ideas...)
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Rummy the dummy
Rumsfeld on Abu Ghraib:
"I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the president and the members of Congress."
How stupid can you get.
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May 08, 2004
My last visitor has left. She had come up for a few days on her way up to a seven-week Buddhist retreat in the bush near Casino in northern New South Wales. She studies the dharma.
When she meets Harley she bursts into tears, but she's grinning. He can't seem to stop smiling either. We go for long walks each day she is here, checking out the streets on the other side of the lake which I haven't yet explored. At the top of one hill we pause in front of an ugly house with Greek columns everywhere and behind it, there is the most glorious billion-dollar view: Two bodies of water, the lake and the ocean, separated by a narrow strip of white sand, framed by trees and sky.
On the second day she gets a call telling her the retreat has been cancelled as the ripochet (guru) has suddenly taken ill and is in hospital. It turns out he has heart disease and needs a bypass. I wonder how someone who spends their life meditating and eating lentils can get heart disease. I joke that he probably secretly pigs out on McDonalds.
It's some sickie though. My friend, and the other hundred people who were about to do the retreat, have put their lives on hold-- taken two months' leave from work, rented out their apartments, arranged for neighbours to feeds pets and plants. My friend says it's like she has been given two months off her life. She isn't sure what she will do now. She gets out the treats she had packed to share around at the end of the retreat, cream wafers and salty crackers in neon foil packages that she got from a supermarket in Chinatown before she caught the train up from Central.
"Maybe I'll go to India again," she muses as we eat.
"Stay. Live with me for a few months," I say. I'd love her company; she's my oldest friend, we've known each other since we were five. We sit looking at Harley in the Babygap pyjamas that my brother sent over from the US. The pants are printed with small cars all over, and the top has a large felt car appliqued on the front. She traces the car with a finger.
"I could go on a road trip," she says.
"We could go on a road trip!" I say, typically impulsive. This has been my standard response throughout our lives whenever she has mentioned taking off around Australia: I want to come with you. It's my little fantasy, Thelma & Louise crossed with Jack Kerouac. Maybe we'll do it one day. Then I think, for once, I don't want to go anywhere. I am so happy right now. I've never been so happy.
Anyway, more blogging later, hopefully. We need to get to the general store early as they only ever carry a few copies of the weekend papers, and this weekend someone else can miss out.
Oh yeah, and congratulations to my brother and his wife on the safe arrival of their new baby girl, my first niece! But wait, there's more...Harley will be getting yet another new cousin, to my sister, in a few weeks. Joyous times.
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May 04, 2004
It's gotta be...
The label on one of the baby's Bonds Wondersuits says "Assembled in China from Bonds Australian Fabric". Interesting...thought they'd be made in Australia for sure.
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May 03, 2004
Enter the dragonfly
Noticed some rather hysterical reactions at the weekend to the news that filming of a Hollywood movie has been banned from a wilderness area of Australia, particularly from the Daily-Telegraph's David Penberthy and the Sun-Herald's Miranda Devine. Neither of them seem to understand the concept of a fragile ecosystem, where a tiny change in the habitat of one small species can have repercussions a long way up the food chain, ultimately affecting us through environmental changes. Instead, both are braying that our entire film industry is now under threat. Penberthy is sarcastic:
"In a major win for the larvae of the giant native dragonfly, the filming of Stealth has...been stopped for good in the Grose Wilderness Area...Joining the fledgling insects in celebration are some 100 largely poncho-clad people from the Blue Mountains who have now antagonised Hollywood, which will retaliate..."
If the environment wasn't at risk, why, as Penberthy notes, did they even follow practices such as, "after each take, actors had to remain immobile while the threatened species officer checked for any damage, such as "compressed" footprints, and decided whether the next take should occur somewhere else"? Anyway, the tiny segment of the film which is affected involves "a sequence in which [actor] Biel, an elite pilot tracking a rogue homicidal robot pilot, parachutes behind enemy lines in North Korea and runs through a forest, evading gunfire." You're telling me they can't film this anywhere else in Australia?
"Because of the remote possibility a few dragonfly larvas in the Blue Mountains might be disturbed, green groups have managed to shut down filming of the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster Stealth and jeopardise the state's $4 billion film industry."
So, the only films we can hope to attract to Australia are action films filmed in wilderness areas? That's ridiculous.
I suppose Penberthy and Devine would've been in favour of letting Baywatch move in and take over Avalon a few years ago. Anything not to upset Hollywood, eh.
