personal political

Name:
Location: Sydney, Australia

I have now moved this blog to Typepad: the new address is http://susoz.typepad.com/personal_political/

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

john kerry on vietnam

The country doesn’t know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.
John Kerry's 1971 testimony on Vietnam. And...
In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America.
Change South Vietnam to Iraq, skip forward 33 years...

one thousand coffins

One thing which is bound to occur before the Australian election - or, at least, before the US election in November - is the 1000th death of a US soldier in Iraq. The number is up to 975 now (though I wouldn't be surprised if the Republicans are using a lower figure - they have done so in the past). And the death rate has increased since the "handover" in June, though that has largely gone unmentioned in our mass media.
One of the protests during this week's Republican Convention in NYC is the one thousand coffins - in response to the prohibition against photographing the actual coffins of actual dead soldiers which regularly fly from Iraq to the USA.

lleyton hewitt

Meanwhile, I noted with interest that ABC-TV news last night mentioned in passing that Lleyton Hewitt, my least favourite tennis player, had skipped the Olympics in order to prepare himself to play in the US Open.

If his surname was Philipoussis, the media would have been falling over themselves to call him "un-Australian" for not playing for his country in the Olympics.

I think they should cut tennis out of the next Games altogether. [Come to think of it, why not call an end to the Games themselves?]

the election

Australia will have an election on October 9. That's almost six weeks away and anything could happen between now and then. I'm keeping an eye on it but saving my anxiety for the day itself. We now live in an interesting electorate (we moved last year, out of a very safe Labor electorate) - one which is nominally solidly conservative, but could turn up a surprise. I'll have to figure out what the most useful tactical vote would be (and whether I could bring myself to vote purely tactically).

I watched Kerry O'Brien interview >John Howard on 7.30 Report last night. I'd read various Oz political blogs yesterday with commentors raving about how Howard has lost it, is in imminent danger of a mental collapse. Wishful thinking, I'm afraid. Not that he was in great form against Kerry. In fact, halfway through, my gaze and mind wandered away from the set. Kerry was pretty aggressive and Howard was subdued. But he's a pugilist and certainly can't be written off.

Monday, August 30, 2004

this i'd like to see...

Helen Mirren as the Queen in a film that will explore the tense relationship between Buckingham Palace and Downing Street in the week following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

flat as a pancake

Nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens
. George W. Bush, April 13, 2004.
An essay on Bush as televisual 'simulacrum'.

Friday, August 27, 2004

man on the bench

I meant to record an incident that happened after school one day last week. A man was sitting on a bench out the front of the school - a man who I mentally classified as 'homeless alcoholic', by the look of him. He was in his 50s or thereabouts. I didn't take much notice of him, there are quite a few people like that in our locality. But as I walked past with Olle, he suddennly leaned forward and shouted, very clearly (not drunk at all), "How many Asians are in that school?"

We were walking quickly, so I was almost past him by the time I registered what he'd said. So I didn't reply and we immediately crossed the street as the pedestrian lights turned green. But when I got to the other side, I turned around. A black woman, who I'd earlier heard talking in French to someone else as we crossed on our way to the school (there are quite a few French-speakers in our area, I guess they are from Noumea, but could be any number of places I suppose - the French were widespread colonialists too), who had collected two little boys from the school, was now talking to the man on the bench. I guess he had spoken to her too. She had her finger raised, pointing it towards him, perhaps arguing with him. I hope she was.

The next day I rang the school principal. I had begun to worry that this guy might sit out the front of the school again and harass someone. Bad enough if he spoke to a non-anglo adult - what if he said something to kids who were on their own, kids from Asian backgrounds?

The principal knew who I was talking about, though she'd never heard him say anything like that before. She said she had moved him along in the past, for feeding pigeons right at the school gate. She appeared rather unconcerned about my story, which made me wonder if I was over-reacting, but when I explained my worry that he would say something to children, she said she would regularly check to see if he was sitting there and would move him along. She said the best thing was to confront him and that the kids from the school were able to speak up for themselves about racism(an optimistic outlook, I think). I suppose she is right. I don't like to see street people harassed by the police (or anyone else), but neither do I want anyone racially harassing children.

ps: in fact, yesterday as I walked home with Joe and Olle, another man who was very very drunk inserted himself into a conversation we were having about birthday dates. He was harmless, but the kids, especially Joe, were very frightened of him. I explained that he'd had "too much wine" and we crossed the road so that we wouldn't have to walk near him.

sunsets

Olle's kindergarten class composes a sentence every day. They write and spell it without any help, though the teacher often provides a trigger phrase, such as "Yesterday I..." or "I like to..."
The other day, he apparently had written virtually nothing when all the other kids were almost finished. When the teacher asked him about this, he said he could not concentrate and asked if he could sit alone. So he sat at another table on his own and proceeded to write: "In Vitnam [sic] there are kool drinks called sunsets".

