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Hoyden About Town
Latest Posts from Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog
...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?