she sells sanctuary

January 31, 2004
Somewhere in summertime
Browsing over at
Kekoc just now I came across Jafa, who has decided to nominate his blog in advance for the 2005 Australian Blog Awards, in the category "Best Sydney Cabbie with a Bad Attitude Blog". Checking out his blog I see he has written about Balmoral Beach, the suburb where I grew up. My parents, who left Europe fantasising about sun, sand and sea, didn't exactly do a lot of market research when they arrived in Sydney, and so decided that Balmoral Beach was as good a beachside suburb as any for insolvent migrants to raise their brood. And so it was. We set up camp there in rented digs just up from the Pavilion--and we four kids (three girls and a boy) talked our way into those beachside baths to have free showers and recline on wooden deckchairs, and we climbed the fence to play illicit tennis in the courts at Queenwood School for Girls, across the road from the beach, for hours every afternoon until headmistress Mrs Medway would finally call out from her little apartment above the courts, "I've told you boys before--get OFF my property!" (I don't think she'd ever seen girls with short haircuts before). And every day, without fail, my parents strolled arm in arm along the Esplanade, savouring their first seachange. Yeah, it was a beaut place to grow up--thanks for reminding me.

posted by Gianna 5:43 PM

. . .

Green eggs and spam
Spam just gets sillier by the day. I don't know whether to be insulted or flattered by one received today with a subject line that reads "Blind date invitation helmuthead"? What's a 'helmuthead' anyway, a German with a mullet?

posted by Gianna 5:23 PM

. . .

Left wins
Hooray--I have beaten
Tim Blair to take out the category of Best NSW Blog at Kekoc's inaugural Australian Blog Awards. Wicked! A small victory for the Left, perhaps... Thanks, Vlado, for the lingering image of Blair in a bridesmaid's dress, and of course for your wonderful efforts in running the Awards (especially given the arrival of your new baby girl in the middle of it all). Thanks too, to those who voted for me. Congrats to the other winners, of course, but congratulations to all Aussie bloggers really, whether nominated in these Awards or not, because just blogging itself is an achievement, I reckon.
Now I'm off to indulge in my favourite Saturday morning pursuit--reading the rainforest editons of the weekend papers over a three hour brekky. Probably one of the last few Saturdays I'll ever get to spend three uninterrupted hours reading...!

posted by Gianna 9:01 AM

. . .

January 30, 2004
"Better late than never"
This year we're seriously going after Osama bin Laden. It seems it's because the US military is no longer distracted by Saddam Hussein that it is
"sure" it will catch Osama bin Laden this year:
"American commanders in Afghanistan have expressed new optimism they will eventually find him following the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. And spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty said the military now believed it could seize him within months.
"We have a variety of intelligence and we're sure we're going to catch Osama bin Laden and (fugitive Taliban leader) Mullah Omar this year," Hilferty said.
"We've learned lessons from Iraq and we're getting improved intelligence from the Afghan people."

What lessons did they learn from Iraq, I wonder? Something new about spider holes?

posted by Gianna 8:46 AM

. . .

Joke of the week
Of all people, John Howard
demanding an apology for something.

posted by Gianna 6:28 AM

. . .

No wonderwomen
I feel I should apologise for lack of posting lately, but I've been feeling totally wasted lately--a combination of the heat and the hormones, I guess. Maybe this is just a phase, or maybe my blogging days are disappearing in the rear view....we'll see.
Anyway, I dips me lid to those women who work right up until their due date. God only knows how they do it. I guess those are probably the kind of superwomen who go back to work right after the baby is born as well.
It reminds me of the debate about women having it all, aired a little while ago on
Troppo Armadillo in response to a story in the Spectator, and raised again in the Herald the other week ("When marriage is the career"). The upshot being that women have apparently realised they can't have--and don't want--it all. (Though I question the claim made by the gender studies professor that "Generation Y really doesn't want what Generation X fought so hard for." Generation X hasn't exactly fought hard for anything. We've just coasted along on gains made by our mothers' generation.)
My guess is that for all the great leaps forward made by feminists in the 70s, such that women were convinced they could have both a career and a family, no corresponding great leap was made by men. Sure, there are one or two househusbands out there, but there certainly hasn't been a shift in men's lifestyles great enough to balance out the attempted shift in womens' lifestyles. Generally speaking, men have seemed happy enough to encourage their wives' ambitions to both work and raise kids, but their lifestyles have continued unchanged (generally speaking, guys). It's kind of an impossible dream to think that both parents can have brilliant careers as well as raise kids and manage a household, except in the most ideal of circumstances (such as where one parent is able to work from home, perhaps). No wonder something had to give.

posted by Gianna 4:59 AM

. . .