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The Shorter Cardinal Pell
The Cardinal George Pell says the Howard Government's legislation against gays marrying each other is an "important measure to buttress marriage", because:
Marriage is about children (sorry, all you childless married people). Children should be raised by a set of biological parents (sorry, adoptive parents, foster parents, step-parents). Gays can't make children together, so they can't get married to each other (sorry, gays). Because otherwise, straight people might think marriage isn't about children and then they might get married less.
Same tired old illogical argument, identical to the Howard one. Is this the best they can come up with?
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April 30, 2004
See, what I don't get is why you can help get people out of the sugar industry, but you can't do it for the logging industry.
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April 23, 2004
Never work with children or animals
Or both. Especially if you want to maintain a blog. God knows how I found the time to blog for the first six weeks! Anyway, looks like this blog may have to slide into hiatus until mama adjusts to the new schedule. Anyway, best to all...hope to see you soon.
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April 20, 2004
The wonder weeks
I fell in love with him yesterday. I've loved him from the start, as you do, but yesterday we had this special moment when we were just looking into each others' eyes, and kind of seeing each other for the first time. Falling in love. Yesterday I think I saw him as a complete little person in his own right, totally separate from me. You get those little flashes of their personality. And we spent a lot of time just looking at each other and smiling. I'm pretty sure he felt the same way. I looked at him and finally it hit me that I've made a little person.
Later we met his Oma and Opa down at the lake for pflaumenkuchen; he gave them the same treatment. So much love going around.
One thing I never expected is that it would be this physically demanding. I feel like I'm at Baby Bootcamp. We walk up and down hills with the jogger for a couple of hours a day. (I will never tire of looking up at eucalypts and gum trees against blue sky and daydreaming.) Then at home, when I've got him in the pouch, all five kilos of him, we go around doing housework. The laundry is meditative. I hang nappies out, I take nappies off. You can't bend over to pick anything up, so you end up doing a million deep knee squats. It's like the gym, only not as boring. And you're there all day.
My parents bring around food. Roasts, salads, cake. They often bring meals involving pimiento or something, or they'll bring pesto with forty cloves of garlic. "Oh, no," my mother says. "It doesn't affect the milk. You shouldn't read so many books. You think in Italy they stop eating garlic?"
"You think in Italy they stop drinking red wine every night? You want me to do that, too?"
"Hmmpf," is all she will say.
Anyway, he's very cute.
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April 17, 2004
There goes the neighborhood
Does Osama Bin Laden have any idea how ridiculous he sounds offering Europe a ‘truce’?
Instead of dismissing European nations as the "crusader-Jewish alliance", the voice addressed "reconciliation" message to European states, referring to them as "our neighbours north of the Mediterranean".
The paper reports "the truce offer would be good for three months". And then what? They resume bombing innocent people? Nice neighbours! But that Bin Laden is a clever speechwriter. The al-Qaeda recording says, "What happened on September 11 and March 11 was your goods delivered back to you" --a mocking reference to the West's attempt at exporting democracy and capitalism.
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The US Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Wade Horn met with the Howard Government's minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, "to discuss what governments can do to promote marriage". To the right kind of people, of course; gays need not apply.
Interesting also to read that family-friendly America has a policy where single parents have to go back to work for a minimum of 30 hours a week once the child turns one. This, compared to Australia, where single parents must work six hours a week once the child turns 13. One measly year - sounds pretty tough.
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Germaine's upset by the reaction people had to her article in January. Today the Australian gives Greer a chance to "bite back at critics after her defence of expatriates". I agree with Greer that the headline used by the Oz last time was a bit harsh. The headline was "Slack and insufferable" and it felt like it was meant to refer to Greer herself rather than to what Greer thought of Australians. But when she talks of the "certainty that an Australian newspaper would pick up the article that I was commissioned to write for The Times, and use it to foment a fatuous and ill-tempered controversy that they would then blame on me"--that's a bit 'poor-me', considering she must have written the article knowing it would push a few buttons Down Under.
"I was reviled as an expatriate, the worst thing you can be, worse even than being a pedophile - and there were those who said I was that too."
Well, I still think her book on boys was dumb. Even the boy on the cover, who is now a man and wasn't consulted about the use of the photo, felt he had been exploited:
He found it odd that Greer, who had campaigned so vigorously against the exploitation of women, was using him as an object of desire: "It is ironic," he said.
