Thursday, March 29, 2007

are you there, God? it's me, John

"Listen, we're still waiting on that holy writ vis a vis climate change, God. How are we travelling on that? A first draft by Tuesday? That'd be awesome, God. Cheers. Talk to you then, mate."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

desperate careerwomen?

In response to Carmel Tebbutt's resignation yesterday, News Limited's Anita Quigley argued,

"By her own actions Ms Tebbutt is demonstrating you cannot have a career and motherhood."

Meanwhile, Anne Patty of the Herald asked Tebbutt if her decision could not be construed that way, and Tebbutt rightly said,
"I hope it sends a message to women that you can combine a career and being a mother. But there is nothing wrong with then taking some time out or to shifting down a gear or two while you focus on your family."

This is not a conflict between motherhood and career. This is conflict between work and family. There is a difference.
It has everything to do with the fact that Tebbutt and her husband both have full-on jobs. And when both parents work--especially in such high pressure, time-consuming jobs--inevitably they’ll be concerned about whether it is better to spend more time on family than on work. In other marriages the husband might’ve taken the time off work. This is something to be individually negotiated between parents.
It’s just a shame in Howard’s Australia that there is so much pressure on both parents to work (aka "aspire") in families where children are youngsters, and there isn’t much political encouragement of fathers taking a greater role in the raising of their kids. I mean, look at the Government’s low level of interest in genuinely improving the childcare sector. (This seems to have fallen right off the radar again. Where are we at with that one again?)
Curiously, above this story about Tebbutt in the Herald was an odd photo of Pru Goward the hausfrau stooping over to put a load of washing on. What the...? Can you imagine a similar shot of John Howard hunched over shoving his smalls into the machine? I wonder if he's ever used one before.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

information underload

Listening to Beck's "Think I'm in love" on Triplejay yesterday I could've sworn he was sampling himself from an earlier album. Ah, very cheeky. So in amongst the homages and styles there's something faintly reminiscent of...Beck! Maybe the perfect postmodern self-referential navel gaze. A bit like when we bloggers refer to old archived posts of our own (tee hee)...
I must get around to getting his album The Information from last year. Like the sound of it alot.

Friday, March 23, 2007

heart to heart

According to a recent beer ad on the outside back cover of the Weekend Australian Magazine, when women think of a loveheart with nipples...

 think of a bum with nipples! (That's if they can figure out they need to turn the magazine upside-down first.)

I know, feminists have no sense of humour, etc. But isn't this ad actually offensive to men? Or are men expected to smirk, shrug, and buy the beer?
How about a little poll (since I haven't managed to get comments working again yet):

When women think of love, men think of tits and ass.
False free polls

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

change of seasons

Woke up this morning suspecting the flu was coming on and sure enough, despite maintaining a sense of denial as long as I possibly could, it's now taken hold to the point that I can't make sense of anything at all through the fog. So this site and a number of half-written posts will probably lie fallow for the next few days. Apologies. Guess I should be grateful it's been about eight months since I was last sick in any way; oh, and lucky the little fella's health continues to be able to be described as "rude".

Friday, March 16, 2007


I think I finally get quilting now; the fractal-like repetition of patterns and colors. I really like the ones this artist, Brenda Gael Smith, makes (via Club Troppo's Missing Link the other day). I guess I had completely the wrong idea about quilting (scroll to Feb 22).

the rose thief

Kids are so good at stopping and smelling them, aren't they? This one was a present from cousin Ben, 2, the other day. Okay, so he didn't exactly steal it; my sister let him pick it from their garden. Lovely, eh?
(I'm a mad recycler--I reckon Cornwell's White Wine Vinegar bottles make pretty good vases. Filled with water, not vinegar, that is...)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

flog spot

I was a bit taken aback last night to come across the following paragraph while reading my son a Thomas the Tank Engine library book (Bertie's Chase by the Rev. W. Awdry, 1995 reprint of 1954 edition):

The two naughty boys were soon caught by the Police, and their Fathers walloped them soundly.

I'm not into corporal punishment, so I didn't bother to read that bit out. If you're wondering what the boys' crime was, they'd been playing "on the footplate; they tumbled off when James [the train] started. I shouted at them and they ran like rabbits." Gee, what delinquents. Nothing like inflicting a bit of pain to sort them out though, eh?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

