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Hoyden About Town
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...but I couldn't possibly comment!
Yes! My family got me the complete Francis Urqhart trilogy on DVD for Xmas, also the Firth-Ehle Pride and Prejudice mini-series, and the 1st season of Black Books. Hugs all around and kisses to the BBC. Merry Christmas, one and all.
Anyone who has to buy me presents now is very greatful for the trend in re-releasing great series on DVD. They'd got sick of buying me book vouchers, because they all knew my favourite thing ever was reading, but they couldn't keep up with what I'd already read (V is for Voracious). I loved to see the vouchers, because then I had an excuse to go book-browsing guilt-free, but the giver didn't get the chance to see the reaction to a gift choice lovingly tailored to the recipient, so I understand the shift. And whenever the BBC finally gets around to releasing the recently re-mastered I, Claudius for the Australian DVD region I will be ecstatic.
But the Black Books gift especially reminded me of the joy of browsing in second-hand book stores. You never know what you're going to find. Some books obviously remaindered, others pristine look-at-my-erudition shelf-fillers now moved on to collect dust amongst the shoddy well-thumbed thrillers and romances. The satisfying rub of the compulsorily enormous store cat against your legs while you examine the SF shelves. The struggle through tottering piles of poorly classified paperbacks in the stores which don't imperil pusscats thereby. And the very occasional jewel of a pre-loved bookstore where the store is clean, the shelves are clearly labelled and organised, and there is plenty of aisle space to accommodate many browsers.
One such store is in Sydney, in Randwick's "The Spot", a small village-style shopping precinct a few blocks south of the main Randwick commercial district - Booked Out is its name. They do gift vouchers! The Spot has lots of cafes, many quirky small businesses, the bookstore and right next-door, The Ritz. The Ritz is one of the few independent cinemas left in town, and is a blocky piece of art deco charm which contrasts delightfully with the multiplexes. And their tickets are cheap! One of my favourite days with friends is to go to lunch and a movie and browse in Booked Out before and after the show.
However, Booked Out's ease of discovery comes at a premium price for second hand books. It is a premium I am often willing to pay, but the classic second-hand book journey must involve dust, and every now and then the compulsion to trawl the stores with taciturn keepers and faded shelf labels is too strong to resist. It is in the cheaper, more traditional dustbox stores that one finds happy bargains and the occasional thrilling surprise. In one store a friend and I were perusing the shelves, she picked up a book and it fell open to reveal $150 cash. Thinking quick and knowing she was broke, I snatched it out, mimed taking money from my purse, and said, hey, here's that money I owe you. She bought me lunch with part of it.
After all, the book store had probably bought a box of books from a deceased estate and paid a pittance planning for a small profit on the resale. Found money didn't factor into their profit/loss statement. And whoever had put that money in that book was either dead or had forgotten about it before selling the book on. My lovely and talented friend was often depressed by her stuttering cash flow, so I judged she needed the money more.
So did I do wrong? What would you have done, dear reader?
I think that's a very unfair portrayal of the characters of both Ekaterin and Miles.
To me, the most basically obnoxious occurance in the Bujold Vorkosigan books is the main character finally marrying, not only a woman "of his own class", but a woman who's practically a stereotype of the good, virtuous wife to her first husband. This is after he's had numerous romances with women who are considerably more interesting. It's not that the books as a whole are obnoxious ... but they've become considerably less interesting since Bujold decided to provide conventional happiness to her protagonist and remove most of his major conflicts.
Miles longs for a strong, intelligent kick-ass woman (aka SIKAW), just like dear old mum. His problem has always been that although he has loved and been loved by several SIKAWs, the last place any of them want to raise a family is on restrictive, parochial, sexist Barrayar. He has been fed the "it's not you, it's Barrayar" line more than once.
The whole point of the Ekaterin-Miles pairing is that, alone of all her male acquaintance, Miles immediately recognises the residual spark of SIKAW spirit within Ekaterin, who has been so oversocialised as a Vor woman that she has dutifully throttled nearly all of her self in dependence to an immature passive-aggressive bully of a husband. The most admirable trait of Ekaterin is her core of integrity which finally leads her to refuse to take any more and decide finally to leave her husband, although she has no expectation of income or shelter even to support her decision.
She later foils a terrorist attack through pure determination and quick thinking despite knowing that she may well be sacrificing both her own life and her aunt's. Considering that unlike Miles' previous inamoratas she had no martial expertise to draw upon, this makes her a more impressive character than the overt warrior-maids, not less.
Bujold's examination in Komarr of Ekaterin's subjugation to her first husband, her repulsion by it and mourning of how she seemed to be slowly dying inside is one of the most revealing character studies of a woman trapped inside the patriarchy that I have ever read. To dismiss her merely as "the good, virtuous wife" without acknowledging how she struggled within the trap of that role and eventually rejected it triumphantly seems grossly unfair.