Indeed, at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, we did drink Sunsets by the pool!

Now he tells me that he has an agreement with the teacher that he can sit on his own for composition, but only for composition. I sense a budding writer...


five

Five year olds are fascinating. They are little people who are big enough to go to school and to come on playdates at our house without their parents. But they haven't yet caught all of the inhibitions and social niceties of grown-ups. So Joe, the boy who came to play yesterday afternoon, told us that our toilet paper was "very rough". (It wasn't even the eco-stuff, but very cheap stuff from an emergency visit to a convenience store - that horrible term for a horrible recent feature of inner-city Sydney life.) But he also said, with delight, on entering Olle's bedroom, "I like your bedroom! I love your farm pictures!" Joe is obsessed with farms.

Olle's first words at 6.10am that morning had been "I can't wait till Joe comes over". He was highly excited on the walk home from school, skipping and leaping and running ahead. (Joe, who gets driven to school, kept asking when we would arrive and clearly felt that 10 minutes was a too-long walk.) Yet when I came out of the study to check what they were doing, I found Olle in the kitchen colouring in while Joe played with a farm set in the living room. "While your friends are visiting, it's a good idea to play with them" I told Olle. He immediately put his pencil down and ran to play. Half an hour later, I came out again and found him sitting on the sofa staring at a book while Joe played with the farmset. I can only guess that his excitement was so great he couldn't quite manage to play with Joe, who is a similarly gentle little boy, easy to get along with. I read them both a story, then announced it was time to walk Joe home. Olle started crying when I said he couldn't stay and play at Joe's house.
Even though they still engage in a certain amount of parallel play at this age ... it is conducted with unadulterated love.

manhatten convention

The US Republican Convention is on its way into Manhatten (trying to cover itself in the glory of post-9/11). New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has so far denied the anti-war movement the use of Central Park for a rally, but they do have a permit to assemble and march past Madison Square Garden, where the Convention is taking place.

This will be the biggest anti-war protest in the US this year and may be bigger than even the huge ones of 2003.

.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

electricity

I've been following Leo Hickman's Ethical Living series in The Guardian. (His baby is called Esme, which is the same name as the three-year-old daughter of a London friend of mine. It's a trendy name in London but I haven't spotted a baby Esme in Sydney ... yet). This week he undergoes an audit of electrical gadgets. The take-home message for me was not to leave the tv or cordless/mobile phone rechargers sitting on standby, adding to our electricity use.
We've already begun religiously turning off the electric kettle and a portable CD player in the kitchen, but not for ethical reasons - this winter, they've become havens for tiny cockroaches, enjoying the warmth. {I haven't shared a house with this tiny variety of cockroach for over 20 years, but I realise that once you've got them, the outlook for getting rid of them is bleak, unless you want to use agent orange. Forget all the jokes about their ability to survive nuclear bombs - last night I swept one off the bench into the dogs' water bowl. It swam to the side and climbed out.}

latham as well?

What's wrong with this?

MATT BROWN: Mark Latham made it clear to Radio 3AW's Neil Mitchell that the passage of time, however short, should be allowed to count for something in this truth telling competition.
NEIL MITCHELL: So if you never told a lie, George Bush is the most dangerous president in history?
MARK LATHAM: Well, look, you're talking about things that are said in the past …
NEIL MITCHELL: Oh well so are you when you take 27 lies from …
MARK LATHAM: Well if you go back, yeah, but if you go back to the context of that debate, we've been through that discussion before, Neil.
NEIL MITCHELL: Oh yeah, I'm just asking, if it wasn't a lie, then therefore it's true.
MARK LATHAM: Well if you go back to the context of that debate and the things that were said – emotional things and strong things were said in the context of Australia going to war – but certainly in government as prime minister I'd be looking for a diplomatic approach, a strong approach, with the United States in terms of keeping the alliance strong.