standing corrected

How embarrassing watching John Howard on the news scratching his head as to why the punters are deserting him. He seems so pathetically clueless.
I reckon Howard made two fatal unforced errors in recent years that will be his undoing. First, for the sake of the party and to avoid inevitable Howard-fatigue, the PM should have quit while he was ahead. His vanity led him to refuse to gracefully hand over the leadership to Peter Costello, which was basically a vote of no-confidence in his sidekick. After all, despite the strength of the economy and Liberal claims that this success is directly attributable to the Treasurer‘s brilliant management over a decade, the PM was indicating he believed Costello still couldn‘t be trusted to run the country. And once Rudd replaced Beazley, the case for Costello is even more obvious. The advantage for Howard personally, of course, is that his "legacy" would’ve been to some extent protected, with Costello having to bear the brunt of any election defeat.
Secondly, despite running on a platform of having so wonderfully managed the economy and prevailing over such good times, Howard introduced risk into the mix with his radical IR reforms. This is the dealbreaker, in my opinion; the thing that results in the public saying to Howard, "Thanks very much for apparently not screwing up the economy too much while you were in charge. But actually, we’d like to try and keep things how they are, so let’s not tinker with something as unpredictable as crazy-brave IR reform at this stage. Sorry, mate, but so long and thanks for all the fish."
And now, post-Burke, the public is surely--understandably--asking itself: why the hell does the PM seem to care more about Brian Burke than global warming or the failed foreign policy experiment in Iraq?

Elsewhere, in the mainstream press: Christopher Pearson reading tea leaves trembling legs (hey, Christopher, maybe he just needed to pee?); George Megalogenis confirming my suspicions that the strength of the economy could prove to be a headache for the Government; and Dennis Shanahan suggesting ‘morality politics’ is a dangerous game for politicians because the truth will out; and that it ultimately leads to voter dissatisfaction with politics. (I think I disagree. Seeing allegations of corruption brought to the surface and defended (or not) will surely give the public more confidence in the remaining body of politicians, even if a few bad apples are rolled away. Even if people get mightily sick of the sledging when it is used as a method of drowning out genuine policy debate, as seen lately, the net result is still greater transparency on both sides, and voters have got to be happy about that.)

Oh my god! My son has met Brian Burke! My son must resign! Oh, hang on, sorry...that's just Opa Luis (left, with Harley’s other grandpa Lionel, who sadly passed away last year).

Monday, March 12, 2007

signs you may have been selling
too much on eBay lately

While patting the cat:
“I love Fuzzle, Mum.
“That’s nice, dear.”
“I don’t want to sell him.”

pretty fruity

Also, gleefully shouted out yesterday in public:
“Mama Gianna, the big banana!”
Made me blush but laugh.
Ah, first puns. That’s my boy.

surfing the road

As I mentioned the other week, I’ve recently started contributing posts to Tim Dunlop's Road to Surfdom. Tim and Jozef were the first bloggers I ever read, thanks to their links at Margo Kingston’s original Webdiary, and I was immediately inspired to start my own. Tim has been something of a blog mentor over the years and I appreciate him now giving me the opportunity to write for Surfdom.
Since I’m not crossposting, I’ll just put a link up whenever I post there (and comments are working fine at Surfdom...). So far I've posted the following:
* The duffer's ABC
* Pretender to throne caught pretending
* Saving
* Pulpit fiction

Friday, March 09, 2007

friday catblogging:
one mean cat on the telly

"So, who looks meanest, me or Mark Vaile?"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

muse this

My contribution to blogging for International Women’s Day is related to Helen’s great post at Surfdom.

In today's Essential lifestyle supplement to the Sydney Morning Herald, the cover story was a reverential discussion of fashion designers and their muses ("Creature of couture", Kellie Hush; not available online). Uncritically, the paper notes:

[Calvin Klein's] head was the first to turn for this relatively unknown 18-year-old model [Kate Moss].
"She had this childlike woman-like thing...It’s a kind of sexiness that I think is very exciting."

Yeah, you and Humbert Humbert.
Why the fashion industry--including the fashion media industry--continues to give Klein so much positive mainstream oxygen is the question. Coincidentally, just the other day I stumbled across some particularly creepy advertising of Klein's, featuring in a roll-call of worst ever marketing campaigns. Corporate paedophilia, anyone?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

two for one

Ah, hell. I just spent the better part of the evening entering links into a new!improved!blogroll in my new!improved!Blogger template, and now it's generously providing two of each link. What is this, Noah's blogroll? So I now have to go back and manually delete fifty links? Stuff it. I'm going to bed.
Updating my blogroll reminded me of how many fantastic writers and thinkers are out there but unfortunately it also gave me a bit of politics fatigue. In fact I think I'll go berserk if I have to hear or read the name Brian Burke ever again. (Argh! I'm going berserk!*).
By the way, I am also struggling to figure out how to put Haloscan comments back into the new template. If you have any advice, could you please email me?

(*Incidentally this is a favorite line of my son's. He runs around shouting either "I'm going serk!" (berserk) or "I'm out of troll!" (control). Ah god, he warms my cockles.)

update Blogroll fixed. Still working on incorporating comments facility again.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

bishop's pawns

Just now over Adele Horin, I choked on my toast.

The big problem is not whether we have too little narrative in history and too much critical analysis, or study too many movies in English and too little Shakespeare. It is not even that students moving states have to adapt to different curriculum demands, although that is tough. The big problem is the educational divide between the haves and have-nots. The Federal Government will not talk about it because its funding policy for private schools has exacerbated the divide. Labor won't talk about it - not after Mark Latham's "hit list" of elite schools went down so badly last time.