The later tensions between Miles' desire for her, her wish for autonomy, the competing claims of a rigid class structure amid the machinations of politics are scarcely anti-feminist, either. Space opera's gotta have some romance, no? Sure, she ends up marrying the rich guy with the castle, but not before both he and she know that she can make a generous living off-world.
As to the class issue, that's been more of a problem for Miles' previous women than it has been for him - as noted above it's not him that's been unwilling to bring SIKAW women of whatever class to Barrayar, it's them that have been unwilling to come.
It has been well established in the previous books that Miles, because of the sacrifices that his parents made for him against all Vor social expectations by accepting and encouraging him as a perceived mutant to take his place in Vor society, is incapable of setting all his parents' work for naught by abandoning Barrayar for a freer life in wider galactic society, although he has proved himself more than capable of doing so.
To do that would betray all their work for decades attempting to drag Barrayar out of feudalism, work that he passionately agrees is necessary and wants to do his Vor dynastic duty by through raising lots of little Vor to help in the great work. Miles is bound by duty and honour here, and although he has ended up making the decision independently to confine himself to those bounds, they still chafe.
This may well be where some readers start to find Miles less interesting - instead of the honour-duty-rebellion lemmas of a young man finding himself within the shadow of a "great man" father, Miles is now fully adult and dealing with larger political issues of social engineering from a position of power. Everybody can relate to the angst of adolescence and finding a fully adult role for oneself in relation to one's parents, but most of us are less familiar with the special agonies of choice that come to those wielding real power, and perhaps less compelled by it. I find it fascinating, but tastes vary.
You may well be repulsed by Miles' decision to stick with the dynastic shortcomings of Barrayaran society when he could be gallivanting egalitarianly around the galaxy in time-honoured space operatic fashion, but it is an honorable and admirable decision in light of his determination to reform aristocratic privilege and parochial sexist traditions. It is almost inevitable that the only woman he would eventually find willing to share and wholeheartedly contribute to that goal for social change would be a fellow Vor enlightened by suffering who shares his vision for a better Barrayar.
My boychild just went off to his Year 6 Farewell Formal i.e. the boys wear a collared smart casual shirt (this is Oztraya after all), and the girls wear heels, makeup, buy a new dress and have their hair done - I did put a dob of gel in his hair. We're not allowed to go and pick him up until 9pm. He has been threatened with dancing.
UPDATE: picture removed now those who I wanted to see it have done so.
|You Are Creepy|
Serial killers would run away from you in a flash.
You scored 86 erudition!
I think this combination means that it is my doom to be the one who finally hunts down Hannibal Lecter.
That's the Elf Freedom Foundation Against Monstrously Infantilising Names. Please, we desperately need your help. Can you live with yourself if poor enslaved elves at the North Pole have to go through a freakishly long life with names such as these?
|Your Elf Name Is...|
Best rant comes from a woman who presumably lives close by Cronulla. From the letters section in today's Sydney Morning Herald:
To all the organisers of the rally at Cronulla last Sunday: thanks. No, really. I love what you've done with the place.
Where I used to be able to sit out on my balcony at night in peaceful and serene contemplation, now I cower behind locked and bolted doors. Where I used to be able to pop down to the supermarket for some groceries any time, now I wonder if a dash to the servo on the corner is a good idea - what with thugs setting it on fire and all. Where I used to feel untroubled living in a relatively non-secure apartment block, now I feel a measure of security only when the riot police are brandishing their batons and shields outside my front door.
And it's all thanks to you. Well done, gallant heroes. Not.
Apparently you drunken, bigoted knights in flannelette from Cronulla desire to defend your women, your beach and your Australian way of life. I've got news for you: keep your day jobs. The women do not feel safer. We are scared. We are sickened. We are disgusted.
You call Cronulla your beach - I don't see your name written on it.
And what about my beach? I can't safely look at it, walk on it or swim there now thanks to your thuggery.
And you know what? It was a lot prettier without the riot police guarding it.
I love those guys but they just don't blend in real well with the bikini babes and surfer dudes.
A few disgusting things said, a wolf whistle, an insult - they are not good enough reasons to justify what happened. I go to Cronulla all the time. I've had just as many leers and wolf whistles from Caucasian males as any other race. You know what I and many other women do? We ignore them. Simple. Big mouths are looking for a reaction, so don't give them what they want.
And don't defend our way of life by preaching hatred, violence and racial vilification which beget more hatred and violence. The question is: how much further are you willing to push it? Until our possessions are looted, our homes are burnt to the ground or our bodies are lying in coffins?
The people who began this stupidity are the ones who must end it. You can stop the violence and hate. End it today, now. Please.
Rachel Rogers Suburb withheld
Onya Rachel. Get it up 'em, mate,
Bringing the kids home from school we had the great debate about personal cooling systems.
Boychild thought a system of flexible piping wrapped around the body with cool water circulating would be the go.
Girlchild felt that a suit made of flexible ice would be even better. When I pointed out that ice might be a bit of overkill, she said "not on a day like today".
She's right, you know.