January 26, 2004
On the road again
I do most of my shopping in the nearest major town, about half an hour's bus-ride away, but I get things like milk and bread from the little row of shops at the top of my street. There's a baker, a butcher, a bottle-o, a general store, a pizza parlour and a beautician. On the walk there and back I am slowly meeting my neighbours. There's always someone out whippersnipping their lawn, and pregnancy is the world's easiest conversation starter.
A few houses up from me there's a small mansion, and today there's a man out front hosing his lawn, and two little boys playing in a paddling pool. The boys sneak a look at my tummy and quickly look away. "Bit of a hike for the two of you, eh?" their father says as I walk past. "Yeah...but it's the only exercise I get," I shrug. "How much longer now, three months?" he asks. "Three weeks," I say.
"You're joking!" he says. "Well, are you drinking your raspberry leaf tea?"
"Isn't that supposed to bring on labour?" I ask. That's what the magazines say, anyway.
"No, it tones the uterus," he explains. It seems odd that we are standing in the street making conversation about uteruses. "Really helps with the contractions," he says. "I should know--I've had seven. Well, the wife has."
"Seven kids!" I say, impressed. "Wow...Well, maybe I'll look into it," I add, and keep walking. He waves me on.
Further on I walk past a middleaged couple doing their gardening in matching little shorts, both roasted a deep brown, both with yellow bleached hair. The man grins at me from behind his whippersnipper. "Not long now, love," says the woman with an English accent. She smiles kindly at me and I see hotpink lipstick on her teeth. She's still working in the garden when I walk back home. I'm eating a banana Paddle-Pop that has melted all down my arm, and she says sympathetically, "Bet you're feeling the heat, eh, love?" You bet.
When I get home I push my garbage bin out on the street for collection. A man lawnmowing across the street stops his machine and comes over. "Malcolm," he says, sticking out his hand. He's handsome, though I don't much go for moustaches on their own. "Gianna," I say. "Hi Dana," he says, and I can't be bothered correcting him. He turns my bin around for me. "Wheels go towards the house. They'll put up with it a few times but then they'll just leave it," he says. "Wheels to the house." I repeat. "Thanks." We're both sweating. "How can you work out here in this heat," I shake my head, going inside. "Well, it helps that I'm not pregnant," he smiles, walking away. I keep forgetting that it's so obvious to everyone.
I go inside, and sit under the fan, and dream of winter.

posted by Gianna 6:57 PM

. . .

Missing the action
How long does it take to reupholster a sofa, Matt? Three months?
Shall we send a sherpa, Ben?
What's the definition of 'daily', James?
Whassup, sis, did you get lucky?

posted by Gianna 4:15 AM

. . .

January 24, 2004
Kicking public schools in the privates
One of my old primary school teachers, Des Duggan, who I fondly remember as a very passionate and inspiring man, apparently later also
taught Howard's children at another public school. He is quoted in the Herald today as saying:
"It is galling in the extreme to think that as [the children] were being prepared to move on to their private, secondary education, John and Janette might have considered, even for a second, that they were being educated in a valueless vacuum. They were not."

I really feel for him, because John Howard's disparaging comments imply that his schools and his teaching were inadequate. Actually I'm finding myself quite emotional about the whole hoopla. It just makes me so angry that Howard can make such incendiary comments and then disappear without having the guts to to stand in front of us and explain exactly what he means by his words. This latest example of his typical "dog whistling" and "wedge politics" tactics disgusts me.
Have we lost sight of the ideal that high quality education should be available to all Australian children, not just for those whose parents have enough money? All this talk about supposedly wanting to offer parents 'choice' by encouraging the emergence of 'low-fee' independent schools is a joke. For 'low-fee' schools, I've seen the figure $4,000 a year quoted--and who seriously believes many genuine 'battlers' can spare that much, per kid, per year?
Schools with decent facilities and well-paid, motivated teachers should be available to all children, regardless of whether their parents are factory workers or investment bankers. We are in danger of abandoning our egalitarian ideals in this country and moving even further away from the concept of a level playing field.
In the Australian's story today, "Nation's parents going private in droves", the elite schools Knox Grammar, St Ignatius College and the King's School are listed as examples of NSW schools to which such an exodus has occurred. Hardly small independent schools worthy of additional taxpayers' money. A parent is quoted as justifying his decision with the comment, "Generally you will find people from private schools in high positions in business. It's not what you know but who you know." For that parent, it's plainly about privilege and not 'values' at all.
The Australian's editorial today states, "Public schools have a big problem - millions of Australian parents have lost confidence in the education they provide." Yes, and I wonder why, when the leader of this country himself frequently expresses doubts about the validity of our public school system. If he genuinely cared about the state of public schools, which still cater to the majority of Australian children, he would be attempting to help them become more competitive by ensuring they can offer parents the kind of 'quality' education that private schools can afford. Instead, we get insulting remarks about values and political correctness.
The Herald article refers to recent research wherein "the parents interviewed, from public and private schools, blamed Federal and State governments for running down pubilc schools through inadequate funding, effectively leaving them with 'no choice' but to go private." The article goes on, "[NSW Education minister] Refshauge says it would be an 'absolute disaster' if pubilc schools...become residual institutions for only the poorest and most difficult students."
Yeah, exactly.