Surely Mark Latham could have found a way to point out that what he said about Bush was an opinion ... not a truth/lie proposition in the first place. Instead, he came across as sounding evasive, too much like the man whose job I hope he soon takes. Still, he's in a difficult corner on that particular subject. It wasn't helped by the way Matt Brown framed the excerpt. If we're going to have a public debate about credibility, truth and lying, journalists could at least get the terms straight.

incredible

BARTLETT: Is the credibility problem showing up in any of your party’s polling?
PRIME MINISTER: Certainly, our polling indicates that we are in a very strong position but I’m not going to go into the details of it. I don’t talk about the details of our internal polling whether we’re doing badly, well or middling – I just don’t talk about polling. I just deal with accusations and if somebody makes a false claim about you, do you ignore it?

I read an online news story based on this interview yesterday (which I can't link to as it's been replaced by newer stories). It was headlined something like "Howard says polling shows strong position". I was a bit perplexed, as my impression had been that Labor is in a leading position at the moment.

A few hours later, driving in my car, I heard the actual audio interview on ABC radio. What a different story. Of course you can't tell from the transcript above, but there is a panicky fraction of silence in between the question and Howard's first words in response. In that silence you can almost hear him trying frantically to shift a stuck gear stick. Then he finds his preferred gear - the non-answer.

miserable failure

At first glance it's mildly funny, but on second thoughts, how many people Google the phrase "miserable failure" on any given day? I'm sure there are better descriptors for Bush than that one. And I liked the WMD error page much better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

graphic

I've been following Julie's account of her IVF pregnancy. Today she has an amusing series of graphics which exemplify the infertile mindset.
I used to keep a running tally of the cost of achieving and maintaining pregnancy and then owning a baby in my brain, but it's long since disappeared under the pile of weekly bills.
If I could do web graphics, I'd try and create one that summarised the relationship between my enjoyment of our two dogs as measured against the vast sums we've spent on veterinary care over the years. This week's bill amounts to half our household income. It revealed that our 11 year old Lotta Continua has bad arthritis in her front elbow, moderate arthritis in most other knee joints and a bowed bone in one back leg which should be re-x-rayed again in a month or two in case it's bone cancer (it isn't so far). I may have halved one of the credit card bills by then, in time to add to it again. Fortunately, we really like our vet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

safe

Meanwhile, Robert Hill assures us that the world is a safer place since the war on Iraq.
"It's always been our view that an Iraq that is democratic ... that is not being led by a person that is responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 of his own people would be a contributor towards a safer world not a less safe world," Senator Hill said in Sydney."
Since when did Iraq become a democratic country? There have been no elections. A foreign army is bombarding one of their holiest cities (do Najaf residents feel safer?) Their non-elected leader holds a British passport.
Hill again: "... Obviously if you engage in a conflict there are risks associated with that conflict but in the longer term it's always been our view that this would contribute to a safer world and safer Australia." Excuse #157 for going to war.
[And he speaks as though the war in Iraq is a finished story. Far from it, unfortunately. The resultant havoc and destablisation of the middle east will play out for years to come...]

wounds

"At the weekend, Bob Dole, a former senator and Republican presidential candidate, suggested Mr Kerry had escaped the war by securing three Purple Heart medals for "superficial wounds"."
His wounds weren't deep enough to qualify him for the American presidency?
And who exactly "escaped the war"?
American political culture is an increasingly bizarre and sick spectacle.

fall from grace

I fell off my bike this morning. How ridiculous. I was riding up a steep bit of hill with a queue of traffic beside me. Near the top I decided to stop and get onto the footpath. I lifted the front wheel onto the footpath and somehow got myself tangled in the bike and fell over, landing heavily on my right knee/shin. My pannier bags fell off. The nice woman driver directly behind me stopped to check if I was okay. I waved cheerfully, picked up the bike, put the bags back on, walked to the top of the hill, got on again and continued riding to work. Fortunately I was wearing jeans, so no hole and some protection for my knee, which is only mildly skinned. However, it is throbbing and I walk with a limp. How pathetic!