Subeditors predictably give us: Aust leaves US in the cold at climate talks
I'm astonished that our Prime Bootlicker has allowed our representatives to stop fawning over Karl Rove's talking points in their usual expansive manner. Is he sickening for something?
As an urban White Anglo-Celtic in Oz, it is easy to forget how pervasive racism is in this country. Unlike the States, where urban is code for black, the urban population in Australia, which is 85% of the people due to our huge tracts of non-arable land, is overwhelming pale.
In the Southeast, where most Aboriginals are of mixed descent and generally identify as Kooris, most do actually live in cities: as aboriginals are only 1.7% of the population, it is easy for the middle class gaze to slide right by except in the few country towns where there is a large Koori community. In the north, west and centre of the country, tribal groupings are more distinct and mostly live in remote communites which are largely invisible to the rest of the country.
Although each large city has some more cosmopolitan areas which are true melting pots, there are still many suburbs where one can drive miles without seeing a single black face. It is easy to believe one is not racist when one never even sees the aboriginal underclass.
When I was born in 1963, Aboriginals were considered unpersons: not counted on the Census, not enfranchised to vote, simply not part of "our" world. My first seven years were spent in the lower Blue Mountains west of Sydney, a supremely WASP place. The first brown-skinned person I remember seeing was a Sikh who was a professional colleague of my father, and I was much more impressed with his drying ankle-length hair than his skin colour (besides, educated Indians were honorary members of "us" anyway, particularly with a White British lawyer for a wife - not that this ever had to be said aloud).
Post-war European immigration meant that as my schooling progressed, my classmates became less overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic. My friends and boyfriends had surnames like Zavitsaanos, Raftos and Roncolato as well as Watts, Fahey and Douglas (the Douglas family was actually Greek). Australia was still White enough that Mediterranean black hair stood out like dog's bollocks, and the lone S.E.Asian family at my high school were considered very exotic indeed. The few Kooris (although we all called them abos then - a word I now wince to type) were hardly noticed by me, as I was in all the top classes and they never were - a de facto segregation, despite the fact that now aboriginals had the vote.
A few years ago I was looking at my old high school year-books. And I suddenly noticed something. A boy I remembered well, a bright funny boy who did well at school although not one of the top swots, and was popular due to his athleticism as well - that boy's face looking out at me 25 years later was clearly a Koori face.
Why did I never realise that at school?
He didn't fit the stereotype, that's why. His Strine was just as grammatical as any of the other teenage boys, he had no trouble learning, and his skin wasn't much darker than many of my Mediterranean-descended friends. He had a British surname, but so did most of the other Kooris. He didn't hang around in the self-effacing but perceived as menacing groups of Koori kids. He seemed entirely confident that he was part of "our" middle-class Aussie world, so he was.
We moved away, and I don't keep in touch with anyone from that school anymore, so I don't know whether other people in my year realised he was a Koori and didn't care (i.e. I was unusually self-involved and unobservant), or whether we all were obtuse, incapable of perceiving someone who could cope with education so well as an abo. It's also entirely possible that he was one of the Stolen Generation, and raised by Whites without reference to his ancestral culture, which would explain why he seemed so much part of our world rather than theirs. I just don't know, all I know is that then I didn't see him as Black, yet now it's just so obvious.
[EDIT DEC 2: I missed the blindingly obvious above as to why I didn't recognise my classmate as an aboriginal back in the mid-70s - the only aboriginal faces on movies/TV were very dark Central Australians such as David Gulpilil. Unless one lived alongside indigenous Australians of mixed race one didn't know what they looked like. Even a very successful TV series about a half-caste Aboriginal police detective had a white New Zealand actor in dark makeup playing the central role. And of course, when one is speaking of "mixed-race", it is the vagaries of inheritance which determines how white or how black a child will look - there are many cases of mixed-race siblings where one will "pass" as white and the other will not. I also wonder whether me being blind to his aboriginality back then because he was relatively light skinned is better or worse than me being immediately aware of his aboriginality because of physiognomic markers now.]
I'm not entirely sure what this story says, but there is something in there about the structure of race in Australia then. It is different now, at least in the inner cities. There are several Koori kids at my kids' school, and also some Arnhem Landers, but amidst the diverse faces of kids from Asia, India/Pakistan, Africa, the Middle East who form the bulk of the school population (Europeans would be 1/4 to 1/3 only of the kids) their particular shades of brown and cast of features are not a stigma. At our school there is very little correlation between skin colour and car model, for instance. But that's here in latte-sipping leftist-ville.
A Tale of Two Australias.
My daughter's friend is one of the Arnhem Land girls mentioned above: her mother is Aussie Anglo-Celtic, her dad has gone back to Arnhem Land, and mum's new man is of British Afro-Caribbean descent. Mum is a dancer, so are the girls, Stepdad has modelled: they are a strikingly handsome family.