posted by Gianna 8:41 PM

. . .

A reality Czech
Most of you would know
Jozef Imrich from his satirical blog Media Dragon and from his quirky comments on my blog and others around the blogosphere. Like his friend and fellow blogger James Cumes (who blogs at Lakatoi and who wrote, among others, the novel Haverleigh) Jozef has an unusually interesting past which is told in his book, Cold River. From his bio:
Cold River is about the extremes to which young men will go to taste real freedom. When Jozef swam across the Iron Curtain, he marked his life with an ending even Hollywood would have never dared to script. Under water no one can hear you scream: a world beyond, a river beneath - wild, and unexpected ... Above water, Jozef is every dictator’s and every bully’s worst nightmare...Czechoslovak history in a single breath is what Jozef seeks to achieve in Cold River. A single breath, held for 177 pages, is virtually what readers get.

I am currently reading the book and while I have not yet come to the great tragedies of Jozef's life and am still being mesmerised by his charming and unique tales of his childhood, I am loving Jozef's poetic writing style and I encourage you to czech out his book if you haven't already. Since I started reading it, I have also been regretting that I only ever visited Prague in his homeland--now I wish I had ventured deep into the countryside and seen more of what sounds like a very beautiful land. Definitely next time!
Oh yeah, and I think it's pretty funny to learn in passing from reading Jozef's book that Stalin was the original "Man of Steel". LOL! I guess George W. Bush is as ignorant about Russian history as me, or he might have thought twice about anointing our PM with the term.

posted by Gianna 7:43 PM

. . .

January 23, 2004
Does my belly look big in this?
Here's my Vanity Fair cover, haha.

posted by Gianna 3:43 PM

. . .

Art broken
If you can't smoke a joint in the back of your limo in peace, what's the point of being a rock star? (Well, if you can call Simon and Garfunkel rock stars.) Talk about taking the fun out of Garfunkel.

posted by Gianna 6:34 AM

. . .

Am I not intellectual enough?
Germaine, England's lager louts and soccer hooligans are far more intellectual than Australia's footy boofheads. And as for your complaint about Australian suburbia, have you ever been to, say, the Midlands? And geez, Cambridge isn't intellectual enough for you either?
"The other great Australian passion is relaxation and I was even less interested in that. For me to be as good as I could be, I needed the pressure of competition, the intellectual cut and thrust, so I came to Cambridge (where, needless to say, I didn't find it, but that's another story)."

So tell us that story, you big stirrer.

posted by Gianna 5:53 AM

. . .

January 19, 2004
Domestic bliss
I could hear kids screaming and laughing down by the water for weeks. Now it's gone quiet. The last tourists are leaving and even the cicadas seem to be packing it up.
Maybe after six months of the bush I'll go mad and it'll all end up like The Shining. Walking around here with my sister the other week, we joked about a film which could be set in this seaside holiday village in the winter, in which the heroine is chased by a psychopath and she's knocking on all the doors and nobody's answering, until she finally twigs when she sees all the little yellow 'Holiday Letting' signs on everyone's lawns. (Actually I think that may be a scene from Michael Haneke's film Funny Games.)
We laughed, me a little nervously, that I was probably the only permanent dweller up here. But then I remembered how Frances from next door had come around to introduce herself early on, holding a bunch of azaleas and a card, which she had taken the trouble to cut with pinking shears so that the edges were zigzagged, with her and Bill's number on it. Told me to call anytime of the day or night. (Of course, in the movie, this means they are actually the psychopaths, and that the pinking shears will be somehow involved in the denouement.) And then there's
Pamela and Diane...
I'm not blogging much at the moment--the much-hyped nesting instinct is kicking in and it's true, all I want to do is clean, cook and buy things for the baby. And bake things. Knowing how to make Chocolate Crackles is surely an important parenting skill to have. As for the white chocolate, macadamia and brandy (in my dreams!) truffles, well, it's my blog's first birthday.

posted by Gianna 10:08 AM

. . .