canine troubles

It's doggy anniversary time for us - it's 10 years since we gave a home to our top dog, the Lotster, which makes her approximately 11 years old. Next week it will be one year since we took on the younger dog, aka Dirty Harry, aka DBC (dirty but clean). He's only just settling down, at about four years of age.
Last week he had tummy troubles, which meant I spent some of every day cleaning up dog-diarrhoea and occasionally vomit - thank goodness we don't have carpet downstairs in our house. (Deep sigh.)
The Lotster, who is turning grey, even unto her eyelashes, has been slowing down at an alarming rate. She was a speed freak until DBC arrived. Maybe at that point she felt it was okay to relax. On Saturday I walked home with her in the midday sun (another hot winter's day in Sydney) and she almost stopped walking when the house came in view.
Last night we were desultorily watching the re-run of Pride and Prejudice (whatever happened to Jennifer Ehle?) when a yelping sound came from upstairs. We rushed up. She was on the bed near the soundly sleeping child - she appeared to have a painful shoulder. This morning she was very stiff, holding her paw in the air, often sitting staring into space, which we interpreted as being in pain.
The initial veterinary diagnosis is arthritis in her shoulder, which is somewhat of a relief, but somewhat of a worry too - it seems to confirm that she is now officially an old dog, and things can only get worse from here. It's so difficult to comprehend that dogs go from the prime of life to old age in just a few short years, the time it's taken Olle to go from baby to child.
The Lotster has been and still is a remarkable dog, but I won't start writing her memorial yet.

Monday, August 23, 2004

lizard

Maybe I'm in danger of becoming a Jain in my old age. On Saturday I discovered a skink motionless on the kitchen floor, clearly brought in as a trophy by one of my cats. (I know, I know that cats are unecologically sound...) There was no apparent injury and when Olle and I examined it, the tail moved very slowly. It was alive. I scooped it up on a sheet of paper and put it out on the brick edge of a flower-bed. Olle covered it with leaves so that the cat, who sat nearby looking pleased with itself, wouldn't notice it.
Twenty minutes later I went out to check on it and saw to my dismay that a crowd of ants were swarming round it's head. I touched it very gently and it jumped a foot away. Some of the ants came with it. I touched it again and it ran forward another foot. I could see it poking its tongue out and sucking its sides in and out as it breathed. I was puzzled - did it have an injury underneath that we couldn't see. Otherwise why had the ants gathered around it.
The thought of it being killed by ants was unbearable to me. I went in search of the co-parent, to see if we should put it out of its misery (didn't feel able to do that on my own.) When she came to look, it seemed almost lively, though in a strange kind of way. Something was wrong with it, but what exactly we couldn't tell. Maybe it was just stunned by having been carried in a cat's mouth. Anyway, scooped it up and took it out to our front garden. We figured that at least the cats couldn't get it there, though of course, the ants would, if they could.
I actually thought about it in the middle of the night. The next day there was no sign of it. I hope it survived.

re-reading

At a party on the weekend I talked to another mother of a kindergartener (from a different public school) about this learning-to-read thing. Suzanne said they had recently taken a month off reading the readers every night after school, as her daughter had stopped wanting to do it. After a month, the girl showed renewed interest so they've taken it up again. I'm tempted to do this too. There is part of me which worries about "falling behind", though I know it's ridiculous to even entertain that concept in relation to a five year old. It's not so much that I fear him falling behind in the actual skill, but that I have a slight concern about placing him outside the norm for the class. The norm is that everyone reads a reader a night and often reads that book to a volunteer parent in the classroom the next day. Once a week the teacher has each pupil read to her and she assesses whether they're ready to move to the next level (very scientology, isn't it!) or not.
Ever since they began doing the readers, in week five of the year, Olle has been unenthusiastic. He regularly complains or offers excuses for not wanting to do what he clearly regards as a chore. He is not keen on it. Meanwhile, he is often to be seen sitting with his nose in a book - Where's Wally, Tintin, puzzle books etc. He doesn't read the words, but loves staring at pictures and obviously does have a way of 'reading' comic-books like Tintin. (I'm halfway through reading "Blue Lotus" in the Tintin series to him - some of them I find a complete drag, but this one I'm enjoying, maybe because it's set in China of the 30s and I can point out many things which are similar to Vietnam.) I know that he loves books and that's the main thing.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned here that he also has spelling homework to do each night. (Kindergarten!) He loves his spelling homework, so we would continue with that if we stopped the readers. I think I will discuss this with his teacher.

On the way to school this morning, he said, "What do think about t-h-i-s?" He talks in spelling like this every day now. I can list numerous words and he'll spell them aloud correctly, but asked to read the same words on a page, he often goes blank. It's a disconnect which I find puzzling and intrigiung (and I don't think he's dyslexic). The developing brain works in mysterious ways.