A few months ago they went on holiday to Coffs Harbour, in the Northern Rivers district of NSW. One day they went on a country drive. When they walked down the streets of Grafton all the Aussies stared: they weren't used to the more purply hues of African skin, and the girls' Arnhem Land features are quite distinct from their local Kooris, who mostly live in smaller towns downriver and rarely come into town. People with glossily healthy dark skin driving a nice car and wearing nice clothes were outside Grafton's experience, it seems.
And despite the fact that the lower Blue Mountains is much more diverse than it was in 1968, and people there are less likely to stare so blatantly as in Grafton, this family would arouse a watchful alertness there too. Because although in my particular Sydney inner-city community Aboriginals are just as likely to be middle-class as the rest of us, thus their kids "belong", that's still far from true even a few postal districts away, let alone outside the city.
The middle class is always nervous about those who don't belong, and in most of Australia dark faces simply do not belong unless they're non-indigenous. I know I catch myself reverting to middle-class suspicion when outside the milieu of the black families I know socially, and I wish it wasn't so.
Australia's got a long way to go yet.
2005 Bad Blog Awards
Worst Right-wing Blog
Worst Left-wing Blog
Worst Center/Libertarian Blog
WTF?There are certainly more ways than one to divide people along ideological lines, and the differences between the Nolan, Eysenck, Pournelle, Inglehart and Friesian Institute models are instructive, but this is the first time I have ever seen Libertarian and Centrist lumped in together. Is this a common lumping that I've just previously missed?
I think I'm one of many natural skeptics who came up with the idea of our universe as a long-forgotten school science experiment long before the Simpsons episode or reading Golden Age SF that informed me many others had thought the same decades earlier.
Natural Deism really is just that obvious.
LS: What do people mean when they say you can never have enough of a good thing, and then someone else says yes you can?
Me: [attempt to explain generalisations, and on the above use the icecream example]
I think I need to work on some more generalisations to get the idea properly across.
Pay no attention to the fact that obstetric services in rural Oz are woefully inadequate, let's quibble over how dangerous it would be for rural women to have easy access to RU486 without adequate medical supervision. Consequence: rural women have to add the expense of travel to the city to the expense and extra risks of a surgical abortion as compared to a medical abortion. And our anti-abortion Health Minister will use alleged rural danger to deny RU486 to all Australian women. Abbott has no place as Health Minister and should be shuffled off to another portfolio.
Pay no attention to the illegality of targeting civilians, let's quibble that the USA never signed off on the section of the Geneva Convention that says it's wrong to use white phosphorus, and it's not really a chemical weapon anyway, so it's legal for the USA to use it. Special Crunchy Irony: wasn't the invasion of Iraq predicated on preventing the use of chemical weapons?
Pay no attention to the illegality of outing an active CIA operative, resulting in the exposure of of an ongoing covert investigation of who was purchasing weapons of mass destruction, let's quibble over the fact that her position as part of that ongoing covert investigation was a deskjob in Virginia rather than being "out in the field", therefore outing her did not compromise national security.
Consequence: blowing her cover means blowing the cover of an entire CIA covert operation, front company Brewster Jennings, and also "exposed everyone who worked for or hired or sent a check or an e-mail to Brewster Jennings. And everyone who ever talked to anyone who worked for Brewster Jennings."
This was suggested by Chris Clarke, who I am fortunate enough to have been reading for years on USENet before he even started his blog. A while back he commented on a cartoon he felt was racist, and received many dissenting comments because it was felt the cartoonist's intent was benign, but racism is inherently evil, therefore a benign cartoon can't be racist. Hmm.
I'm not sure what I'll write yet - racism in Australia has a whole different history from racism in the States, although the roots of both obviously lie in European colonialism. Anyway, join in! Announce it on your blog, link to Chris' post (trackback if you can, Blogger doesn't allow it) and let's see what happens December 1st.
Threatened libel lawsuits, contacting doctoral advisors, attempts to "out" an anonymous blogger who has clearly stated she values her anonymity highly as a wall between her private and professional lives, and a soon-to-be-Dr. HowDareYouIgnoreMe who thinks an "innovative" addition to the blogosphere is the first ever live-blogged lawsuit, AKA every single thought that crosses his obessed mind about this spat. And of course, anybody at all who points out that this sort of public breast-beating is a really poor legal strategy is a lefty.
Strangely absorbing. Hat tip to Chris.
Last night, I'll have you know, I won Third Place (tied) in the Front Garden category of my local council's annual Spring Garden Competition. Mwahahahahahahahaha!!!!!1!
My neighbour across the road, who won first place in the Native Garden category, reckons I wuz robbed. Denied my rightful dominion! Never mind, the new roses are settling beautifully, so I will continue to mulch and fertilise and next year my plans for municipal overlordship will not fail.
In Kansas, a different lot of fundevangelicals voted to change school science standards to include be more critical of evolutionary biology theory.
I feel very sad for the people of faith who accept science as an explanation for how God created, and don't let that interfere with their faith in a scriptural exegesis of why God created. The radical fundevangelicals are attempting to marginalise them, telling them that belief in God and acceptance of the science of biological evolution cannot coexist.