January 17, 2004
The New Black
Via a conversation
Digby was having with Tim about politics and blogging, I somehow ended up here, at the history of Crayola crayons.
It’s like the Queer Eyes got locked in the crayon factory: Colors added in 2003 included ‘jazzyberry jam’, ‘mango tango’ and ‘wild blue yonder’. Back in 1993 grungy colors like ‘tumbleweed’, ‘macaroni and cheese’ and ‘tickle me pink’ were more popular.
Some interesting facts: that the color ‘flesh’ had its "name voluntarily changed to ‘peach’ in 1962, partially as a result of the U. S. Civil Rights Movement". But that it took until 1999 for 'Indian Red' to be renamed ‘Chestnut’, "in response to educators who felt some children wrongly perceived the crayon color was intended to represent the skin color of Native Americans. The name originated from a reddish-brown pigment found near India commonly used in fine artist oil paint."

posted by Gianna 3:47 AM

. . .

Leaf. Be in it
Like many seachangers, hobbyfarmers and do-it-yourselfers, my mother reads Grassroots magazine, and for my birthday she got me a book they publish called ‘The Healthy Cat’. (Grassoots doesn’t seem to have its own website--unless
this is them, but I doubt it. Anyway, the book might be available here.)
It's klnd of a herbal first aid book for cats, showing you how to make poultices, infusions and decoctions for various ailments. Then when your cat gets hit by a car, you can do things like ‘soak a compress in an infusion of rosemary and meadowsweet to stem haemorrhages’. Hey, it could work. The book has also some good tips for how to give your cats a more natural diet, based on looking at what wildcats eat.
Out of the flower remedies, I would have to prescribe larch ( ‘builds a shy cat’s self-confidence’) and centaury (‘for weak-willed, timid cats who can’t stand up for themselves’ for one cat; and chicory (‘for the possessive, affectionate cat who tends towards jealousy and asks for too much attention’) for the other. And how about a bit of Rock Rose (‘for terror or panic’) for all of us while we're at it.

posted by Gianna 2:52 AM

. . .

Say ‘sorry’ to John Howard
Just a suggested slogan for Labor. Speaking of the PM, why does he have to sign a MoU
committing in principle to missile defence all of a sudden and what's all this about new American military bases in Australia? What’s next--an imminent need for us to join Dubya in Mars?
None of this would have anything to do with the free trade negotiations, would it?

posted by Gianna 2:37 AM

. . .

January 15, 2004
Really real
If there's one thing I've learnt from reality TV, it's this: if anyone ever asks you to go on a reality TV show, no matter how tempting the idea of fame and/or the bribe or prize, run. In the opposite direction. (And fast – your reaction is probably being filmed.)
In the latest crop of reality TV shows, there are no winners. Everyone comes out looking bad. Take Fat Club. Just take it, please. Or take Wife Swap, where two British wives go and live with each other’s families for three weeks. At the end of last week’s episode, pretty, yoga-loving, tofu-eating Feminist Wife can't understand why buck-toothed Traditional Wife has proved so popular among the husbands. Damn it, she’s supposed to be this down-trodden doormat, because she does all the domestic duties. Only she’s not down-trodden at all; she’s really perky. Feminist Wife accuses Traditional Wife of having "undone all her good work". Traditional Wife is apologetic but unrepentant.
Feminist Wife wanted to re-educate Traditional Husband to do exactly 50% of the housework. He feels this is an insult to his manhood. She humiliates him in front of his kids, then later he can’t discipline them. He pleads desperately for ‘back-up’ as the kids snigger.
But Feminist Wife is in trouble. Traditional Wife has endeared herself to Feminist Wife’s family by taking them to the dog races and cooking up a real meat barbecue and listening sympathetically as Feminist Husband complains about his new macrobiotic lifestyle. You can see the cogs turning. He used to like a snag and a pint, come to think of it, so why has he been eating all this tofu shit? And why has he been doing housework, anyway? It is a woman’s job! He starts thinking Traditional Husband is actually onto something here. Traditional Husband brags that he does, after all, have his arse wiped for him.
Or there’s The Bachelor IV - and this is where the search for
love gets ugly. An extremely average bloke who has been convinced he's god's gift to women breaks girls hearts while getting into their pants on national television. Yes, some of the poor girls actually sleep with him (or this is what viewers are led to believe), believing he was about to give them a rose, their ticket to the next episode. The girls inevitably have this wild-eyed desperate look about about them, as they literally beg for the Bachelor's approval. Their reactions, once they realise they've kissed a frog and come away with nothing but warts, are excruciating to watch.
Can't stop watching it, though.

posted by Gianna 5:46 AM

. . .