Friday, August 20, 2004

yellow submarine

I found it in a bookshop today - the hardcover version of Yellow Submarine, a story based on The Beatles song.

the american empire

An exchange of letters between Americans Jonathan Schell and Tom Engelhardt. Tom's especially is compelling.

reading 101

Chatting to another kindergarten mother this morning, I casually asked how her daughter was doing with reading. I'd spent breakfast time trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice as Olle stared at his reader, more specifically, stared at the word "a" for a minute, then ventured a guess that it was "and". So I was not-so-surreptitiously pleased to hear that they were experiencing exactly the same level of slow progress with this whole reading business. This mother (a very laidback hippy-type) even easily admitted to shouting at her daughter when she made simple mistakes. So far I've managed not to shout, but I haven't always succeeded in avoiding sarcasm and a curt tone of voice and I have regular panics that my child is, after all, not very bright. Then common sense kicks in [and if it doesn't kick in, I go in painful search of it...]

I know my child has above-average language skills and a deep love of books and reading. So why is he apparently struggling with learning to read? Despite my enthusiasm for public schools , I do have some doubts about their learning-to-read method. It's hard to remember back forty years ago to when I did kindergarten, but I don't think we were expected to read at the same level as today's kids, only six months into our schooling. Despite the advice to parents to "foster confidence" and "praise success", the system in itself seems to set some kids up for ... if not exactly failure, then a sense that they are not sailing smoothly.

A handful of children in Olle's class - say, six kids out of a class of 26 - have sped ahead with reading. They are calm and confident in their approach and obviously enjoy all the positive feedback they get. (The whole class now knows who are the best readers, so they're ensconced in a positive feedback loop.)

Most of the rest of the class are hesitant and faltering, with occasional outbreaks of fluency.

Even though we pulled him out of the Montessori system, I still think they have some good approaches. Eg, they see writing as preceding reading, as it is a concrete skill, and the concrete precedes the abstract in childhood development. Olle was not interested in writing and drawing at all until he started school this year - then he became an enthusiast. He loves spelling and can easily spell words that he struggles to read. It doesn't entirely make sense, but I am left to think that if he is giving his cognitive, developmental attention to writing and spelling - the actual construction of words - then he doesn't have much space left for learning to read. Left to his own devices, he would probably have learnt to read quickly and easily next year at age six. But he's in a system which, while not exactly a 'one size-fits-all system as it used to be, can't entirely leave all children to develop at their own pace.

It's not at all disastrous for him to have to accomodate himself to this system. [You wouldn't know it from this entry, but he can in fact basically read.] But it does require a constant process of mental accomodation for me - a constant revision of my expectations.

visionary

Donald Rumsfeld calls the US's alleged missile defence system a "triumph of hope and vision". Hope? What exactly are they hoping for ... a full scale nuclear war?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

cheney warmongering

"If the Bush/Cheney team gets back in, there will be further wars and massive disturbances to world peace and security, starting with Iran. Maybe the whole doctrine of pre-emptive war is a form of inferiority complex, impelling Cheney to be a strident war-monger to try to vindicate his uninvolved youth. If he was a coward, he may be endangering us all (and especially our teenagers) in a desperate ploy to regain his own manhood," says Juan Cole, in a discussion of Cheney past and present.
[We can see the temperature around Iran already beginning to rise... Sigh]

come again another day

It's official - Tuesday was the rainiest day in Sydney in over two years. Actually, Wednesday felt more constantly wet to me. The umbrellas were out all day long. Little kids really did wear their gumboots/wellingtons and jump in puddles. Displaying the true psyche of a Sydneysider, Olle told me as we walked to school on the first day of it, "I don't like the rain". Everywhere adults could also be heard complaining about it, then adding, "but I suppose I shouldn't complain, we need it..."

Of course, it didn't fall over the catchment dam, par for the course. But at least our local parks have the chance to turn green, which will make a (probably brief) change from withered-up yellow grass barely managing to cover loose grey sand, which is what currently passes for lawn in these parts.

Perth's disastrous drop in rainfall over the past 25 years is possibly connected to the deforestation of the south-west corner of that state. Scary. But the same scientist doesn't think land clearing is to blame for the current drought here in the east. I'm just an amateur meteorologist, but I strongly suspect environmental damage has something to do with it.