As an atheist my views may not especially matter to a person of faith (and certainly won't to the fundevangelicals), but I personally find the idea of a Creator incorporating such an elegant mechanism as biological evolution to ensure ecological variation quite attractive, and if I ever saw evidence for such a Creator I'd be a theist in a heartbeat. (So, I'm a doubting Thomas kind of person - the Gospel doesn't say Thomas was damned for his skepticism, does it now?)
This led me to some Googling on QLD's grass-tree licensing system. Apparently QLD has a different harvest policy regarding grass trees than NSW does: QLD has decided that rigorously monitored sustainable harvesting of indigenous plants doesn't prevent enough illegal harvesting, and no longer grants license tags to landowners with grass-tree habitat to take a small number of grass-trees annually.
Salvaging plants from lands subject to clearing and logging operations is recognised as a source of plants to reduce demand for plants taken from undisturbed land and therefore the potential for plants to be taken illegally. Conservation and Management of Protected Plants in Queensland 2001.
So QLD will grant license tags to landowners to salvage grass-trees if their habitat is going to be destroyed. QLD has gone from granting 6,000 sustainable harvest tags on continuing habitat to granting 60,000 salvage tags for grass-trees on destroyed habitat. But at least the trees aren't being harvested illegally.
So: farmer (or indigenous titleholders) with five back paddocks of grass-tree habitat (i.e. poor sandy soil which will not support pasturage or any other crop) can no longer get a license to harvest 50 grass-trees a year and make $5000 per annum in perpetuity for landowner and heirs, in return for doing bugger-all. Grass-trees resent fertilizer and unnecessary watering. They just sit there, slowly growing, and providing a backbone for a habitat of other native plants and small animals, a small oasis of biodiversity that can be enhanced and with the rise of eco-tourism even perhaps generate some added income for the farmer from surrounding holiday cabins etc.
But: if landowner tells the government he wants to upgrade that poor sandy land into pasturage (even though it won't work), the farmer can get a license to salvage 1000 grass-trees and get a one-time profit of $100,000 and a dustbowl that will never grow any useful crop at all. The viability of the proposed development is scarcely examined as long as bulldozers have been hired.
Salvage harvesting of grass-trees tends to be a lot less careful than sustainable harvesting, thus the inadequate root-balls I mentioned above. Salvagers crop the tops for transport to minimize transplant shock. When planted out, the plants will respond with a flush of new green crown growth, very gratifying to the new purchaser, but unless the root ball is large enough and surrounded by just the right medium, die-back begins within a few months and most trees last less than a year. So salvage tags encourage a landscaper replacement strategy which encourages even more reckless digging up of centuries-old plants on land conveniently designated as undergoing "development".
Grasstrees are only one of the indigenous plant species affected by QLD's protected plants policy. Don't overlook the fact that this salvage-only policy favours developers and loggers out for a short-term profit over sustainable resource management by multi-generational landowners, either.
It seems a very strange way to go about conserving habitat to me.
Those are grass trees, a threatened species. They have an extremely limited range and the trunks only grow 1 cm per year. Some of the biggest trees on that truck must be a century old - so at least 3000 years of growth on there, and the root balls look so small that these trees probably won't survive when transplanted. I want to tie him down and let the roots feed on his slowly putrefying corpse.
Only licensed harvesters are permitted to take them from the bush under a strict quota: there's no way some guy selling them off a truck has licensed trees. If the police do their job, he's up for big bikkies:
Prosecution penalties: If a person is convicted of a threatened species offence under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 Part 8A they face criminal penalties of up to $220,000 and or two years in prison. In addition, if the case involves harming or picking threatened species, endangered populations or endangered ecological communities additional penalties of up to $11000 apply to each whole plant that was harmed or picked.Let's hope the greedy bastard is bankrupted.
By the way, it made a big difference to the response I got from the desk-plod that I was able to give her the full name of the legislation empowering police to act on threatened species violations and giving details of penalties. Wherever you are in the world, your state/local government probably has a website for environmental protection matters, detailing the relevant legislation. Have it to hand when you report environmental violations to the police, otherwise they might not want to bother, thinking it's outside their jurisdiction.
UPDATE 20 Sept: unfortunately it appears that despite the enthusiasm of the desk-plod that Hurstville Police had a busy day and insufficient resources to send a car along to check this eco-rapist out. So, I'm now informing governmental environment protection officers at the local and state level, and any green activists/lobbyists I can find as well. Hope to get him yet.
Statutory Satire Disclaimer: if you are easily offended, satire probably just isn't your thing. Don't bother. Have some fluffy kittens instead.
The image at the right is from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, which I never see (being in Oz). However, thanks to the Interweb thingy I got to see this bit anyway. I think my favourite yet to occur disaster is "unicyclists, nuclear".
I cropped it from an image on Magic:The Gathering/Katrina Edition which has surely earned its authors a place in hell, which they will shortly thereafter rule.