January 14, 2004
Other women
I meet this lady at the bus-stop in town. Her name is Pamela. It turns out she lives in my neighborhood. She is in her fifties and wears shorts and a sun-visor and a lot of gold jewellery. We're both eating sandwiches as we wait for our bus. I'm reading the paper and at first it annoys me how she keeps trying to engage me in conversation when I am obviously reading, but after a while I realise I am enjoying her company despite myself. I fold up the paper.
"Which street do you live in?" she asks me triumphantly.
"Fourth __ street," I say.
"Well," she says. "I live in Third __ Street."
The street names in our neighborhood aren't all that imaginative.
Her husband died two years ago. He had motor-neurone disease, she tells me. "But he still managed to finish building the house," she laughs.
"I'm sorry," I say, as is expected of me.
Two young women push a shopping trolley full of alcopops to our bus-stop and sit down, opening bottles. One removes the gold foil from a packet of cigarettes. I get up and do a few paces, turn and stick out my belly as far as it will go, to give her a hint. I give her a few dirty looks as well. She lights up anyway.
"Oh!" says Pamela when I sit down again. "When's the little parcel due?"
"Next month," I say. We talk about babies for a while, then she asks about my parents, who I tell her have lived permanently in the area for about ten years and have been coming to the area for the past thirty years.
"I go to the __ Presbyterian Church, " she says, so I guess this means she only looks and sounds Jewish. "Where do they go?"
"Oh, my family...we're not religious," I say, embarrassed. It's always slightly embarrassing to reveal yourself to be a non-believer when you meet a believer. But Pamela says, "Well, nor were we. Actually, I started going after my husband died. And Peter has been wonderful..."
She trails off and I don't ask who Peter is. A ute pulls up and the girls with the alcopops load up the tray and get in. As they drive away I notice the Bundy Rum mudflaps and a sticker that says "Fat chicks: Shoot 'em, don't root 'em!"
I am thinking of the influence older women are having on my life at the moment. Jen's mum, Elizabeth said it's a case of women bonding around a birth. They all tell me their experiences and pass on their tips and tricks. Sometimes they seem much more anxious than me, which is starting to make me anxious.
Pamela says her friend Diane is picking her up at the other end and driving her up the hill to our neighborhood. She says Diane'll give me a lift too, but when we get off the bus I start walking up the hill, to give them a chance to chat, I suppose. They drive up and I stick out my thumb, laughing. Diane, too, is curious about me and my situation. Five minutes later I get out with their numbers.
I've started seeing them as characters in a coming-of-age story where this young, single mother forms all these friendships with these older women in the neighborhood.
Widows, divorcees; they come up here from Sydney for the climate and the lifestyle, the same way that retiring Americans go to Florida. Others come with husbands, end up widows two years into their seachange. For them, it's especially bittersweet.

posted by Gianna 12:24 AM

. . .