Anyway, here's what Greer says her previous article was about:
"What Howard carefully avoided admitting was that the Australian diaspora is real and the Government is concerned about it...Instead of getting stay-at-home experts to find out why 1million Australians, 5 per cent of the population, choose to live outside the country, the Australian Government could try asking the expatriates...My basic argument [is] that highly qualified Australians live and work overseas because conditions in their home country allow no scope for their full professional development."
But that doesn't explain paragraphs like:
"Each street has a nature strip; each bungalow faces the same way, has a backyard and a front garden, all fenced, low at the front, high at the back. Somewhere nearby there'll be a shopping centre with fast-food outlets and a supermarket. If your ambition is to live on Ramsay Street, where nobody has ever been heard to discuss a book or a movie, let alone an international event, then Australia may be the place for you."
She also rejects claims she is publicity hungry:
"I was so incensed by Denton's irrelevant and intrusive personal questions that he felt it necessary to send me a written apology, which has gone into the archive."
It's hard to believe she was upset by Denton when the transcript is full of (CHUCKLES) and (SNORTS) from Greer, and she seems perfectly happy chatting away about personal subjects like her relationships; in fact, she cheerfully volunteers a lot of information.
Germaine Greer: In my view, what happens when you fall in love is you turn into an instant stalker.
Germaine Greer: I mean, you do that thing of driving by the house at night to see if the window is illuminated, that kind of thing. And having been stalked, I think it's a terrible state to be in. To be obsessed by anybody, that is just so ignominious, it's so awful.
Germaine Greer: ..in three weeks of marriage, it's true to say I was unfaithful seven times.
(AUDIENCE LAUGHS AND APPLAUDS)".
She's a refreshingly honest interviewee, anyway, and that episode of Enough Rope is a great read.
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April 16, 2004
Close encounters of the blogging kind
Getting busy at Casa Gianna so will shamelessly steal the blogjam concept and direct you to some other people's blogs instead. Angela has moved her blog again, and as usual I follow because I like her random fragments. James has a new book published--read about Uncle Rupert here. Chris has left the blues behind and it's business as usual. Deltoid is collecting bloggers' Myers-Briggs personality test results. Add yours if you're game, bloggers. Jill has been interviewed about blogging by BBC World Service. Who better qualified on the subject than Jill? Languagehat meets his first bunyip. A definition 'hat cites describes the animal as "a fierce creature from Australia. Amphibious by nature, it has the appearance of a giant seal or even a hippopotamus. It is greatly feared, for it enjoys the taste of human flesh, particularly the more tender flesh of women and children." (I haven't met blogger Professor Bunyip myself so can't validate this definition.) Speaking of tender flesh, Tim's been talking about the birds and the bees. Glad I can put that off for a while!
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Still doesn't call Australia home
Someone tell me again why an American actor is ambassador for the Flying Kangaroo.
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April 15, 2004
There's a man standing outside the general store leaning on a double stroller and looking at the notices on the noticeboard. As I pass he turns and looks in my pram and jokes, "Think you've got it hard." He turns his stroller to show off his twins.
I peer into his buggy and two sets of fierce eyes regard me. The father says, pointing to one twin, "This is Tom." The other baby swivels his eyes sharply to look at Tom. "And this is Jake." Now Tom twists his head to look at Jake.
"I know," I say. "I met them yesterday, with your au pair." A pretty blonde German girl called Heike. Maybe she has the day off today.
"How old is your little one?" he asks me.
"Six and a half weeks," I say.
He says, "Ah, he's still got the label on, eh?"
A woman comes out of the general store and marches over to us. She must be the mother, I think. She's wearing a Burberry mini and a black rollneck, and is sweating a little. As you would, if you were wearing a rollneck in this weather. She seems incongruously dressed next to her husband, who is more properly attired for the holidays in shorts and a teeshirt. Maybe she's just driven up to the holiday house straight from work. I notice her foundation is too orange, and her eyebrows are perfect arcs the likes of which nature has never seen. For some reason she scares me a little, so I pretend to be reading the noticeboard.
"Where's Josh?" She says to her husband. For a moment he has a bewildered look on his face, as though he has completely forgotten he has another child. They look around. There's a little boy on a trike in the distance, doing small lonely doughnuts outside the bottleshop. She says angrily to the man, "You were supposed to be looking after them!"
I move on and hear her yelling, "Josh! You come back here right now!"
Poor little Josh, the forgotten toddler with the sweet little fierce twin brothers that everyone stops to check out.
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April 14, 2004
B in Ken's bonnet
Welcome to new Armadillo "B", who happens to be Ken's girlfriend (is that the right word?). She does some metablogging here.
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