I only wish this was satire: the Australian government has deported an American anti-corporate activist who advocates peaceful civil disobedience as a threat to national security. Apparently demonstrating outside the Sydney offices of Halliburton is a terrorist attack on the Free World.
In early 1980, when I was beginning my last 2 years of high school, my dad got a transfer and we moved away from a large coastal city to a small town in the Riverina district of NSW. I was 16, and not especially thrilled. I missed my friends I'd known for years, I missed the beach and I missed the school where I'd just been voted a prefect and was heavily involved in extracurricular groups.
This is not to say my new town was an awful place. On the contrary, it was perfectly pleasant as country towns go, and they go very well as long as the crops cash in. The people were friendly enough, particularly amongst my age group. The divide between born-and-bred and blow-in was a bit more difficult to cross for my parents, but there were enough blow-ins in the banks and public service to band together, and only the squattocracy held utterly aloof.
There was nearly always a party on the weekend: even if it was just a bunch of cars on the riverbank with the lights on, the tape-deck blaring and a whole lot of booze. There was no problem for a girl (harder for the boys) getting into one of the 20 pubs, despite the age restrictions for under 18s. Particularly if you had an older boy buying you drinks.
Perhaps not entirely coincidentally to the above, all the senior high school girls dated boys three or four years older, who not only could buy drinks but had cars (every single one a lovingly polished V8). These older guys were the mates of elder brothers and cousins, guys they'd known for years. Blow-ins like me got to meet these older boys by being invited by the couples as extras.
This left a real gap for the 16 year old guys. All the flirty girls in town were snapped up by the older guys - that left the girls whose character or looks discouraged flirtation, or the really young girls - and that wasn't on. Because it was a given that the couples going steady longer than a month were having it off (although there were actually exceptions), thus no pool of candidate girls under 16, the age of consent. So the 16 year old boys played a lot - a real lot - of sport, and sometimes came along to the pubs and the parties, and looked on.
So I felt a bit bad for the guys in my class when I realised. No girlfriends (at least until they got a car). I didn't feel so bad I dated any of them of course, as by this time I had my lovely boyfriend (hereafter LB) - all of 20, whom I eventually treated badly. But I knew exactly how to relate to the nice guys that nobody dates - every school has them. They're not unattractive, they're considerate and reliable, and every girl would "hate to lose a friend" by dating them (I'm amazed the bloody rampages happen so seldom, honestly). Essentially they become honorary brothers, which I bet really sucks. But they often, thankfully, take that very seriously.
By the end of '81 I felt I knew the town fairly well, although one can never fully know a place where one hasn't absorbed the history through childhood. But amongst my peers I'd watched in two short years several engagements, a marriage, and two enormous funerals attended by what seemed like the whole town: a death by drink-driving car crash (my dad had to write the road authority's fatal accident report) and a death by shooting accident (his girlfriend was in my year).
The latter occurred the same weekend my grandfather died. I remember clearly trying to suppress my sobs that Monday in the senior girls' bathroom. My classmate had suffered a devastatingly unexpected loss: at least my grandfather had eighty years to his credit.
There were hostile whispers: "Why's she so upset? What's she got to cry about? Was she up to something with him?" Finally, unable to bear the suspicion, I apologetically confessed to my own less shocking bereavement, we fell on each other's necks, and it was OK. Suspicion about the guys rooting around was as much part of the town fabric as the booze, and blaming the girl was the standard response.
However the point of this story, despite my dilatory digressions, is those Nice Guys in my high school year, and how they chose to interact with part of the town's recent history. Painting the picture of the town - boozy, tight-knit, and matey - is essential to understanding both what they did and why I never realized the power of it until recently.
Town History: EveryoneKnew that certain girls had DoneTheDirty while drunk. There were whispers of a gangbang involving a girl from my class from a few years before I blew into town. In retrospect I find it interesting that no names of the guys concerned were bandied about.
Maybe if I hadn't been going with LB I'd have heard more about who to watch out for. But having a LB was protection from other guys when you got drunk, even if your LB had gone down to Melbourne for the footy: you were out of bounds. Even for Roota: a pseudonym, but his real nickname was equivalent. Australians are notorious for bestowing ironic nicknames, but Roota's was considered well-earned, yet he rarely actually had a girl by his side.
We guessed that he just couldn't keep a girl interested after he'd charmed her into bed, although bed is here a misnomer. He was well-known for giving paralytic young girls a lift home, and was considered a gent for doing so. Many of those girls ended up having sex with Roota in his car, although hardly any chose to date him afterwards. There was occasional ribaldry about how he must be a dud roota, ha-ha.
Roota certainly wasn't the only guy to engage in the one-night stand. Both guys and girls in that town had drunken fumbles they later regretted, but only Roota had only one night stands. Constantly. After a while, he was looked on a little askance - why couldn't he get a steady girl? It started to be put down to his reputation. No-one wanted to be Roota's latest notch on his gear-stick.