January 11, 2004
Fish and bicycles in the Noughties
Most people who have watched at least one episode of Sex and the City will know it is a show almost exclusively about dating and relationships, and specifically, about the single girl’s hunt for a good man. Oh, and sex, obviously. Analyses of the show usually dwell on the idea that it is a show which asks “can a woman be happy without a man?”. For example, the Herald’s article yesterday (
“Carrie close to climax, and it could be Big”) asks, “As Sex and the City approaches its final episode, America is divided. Should Carrie go for the Blahniks or the bloke, the Prada or the prince? Does she really need a man at all?”
And yet the show is less about singledom as a goal in itself, but rather singledom as a temporary state on the road to true love. Nothing new there: the search for love is still a major element of the human condition, a theme perhaps not so very different to the Shakespearean theme of love as a cause of suffering. Nothing anti-feminist about it, either, in my opinion. Why should girls be afraid of romance, just because we insist on equality?
Still, the show has evidently polarised America’s feminists. One quoted in the article, Catherine Orenstein, sneers that the show’s characters are “a walking compendium of female angst: the quest for a relationship, the ticking of the biological clock, the fear of ageing out of the marriage market”. But in that sense, the show at least calls a spade a spade, because any 30-something girl knows that these are very real fears, if not for herself, then certainly for some of her girlfriends. “[Orenstein] urged them to “grow up” before the series ends, into something more than “restless manhunters and shoeshoppers,and find something worthy of the feminism our mothers bequeathed us.” However, as this article points out, the characters are all strong women with successful careers. Just because the show has focussed on their private lives rather than their professional ones (with the exception of writer Carrie whose columns are a central plot device) this doesn’t mean their careers are being trivialised.
Naomi Wolf, on the other hand, argues the girls are feminists because they “do not settle. They move on [rather than stay with the wrong guy], because the sexual revolution means that women have the right to select.” I think she’s closest to the mark. The girls are single for the most part because they choose not to stay with men just for the sake of being in a relationship—and many of us know someone in real life who has done exactly that. For example, the fear of being alone can drive some people to stay with abusive partners or in stale relationships. So the girls actually demonstrate a self-confidence that makes them good role models for female viewers—even if ultimately, they all do crave love more than anything else.
I would have thought, however, that Wolf--the woman who wrote “The Beauty Myth”--might have had more to say about the girls’ obsession with their appearances, a materialistic superficiality which seems to be the most valid criticism of the show; this idea that you have to be super high maintenance in order to snare yourself a man. These girls seem to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on shoes and clothes and they’d probably be better off investing it; but really, why begrudge successful women their right to spend their hard-earned dosh on whatever takes their fancy? (Just because some of us have trouble even negotiating thongs, let alone six inch heels...) It’s when girls start having surgery on their feet to give them ‘toe cleavage’ or, worse, undertake cosmetic genital mutilation, that I start thinking they’ve really lost the plot.
One thing I used to like about the show (which, depending on the episode’s writers could be extremely funny or just blah) was the realistic portrayal of female friendships. It was probably alarming to some people to find out that girls really do talk about sex that much, and that they so openly and ruthlessly dissect each others’ relationships. But there is a real intimacy, honesty, nurturing and, yes, love between the characters that many modern girls will recognise. Single girls do have a lot of their emotional needs filled by their girlfriends—and that’s valuable and worth reflecting on the small screen, especially when compared to the vacuous female-female relationships depicted on many other shows.
The Herald article quotes a viewer as saying "I want [Carrie] to stay single, period. She's a symbol of single happiness. She's not thinking, 'I've got to get a guy'.“ Well, actually, for most episodes that’s exactly what she’s doing. But hey, what is really so wrong with that? It’s a biological fact that in your 30s you are likely to prioritise finding a partner, if you haven’t been lucky enough to pair off by then. And to denigrate women because they want to find lasting love and/or feel a natural urge to reproduce is what is really misogynistic, in my opinion.
Anyway, this article didn’t canvas any male points of view so I wonder what guys think of it all.

posted by Gianna 10:36 AM

. . .

January 10, 2004
Battle for the battlers
What's a layperson to make of information like
this? The Opposition says little Aussie battlers/Australia's middle class are worse off under the Howard Government, because incomes have not risen as fast as the cost of living. And the Opposition's figures confirm your typical Lefty suspicion that the rich are getting richer as the poor get poorer.
JOHN Howard's battlers are going backwards, with new tax research showing that lower and middle-income earners suffered a reduction in real incomes of up to $430 a year between 2000 and 2001.
Analysis of Australian Taxation Office figures carried out by the Opposition, which adjusts earnings against increases in the cost of living, has found the incomes of Australia's middle class shrank by between $150 and $430 a year.
The figures also show the gap between the rich and poor has widened, with the incomes of the wealthiest 5 per cent of taxpayers increasing by $4159 a year in real terms over the same period and their average taxable incomes increasing from $146,661 to $150,820.

The Government of course rejects the analysis, the quoted academic says the Opposition is right, the quoted industry body says the Government is right, and the Tax Office "refuses to comment".
As a Lefty layperson I'm inclined to say the analysis concords with my concerns about how this country is being run. But I'm happy to wait and see what John Quiggin has to say on it first (assuming he will have something to say on it!).

posted by Gianna 8:02 AM

. . .

January 09, 2004
What a croc
There I was eating fish and chips on a jetty today, idly flicking through the paper the fish was wrapped in, when lo! and behold, there's Right Wing celebrity blogger
Tim Blair staring up at me from behind a blob of tartare sauce! Looking like a real journo, too, in his neat white shirt and tie and glasses.
He links to his newspaper piece about the Prince Charles death car conspiracy theory on his blog today with the following disclaimer:
"This was commissioned yesterday on a two-hour deadline, and is on a subject I hadn’t paid much attention to; one of the advantages of blogging, however, is that it teaches usable rapid-response skills."