Course she's right, I realised. A national curriculum is essentially irrelevant when the achievement gap exists for socioeconomic reasons. So I've fallen right into the trap of engaging with the Liberal Party's strawman on education! Horin puts her finger on the real areas of crisis:
What is needed is a serious commitment to early intervention programs and to free preschool in disadvantaged areas, extra school funding and specialised teachers for low-achieviing students to help them meet state - or national - curriculum standards.

And I'd really like to see Bishop's truthful answer to this statistic from Horin:
Despite the impression the Federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, gives of poor national academic attainment, our students on average are high performers. Comparing results in 27 OECD countries, our 15-year-olds on average ranked second in literacy, sixth in mathematics, and fourth in problem-solving in international tests taken in 2000 and 2003.

Horin's right, it needs to be reframed. It's about the need to compensate for disadvantage.
The Coalition cannot get away with claiming curriculum is a national issue but funding schools to meet the challenge is a state matter. Labor must acknowledge many private schools are overfunded and many public schools are underfunded. It does not mean you need a "hit list". It does mean policies and resources should favour the long tail of underperformers, and start in poor communities from a child's birth.

Still, it's hard not to engage with the Government's ideological attacks on teaching. I feel they are based on absurd arguments that need to be challenged.
So back to my toast...

Friday, March 02, 2007

friday chicken blogging

Two kids wandered by this morning carrying a chicken. They were looking for a home for it, as their mother had refused to let them keep it and, they said, had threatened to take it down to the Mission and throw it to the dogs. So I called my parents. They already have about twenty fowl, but they said they were on their way. I fed Lucky the chicken some grapes, bread crusts and brown rice, but she turned up her beak at fresh coriander leaves. She complained a little between bites. I didn‘t blame her; she‘d had a tough time of it so far.
I hoped the fragrant herbs in her box would help mask the stench of the cat which watched with slitted eyes from a patch of shade beyond the screen door, far too lazy to investigate further.
I can’t help thinking how Lucky has no idea what kind of a wonderful life is in store for her, at the other end of her terrifying, but mercifully brief, journey in the back of Opa's silver van...

hey, minister, leave our kids alone!

Having watched the education debate on the 7:30 Report on Wednesday night, I agree with Anne Patty writing in today's Sydney Morning Herald that what is still very murky is the issue of content.
As you’d expect, both Bishop and Smith quoted supporting statistics and denied each other’s. Viewers were left confused about whether or not Federal funding of unis has in fact decreased, and whether unis are now more reliant on private funding than before. It seems that Labor’s stance on education is 'you have to spend money to make money if you want graduates who are globally competitive'. Whereas the Liberal Party’s credo seems more like, 'use money as a weapon to extract certain ideological outcomes in Oz'.
Most reasonable people can appreciate the arguments for a national curriculum and luckily it has bipartisan support. Who would really deny that to try to improve literacy and numeracy is a good thing? Who would disagree that lifting standards and improving quality are positives? Such vague appeals to common sense can't disguise the fact that the real game is about maintaining oppressive and punitive relations with the States for political and ideological reasons.
Bishop reiterates her threat,

"What I’m going to do is take a proposal to the Education Ministers’ meeting in April and if I cannot get cooperation on a national curriculum, I will tie it to funding."

So do State education ministers just have to give in-principle go ahead to the basic idea of a consistent national curriculum or do they have to sign on the dotted line endorsing the Howard Government’s favored model there and then? Imposing sanctions may well punish recalcitrant State governments but perhaps it's the students who pay the price in the end.
The big meeting takes place next month, well before the comparative data is released next year. Pre-empting the research, Bishop promises the data will show significant qualitative differences between the States. Well, let's wait and see before rushing out and reforming ourselves stupid. Surely it makes more sense to await the results of the national comparative data next year and for everyone to get to take a really good look at it to determine which models and which content works best? Why the rush job?
Inexplicably, the Liberals seem to frown on competition between States, and differences are seen as something that must be artificially ironed out. This is in contrast to Labor's support for consistency for what appear to be more practical reasons (eg. labour force mobility).
The critical question for me is about curriculum content and this Bishop neatly skates over without providing any detail. Kerry O'Brien raised as an example the teaching of Australian history. Here Bishop replied, "It [her curriculum] is much broader than just the narrative". Are we really supposed to believe they are going to allow the teaching of critical thinking to continue? For me, anyway, that's the little red flag right there, the philosophical crux of the question of content. In talking about the narrative, Bishop betrays her Government's denial of postmodern pluralism, and its desire to see the simplistic teaching of a single approved narrative.
As 'proof' of a crisis in education, Bishop claims high schools are failing kids but later she seeks credit for the fact that more kids are attending uni than ever. How can that be, if there is such a decline in literacy and numeracy standards?
Anyway, it will be interesting to get a detailed look at the Government's proposed curriculum models, that's for sure. And until then, it's just politics.