Now here's where I treated my LB badly. I dropped him to concentrate on studies, not wanting to party every weekend, and feeling that it wouldn't be fair to LB to have a girlfriend that didn't want to go out. Not that I discussed it with him, I just informed him he'd be better off without me while I hit the books. He was hurt, particularly when I later went out on occasional dates with other guys. I was wrong then, to judge that his affection for me couldn't withstand my decision to go out less often.
It was also a wrong decision in that I was now fair game for Roota. This was when I started to notice the Nice Guy Patrol (NGP). Those sporty guys in my class with no girlfriends seemed to be always around in the background. They now had cars, a few of them attracted girlfriends after all, but generally the NGP hung around with us and made sure that if we started chatting with Roota or any of his lesser imitators they casually joined in the chat. Being tee-total, they were always the chauffeur of choice at the end of the night. They were brotherly safe.
I especially remember our Year 12 farewell party. Well, vaguely actually. I was so drunk that at one stage I fell asleep on the toilet and someone had to climb over the stall to unlock the door. I then went outside for some fresh air. Who materialised? Roota, exuding bonhomie and a solid shoulder to lean on, and he started walking me toward the car park. Halfway there, a few of the NGP arrived and cheerfully offered to help Roota help me walk it off. I spent about half an hour alone in the front seat of one of their cars sleeping it off (there was another girl sleeping alone in the back), and then I went back in to dance some more.
Why did they look after us like this? I think they had figured out what Roota was really doing, and wanted to stop him. I now believe that Roota was a predatory serial sexual assaulter, calculatedly targeting drunken young girls. This is, however, speculation in that I never heard anyone say that Roota raped them: that is why I'm not specifying the town or using his actual nickname. Nicknames hang on for generations sometimes in country towns.
Nonetheless, this is what I believe was going on, and it is for these actions I wish to thank the NGP. Without them, I am convinced that I would have been the latest in a long line of girls to come to and realize that Roota had stolen a fuck. And like a lot of the other girls who never dated Roota after he fucked them, I would have been devastated and blamed myself.
I wouldn't have blamed Roota: after all, I must have encouraged him somehow when I was drunk, right? Why else would he do that? But I wouldn't have wanted a guy who could "take advantage" like that as a boyfriend. Who would? So, another standard weekend for Roota, dateless but not fuckless, and a young woman who stopped going out for a while. But it was always the girl who got blamed for "not looking after herself"; nobody blamed Roota for having it off with a girl in that condition.
These days, a man having sex with a girl in a non-consenting alcoholic stupor is readily characterised as committing sexual assault. But back then nobody saw it that way and certainly didn't talk about it that way. The only sort of sexual assault was rape, and rape was force: overpowering a woman, not just getting a girl so drunk that overpowering was unnecessary. Rape was only committed by strangers (the well-known statistic today that 3/4 of rapists are known by the victim was unknown to us and would have been considered incredible).
If someone you knew had sex with you without using force, even if you didn't actually consent because of alcoholic incapacity, then nobody you knew would consider that rape. No bruises, no rape. Nobody in town called Roota a rapist, and I bet that he didn't then, nor does he now, consider any of those stolen fucks as rape.
But stealing fucks is rape. It was the same as the sleazebags today who slip Rohypnol into girls' drinks then walk them off, wait for them to pass out and rape their insensible bodies. Every girl before and since the days of Roofies who woke up to the sinking realisation that they'd been fucked by someone they trusted not to is right to consider themselves as having been raped.
Fuckthieves are rapists. And no, it wasn't your fault to trust a guy that you knew (that's what nice girls are supposed to do, isn't it? Otherwise you're a bitch). It's the fuckthief's fault for deciding that stealing sex from you because you passed out was an OK thing to do.
There was a code of silence in that town about what Roota was doing. People didn't want to think about his pattern of "taking advantage" because Roota was a nice guy that they'd grown up with. There were no overt warnings to any of us girls about Roota, although in some folk-unconscious way perhaps the choice of nickname was at least an oblique warning. The NGP took it a step further, ensuring that while they were around Roota was never left alone with a girl whose decision-making was clearly impaired.
This is one of the ways that men can take charge in preventing rape. Let other men know it is unacceptable. Don't stand by if a male companion targets a girl incapable of informed consent. Don't think it's not rape if it's not forced. Booze is no excuse. Report him if he brags about stealing a fuck later. This was harder then than it is now, when sexual assault legislation is clearer about what constitutes rape outside the scope of overpowering force.
The NGP used a grassroots masked shame/shunning technique because they lacked the nuts and bolts of how to openly combat Roota's sexual predation. After all, back then no prosecutor would take Roota to court. But today maybe they would (and how having to insert that maybe outrages me).
Now, some men might be asking: what's in it for us? Sure, altruism is right, I'd certainly want other guys to watch out for fuckthieves around my loved ones, and that's all very warm and fuzzy. But how can I convince other guys to stop fuckthieves without an obvious benefit?