Bit like Steve Irwin teaching his one-month old baby rapid-response skills? Damn, I wasn't going to blog about Irwin but Blair has forced my hand with his 'Random thoughts' snippet, which doesn't make it into the online version of his column, but reads as follows:
"Strange that many of the same people who condemn Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin for his reptile-infant interface antics are also abortion supporters. Unlike millions only slightly younger, baby Bob remains alive and entirely unharmed."

Hmm, so the same people who condemned Irwin are abortion supporters? How does Blair know this exactly, did he ask them?
You know, tim, I don't think many people have an abortion for entertainment purposes, on camera, to show off their foetus or indeed the abortionist's skills, or to make their foetus croc-savvy. Further, I don't think many pregnant women would publicly refer to their foetus as "the other white meat" as little Bob's mum did of his sibling Bindi Irwin, either.
What's the upshot, tim, that abortion is child abuse? Ho-hum. This kind of dumb comment is so dismissive of the many valid reasons why people decide not to carry a foetus to term. And bloody insulting to those who do not have that much of a choice.
Stick to writing about those wacky Royals, eh, tim?

posted by Gianna 8:06 PM

. . .

Twist and shout
As well as
Tim Dunlop's piece over at surfdom (complete with Walt Whitman poem...ah!), a few others have also emailed me the link to this newspaper story on bodysurfing and pregnant women--synchronicitously (if that's a word), just what I blogged about the other day.
(Wow, that's a bad sentence, I know, but I'm buggered after assembling the cot my parents kindly bought me today. The instructions, seemingly written in Elvish for an engineer, claimed the thing could be put together in 20 minutes. Yeah, right. My sister (who's currently holidaying with me) and I took over two hours, and an entire repertoire of swear words, to put it together. I understand Russell Crowe recently had the same problem, which is good for a gratuitous Russell Crowe mention anyway.)
Well, I'll have to test out my superior aerodynamics in the water again soon, but unfortunately I seem to be a bit accident prone at present. Yesterday, doing a long walk around the lake with my sister, I managed to twist my ankle on some loose rocks. Today, I had various unbreakable appointments in town so had to limp around with an ankle swollen to twice its usual size. Memo to self: do not wear thongs while walking on rocks. And perhaps don't listen to your sister when she says, "Trust me, this is a shortcut, just through here, through this little bit of jungle and then across this little stretch of extremely jagged rocks, and---"

posted by Gianna 8:01 PM

. . .

January 08, 2004
...not to mention cynical and humiliating for Australians. The Howard Government's so-called Pacific solution of 'out of sight, out of mind' just doesn't seem to be working so well lately. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock posts the blame on Nauru:
"The [hunger strikers] are within Nauru's sovereign territory and all of the obligations are essentially the obligations of Nauru. It seeks to get the best deal it can from being involved in these arrangements."

Nauru bites back:
"We did not ask the asylum seekers on Nauru to sew up their lips for a game plan of ours."


posted by Gianna 5:26 AM

. . .

Félicitations sur votre mariage
Big bisous to my girlfriend Jana who is tying the knot with Daniel in Paris today. Apologies in advance for the Franglish--I confess I had to resort to
babelfish for this:
Espoir vous avez un jour merveilleux et pouvez votre vie ensemble être plein de la joie! Merci d'être là de moi toutes ces années -- vous êtes le meilleur ami que une fille peut avoir. Ne peut pas attendre pour vous voir à la fin de cette année, mon bonbon!
Er...or something along those lines, anyway. And send photos!

posted by Gianna 5:05 AM

. . .

January 05, 2004
Cast away
Gee, I'd forgotten how horrible it feels to be dumped. That'll teach me to venture foolishly into the deep water. What was I thinking? Oh, it's OK, the belly didn't touch the ground, though the rest of me did come down hard. I probably should stick to dipping toes in the lukewarm lake with the kiddies and the old folks. No more surf beach for me, I guess. C'est la vie.

posted by Gianna 4:55 PM

. . .

They say it's my birthday. Happy birthday to me.

posted by Gianna 5:18 AM

. . .