Anyway, it's back to the usual today. I rode my bike to work and it felt like hard work, after only three days catching the bus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

bushisms

Take these three quizzes to see if you've been paying attention to the utterances of Dubya: one, two, three.

unbelievable!

Liz Jackson's 4 Corners interview with John Howard in February 2002. Is this man the master of not answering questions, or what?!

food notes

I made spinach and fetta cheese triangles for dinner last night. It's the first time I've made something with fillo pastry, which is remarkable, as I've eaten a lot of fillo pastry in my time. And I've stood chatting to many other people as they created with fillo. But it always looked so messy and hard to manipulate, that I've avoided it.
I used too many leaves of fillo for the first triangle - we broke them off the finished product and fed them to the dog. They were a hard dry crust. For the rest I used only two or three fillo sheets and the results were delicious. It was semi-messy and hard to manipulate, but I took a completely blase, un-neat approach and they came out looking fine (some more rectangular than triangular, but it's the taste that counts.)
Tomorrow night (tonight we're eating out for a friend's birthday) I intend to make Lucinda's ratatouille.
Since noting that Olle wolfed down the roasted sweet potato that his (non-religious)godfather cooked for us last weekend, I've been roasting that at home, with similarly pleasing results. And last night on Foreign Correspondent, in an item about longevity on Okinawa, the nutritional components of sweet potato were listed as part of the explanation for the health of the old people there. So I'm doubly pleased.

badge

At the Chilout meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago, I bought a badge which says Kids don't belong in detention centres and put it on my overcoat lapel. People frequently ask me about it or make approving remarks about it - well, these two types of comment run into each other. By people, I mean shop assistants, other parents at school drop-off and pick-up, neighbours... I keep being surprised by this, firstly because I keep forgetting I'm wearing the badge, secondly, this has never happened to me before. When I was in my early 20s - which was in the late 70s - badges were all the rage. I wore badges on my clothing and pinned them to my shoulder bags - and I don't think anyone ever commented on them. I guess at that time, I so clearly looked like a rebellious young thing and all the other rebellious young things were wearing badges too, probably exactly the same badges (women's liberation clenched fists, peace symbols, slogans...) The shop assistants and neighbours of those days were more likely to view me with suspicion than interest.
I still have a few of those old badges. And some even older ones. Olle took out my Confirmation badge on the weekend and asked if he could have it. I said he could borrow it.
When I came into work this morning, a colleague (father of three under-5s) asked me what my badge said. "Kids don't belong in detention centres". "Take the last word off and that would have been the badge for me" he replied, quick as a flash. A novel way of not addressing the subject!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

schools

Today I helped out at the orientation for parents of kids who might start at our school next year.

Three years ago I would never have imagined myself in that position, encouraging people to send their kids to a public school.

We started our son out in the Montessori system - a private school, yes, but a radical alternative to the mainstream education system, which was the pulling point for me. I attended Catholic schools right through, so had no allegiance to and very little knowledge of the public system, but as an ex-Catholic, I have no allegience to that system either. In fact, when my child was only two, I felt anti the education system in general. I associated it with tedium, competitiveness, ranking, uniformity... I wanted something different for my own brilliant little person.

So I researched Steiner and Montessori, the main two viable alternatives. Steiner felt a bit too wafty/flowery (and some schools have a Christian streak), though I enjoyed attending a Steiner playgroup with my toddler. Montessori from the outside seemed obsessed with order and somewhat soulless. But we got him into a Montessori school and envisaged him staying there for the next 12 years, learning "at his own pace".

We made it through one year and pulled him out. Long story short, it just was not the right place for our highly imaginative daydreamer. And being a parent at a private, even if alternative, school made me uneasy. (And it cost a lot of money!)

We were then really really lucky (Sydney parents who have joined the astoundingly long waiting lists for preschool or childcare places will realise how lucky we were) to get him into a leading local daycare centre/preschool with only one month's notice, which served as an excellent transitional year for him (and for us to get our heads around finding ourselves in the mainstream system).

From there, the local public school seemed the logical next step. He's very happy there. Everything we thought we'd find (but didn't) in a Montessori school - a personalised approach, a group of like-minded parents, fairness, community spirit, truly letting him learn at his own pace, diversity, respect for difference, high standards of intellectual inquiry - we in fact find in our public school.

Monday, August 16, 2004

hitting the fan...