Simple. Every time a fuckthief assaults a woman, that woman won't trust other men to be decent, safe guys, even though most of you are. Back then each girl kept her shame and betrayal to herself, but today we know better and warn our friends about creeps like that. And the creep's mates too. A dozen or more of that woman's friends will also have lessened trust that the guys they know are decent and safe.
Fuckthieves tend to be serial assaulters, so a single fuckthief can easily generate a hundred or more mistrustful women through word of mouth. So, if only one man in a 100 thinks it's OK to steal sex, he's screwing it up over and over again for the rest of you.
You want to have fun with vibrant, sexually confident and open women with no awkward trust issues? Stop the rapists, all rapists including fuckthieves. Don't keep quiet about it if you know a fuckthief. Blame the bloke, not the booze. Don't go vigilante and bash them, they'll just get sneakier. Report them for sexual assault, then stand up and tell the truth about them in court.
I'm not sure what has happened to any of the NGP now. I left town to go to uni, my dad was transferred again, and I haven't been back for over 20 years. I have no doubt that the erstwhile dateless NGP are now partnered, parenting and uncle-ing and being the best possible male role models a child could have.
I don't even remember the names of all of them, but I do know the heads of the NGP were Bryan, Nick and Chris. I never thanked them then, mostly because what they did for us was clandestine. A few of us joked about them protecting us from doing stuff we'd later regret, but Roota wasn't mentioned. It wasn't better then than it is today: we can be open now about sexual assault and how men can and do prevent it.
So, belatedly, thanks. Thank you, Bryan. Thank you, Nick. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, other members of the effort to monitor and contain Roota. To all the other men out there who've been parts of a NGP somewhere, thank you too. Thanks too to the bloggers and commenters at Pandagon and I Blame the Patriarchy, for inspiring me to write about fuckthieves and how to stop them.
To all the Rootas out there: more and more of your mates are realising you are a raping shit, blaming the victim doesn't work so well these days, and you won't get away with it forever. Stop it, now, or enjoy 15-20 years inside.
'We will never alter this one ineluctable fact about ourselves however. We stink. My god how we hate to be reminded of it and my god how much that reluctance to face it should tell us about its centrality to our existence. We shower, we smear and spray ourselves with product, we defecate into artfully designed porcelain which takes away the ordure invisibly and more or less odourlessly. When we die we are embalmed, burned or interred before we have time to pong. Take away the sewage systems, take away the running water, take away the morticians and within days our stink is beyond that which can be endured. Every cell of our body is composed of stuff so malodorous than one whiff of it will empty stomachs at fifty paces. It doesn't matter whether we are white, black, rich, poor, virtuous, vicious, healthy or addled. We all stink. "My offence is rank, it smells to heaven" as Claudius said for us all. It is our true original sin, the primal shame that haunts us.'Man I love the way he marshalls those words.
These people just don't expect something for nothing - and they've got nothing.
They make some very interesting points about wilderness sustainability, past conservation mistakes and evolving botanical understanding of local ecologies.
.....very humbling to think that out of the whole world, the species is only found naturally in a few colonies spread out over a couple of kilometres.
Viv - I misspelt Franschhoek before, too.
It's a member of the proteacae and thrives in poor, dry soil: I have it in a pot with an Australian Native potting mix and I water it sparingly.
It is not only an attractive plant, but also has a great story behind it. Earlier this century, the plant was considered extinct in the wild, mostly due to overpicking by humans: the delicate, papery, pink-white flower was prized in Victorian era bridal bouquets. And then there was a bushfire in the Franshoek mountains, and seeds that had been lying there for decades were germinated. Now the plant grows in the wild again.
My second favourite acquisition is Loropetalum chinense var rubrum[updated link]. It's just gorgeous.
My thoughts in no especially coherent order:
Much as I loathe and despise my current government, I do believe that any disaster that news crews can get to will have govt-coordinated relief choppers close behind, particularly any long-predicted disaster scenario which they've had nearly a week's warning about.
My city's evacuation plan will not be just bussing the poor to an understocked and understaffed emergency shelter still inside the danger zone.
If not getting food and water to those trapped by the flood was incompetence (the city had enough in the Superdome for 36 hours, should they really have expected they'd be waiting any longer?) , then not accepting aid from foreign disaster relief experts was insanity, and having navy pilots chastised for rescuing people and armed police turning people back from the obvious pedestrian escape route was indefensible inhumanity.
Yes, this disaster was unprecedented for the USA in terms of the size of the damage zone and the particular logistical horrors presented by the flooding of New Orleans. No wonder the administration at all levels were overwhelmed. But that's what international relief missions are all about: helping overwhelmed local resources cope with situations beyond their capacity.
There was no need for the US to go it alone on the relief effort: the Asian tsunami showed that the world working under UN coordination could do wonders. Was the Bush administration just too attached to control to swallow their pride and let the willing, ready and able world step up to the plate in Louisiana?
If that was why, thousands of people died for their pride.
But I watch some of my mates blogging about stuff that matters and stuff that entertains, and it seems worthwhile. So I'm giving it a go.
I'm sure it will take me some time to get used to the interface, so bear with me.