January 03, 2004
Rude awakenings
Anyone know how to stop possums from running amok on your roof at night? Lately I've been disturbed by the pitter-patter of tiny feet--actually, it's more of a THUMPETY-THUMP trammell-trammell-trammell THUMP! than a pitter-patter. All accompanied by small bloodcurdling shrieks. Early this morning when I got up in frustration to scare them away, I also flushed out a feral cat three times the size of my cats. I turned grimly to my little boys and said, "See? This is exactly why I keep you in at night. Because you'll only get into trouble. That's what happens at night. And I speak from experience..." But they just looked at me with pity as if to say, "Well, what do you expect? Mating, fighting - this is the meaning of life, ma. Now, about our curfew..."
Speaking, if tangentially, about parenting, Rae from Where the Wild Thoughts Are has
a moving piece up about her relationship with her father. Fathers are particularly salient to me right now; specifically, my own father, and the baby's father. Right now I associate fathers with hurtfulness. I censor myself on this subject because blogging about real life can leave you feeling very exposed. As I have learnt, blogging is not the best place to air your dirty laundry. Then again, is that a cop-out? Does not blogging real live 'truth' amount to a sanitisation of reality? And when you read pieces like that of Rae, you do value the honesty. Me, I manage to sound very lighthearted a lot of the time, and a lot of the time I am. But under the surface there are certainly sadnesses, regrets, wistfulness. And what Truman Capote described as 'fears of real toads in imaginary gardens'.
I often think, with indignation, this is meant to be the happiest time of my life. Well, I am happy about certain things in my life - the baby's imminent (no, not in 45 minutes!) arrival, having my very own sanctuary here in the bush, a lot of great people filling my life with joy and warmth. But I'm sad about other things - fathers, economic difficulties, the futility of following politics, even the brutal fact that I'll probably never meet the man of my dreams. Hell, he's probably already happily married somewhere, expecting a baby of his own, no doubt. I also need to revise my ideas of the Great Love. After all, in psychology they taught us that passionate love is doomed, that it's companionate love that lasts. But, frankly, I can get companionate love from my cats.
Anyway, I'm off to the beach, where it's practically impossible to have the blues. And if you have any tips about possums, I'd love to hear them.

posted by Gianna 7:04 AM

. . .

January 02, 2004
Way to go
If you were John Howard facing an election year, you'd have to be a bit nervous watching your coalition partner Tony Blair plummet from grace after the war with Iraq. You'd be wondering just why it is that you have been insulated from the fallout and why your own Opposition wasn't able to gain any so-called traction on your errors of judgment so far. You'd be wondering why you don't have to piously talk of being ready to
'meet your maker' to justify your 'vigilante' approach to Middle East politics. Maybe you'd decide the best semantic defence is attack and, while dwelling on 'the scourge of terrorism' and homeland security, you'd actually advocate 'vigilance' in your New Years Eve address. All this would ram home the idea that, OK, you may have been wrong about the WMD, but the world remains a very scary place and you're the only guy 'experienced' enough to hold our hands and issue us with protective fridge magnets. After all, that wily Mark Latham was quick to elevate homeland security to one of Labor's major concerns as soon as he took over from Simon Crean, wasn't he? But you'd probably also take the precaution of announcing that you'll have a bit less focus on international interventions in future.
Howard's 2003 strategy was simple: whip up enough fear of a bogeyman (people-shredding machines, nuclear weapons capability, etc) to exploit people's fear of the unknown--terrorism--which would override their better judgment in relation to politicians' rhetoric. Perhaps Blair failed in England because the Brits' experience and exposure to terrorism on their own soil with the IRA has made them slightly more sanguine about it, to the extent where they can take a more criticial and less emotional approach to what their Government is telling them. I remember living in England for six months during several IRA terror campaigns and getting very blase about it all pretty quickly.
Anyway, I wonder if Latham will do a better job than Crean was able to at holding Howard accountable and debunking the 'experience' theme. Let's hope so.

posted by Gianna 3:31 AM

. . .

January 01, 2004
Let me in, and I'll blow your house down
"Question on the U.S. Department of State’s non-immigrant visa application:
Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?
Further noted on the application: While a YES answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa, if you answered YES you may be required to personally appear before a consular officer.
Okay. But you gotta figure YES lessens your chance of obtaining the visa. Or admission to flight school.

They forgot to ask, "Are you or have you ever been Osama bin Laden? While a YES answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa..."

posted by Gianna 8:24 PM

. . .

Whole LOTR love
Sorry - I thought it best to get my worst pun of the year out of the way early. Anyway, I just finished watching the first Lord of the Rings film. Yes, the first one. I'm not exactly what the marketers would call an 'early adopter'.
And....that's it??? The film ends before they get to Mordor?! Damn. I knew I should've rented The Two Towers today as well. Good film, though. Nice to finally see what the fuss is about.
So can anyone tell me what Gandalf's last words were before he fell into the chasm with the dragon-thingy? I replayed it several times but all I could make out was "#$()&*#$, you fools!"
Happy New Year everyone, by the way. My first NYD in many years without a hangover!

posted by Gianna 7:53 PM

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