Why did Mike Scrafton wait three years to say that he had told John Howard there was no evidence that children were thrown overboard? For various reasons, including this one: "But I suppose the trigger was the disrespect with which the 43 signatories of the open letter were treated and how the issue was moved away from truth in government onto them personally I think triggered me to correct the record."

I'm beginning to get the feeling that there are a huge number of angry public servants and defence personnel who may start blowing their own whistles on this government.

east asia

Immanuel Wallerstein is a theoretician of globalism. This short essay on the emergence of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan) as a challenge to global US hegemony is quite fascinating (and it is only short, for those who find this kind of thing too dry.) And pertinent, as our own increasingly ridiculous foreign minister swans off to that region to parrot the American position, after one-upping Bush's Iraqi drones assertions with a claim that North Korean missiles could reach Sydney.

Friday, August 13, 2004

sweetness

One unexpected aspect of parenthood for me is that my child says the sweetest things on a daily basis. Oh, sure, I'd come across pages in women's magazines devoted to cute quotes from kids and smiled, but this didn't prepare me for having my own funny child in situ. The re-advent of the Olympics reminds me of the last Games, when he was just beginning to talk and kept us in a constant state of amusement. I loved that age! The bon mots aren't quite as frequent these days, but frequent enough.

The other day he was stroking one of our dogs and discussing her fur, the fact that she "shreds" it every day.

Yesterday as we walked home from the local park via a laneway, I pointed out the vivid sunset to him. "I wish I was a pink sunset" he said, "then everyone would love me".

[Was he feeling a little unloved? On the way to the park, he'd told me that a gang of his friends had made him cry at school that day by piling on top of him because "they said I was not a good enough dragon". And our young dog also made him cry by jumping up and scratching his leg so that "his claws got close to my blood!" Today we've stayed home toogether, because in fact he has a cough/cold and was in too fragile a state to be sent to school.]

our man in guantanamo bay

Actually, there is a second Australian in Guantanamo Bay, who is getting an even worse deal than David Hicks.

However, this is the Hicks story...

"Award winning filmmakers Curtis Levy and Bentley Dean’s inspired, controversial documentary

The President Vs David Hicks
Season commences in Sydney: Thursday August 12, 2004, at the Valhalla Cinema, 166 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe Ph 9660 8050. One of the directors, Curtis Levy or Bentley Dean will be present at every Sydney screening for a discussion after the film.

Melbourne: The Lumiere, 108 Lonsdale St, Melbourne. Ph 03 9639 1055

Brisbane: The Schonel Twin, Union Building, Queensland University. Ph 07 3377 2200

The film follows the journey of Terry Hicks, father of 28-year old Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, as he traces his son’s footsteps in an attempt to understand what happened to him.

Having never before left Australia, Terry travels to Pakistan, then deep into Taliban country in Afghanistan to meet a former detainee who was in a cell next to David at Guantanamo Bay. Later he comes face to face with the man who captured his son.

Sydney Season: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm, from the 12th of August to the 5th of September. One of the directors, Curtis Levy or Bentley Dean will be present at every Sydney screening for a discussion after the film.
For any inquiries about the film please contact Teri Calder: teri@gilscrinefilms.com.au or 0425 230 679.
 
More information on the campaigns to support David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib and other political prisoners.
 



Thursday, August 12, 2004

a working mother's notes on cycling

My bicycle was hand-made for me in 1980. It's a touring bike, which means the handlebars curve down and it has about 12 gears (I don't even know exactly how many it has). It's metallic blue, very scratched and rusty looking. Every time I take it to the bike shop for a service, they subtly try to talk me into buying a new bike. But it rides perfectly, so why should I replace it? There's a Refuse Cruise sticker with a peace symbol on one bar, a legacy of my Greenham days.

I love my bike.

In a decade of living in London, I rode most days - a return trip of 100 minutes was usual. London is mostly flat and there is space beside parked cars for bicycles to travel in. It's a relatively good city to ride in, except for the pollution.

Sydney is hilly, the traffic moves very quickly and there usually isn't much space between the parked cars and the moving cars. So in the past decade, I've done very little riding.

My last foray was in 2002, when Oli attended a preschool that was 10 minutes away from home. When you have a child in your bike-seat, it's legal to ride on the footpath - so I did. I enjoyed that year of rides with him.

Now he's outgrown the bike seat. I recently gave it to friends with a two year old. (The riding mother is English, which seems not coincidental. None of my solely-Australian friends ride.)

My workplace relocated into the city and once again I took my old bike, covered in cobwebs, to the bikeshop for a service. I'm sure they think I'm peculiar. I bought the latest blinking lights, one for the front, one for the back, one to clip on to the back of my helmet. I bought a yellow stripe safety vest and two yellow ankle-binders. I bought a new helmet (my old helmet was shaped like a WW2 Nazi helmet and was 16 years old. The man in the shop clearly thought it was a museum piece.)

Safety first.

The immediate response of people to the news that I now ride to work is: "You're brave".

Olle must have overheard adults saying this to me, as a few days ago he got upset when I set off for work one morning - he came and hugged my legs and said "Be careful".

I intend to be very careful. I was once knocked off my bike in London (by a newspaper van). I was the only moving vehicle in a quiet street and he drove out of a side street straight into me. He just didn't register my existence. My left shoulder will be stiff for the rest of my life.

As I'm risking life and limb, why do I ride?

* to get exercise in the regular course of my day.
* to save money (weekly bus fares would add up to at least $22, sometimes more).
* to save time (riding cuts 10 minutes off the journey to work)
* it's more interesting than sitting on a bus and feels like an achievement rather than a waste of time.
* it's exhilerating.

Drawbacks to riding:
* I only own one pair of sensible shoes which are suitable for riding. That means I never get to wear my nice new Birkenstock lace-up boots to work. In summer I will have to bring slip-on shoes and sandals in my pannier bags and change into them when I arrive.
* I can't ever wear dresses/skirts to work.
* I seem to have developed a permanent sniffly nose and throaty cough, due to inhaling larger volumes of car exhaust.

Things to keep in mind while riding:
* it's dangerous to turn right at the bottom of a hill, as you can't do a hand signal and keep your hand on the brakes at the same time.
* it's necessary to constantly watch for faces in the rear-view mirrors of parked cars, in case a vehicle inhabitant suddenly decides to open their door as you ride past.
* it is necessary while travelling fast downhill to watch the road surface carefully as a small bump or pothole could throw you off your bike.

Random riding thoughts and experiences:
* I don't care if I look like a totally unfit middle-aged woman as I walk my bike up a busy section of road. I would rather be safe than demonstrate my bike-riding prowess.
* What I would like to yell at taxi drivers who honk at me: "I am not going to get killed just so that you can get round that corner five seconds faster!"
* or "I'm the mother of a young child, do you want to kill me, you idiot!"
* there is nothing more wonderful than a light turning green just as you start going up a steep incline.
* there is nothing more irritating than cars which cut in front of you at an intersection on a hill-climb, meaning I have to stop and get off my bike and walk for the next uphill section (as hill starts are not my forte)
* I hate 4WDs
* there are many many more 4WDs now than when I last rode regularly
* I hate people who pull over to the side of the road to talk on their mobile phones thus blocking my route uphill
* I hate 4WDs with one occupant, who is talking on a mobile phone.
* Sydney (or my patch of it) is quite hilly, if you hadn't realised by now

Time to ride off to collect my boy from school...

najaf

Tom's dispatch provides an analysis of current fighting in Iraq. This sort of news is now relegated to page 10 in Australian newspapers most days (if it even appears at all), way behind the kerfuffle about the ex Tasmania governor and Jana Pittman's knee. And Downer and Howard keep on reiterating what a good thing we've done by joining the 'coalition of the willing'. It makes me sick to think they might get away with this, get re-elected because most people don't have a clue what's really happening in Iraq.

the howard/bush dynasty

One of John Howard's sons is working for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in the USA. I am appalled by the implications of this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

goodbye world as we know it

When Olle is my age, will flying on an aeroplane, visiting other countries, being driven around in a car seat, be just distant memories for him? Quite probably. Air traffic is one of the great polluters of our time, a big contributor to global warming. And of course the oil supplies are running out fast. They may already have peaked, they will certainly have begun diminishing by the time he's in his mid-20s. Flying will revert to a luxury pastime.

When I point out willy wagtails to him, white cockatoos, black cockatoos, little finches in our hedge, I wonder if these beautiful birds will still be an everyday sight in Sydney, when he's an adult. Or, like the blue-tongue lizards and bandicoots of my childhood, will they be a remote memory, all gone from this city, or nearly.

George Monbiot says we are indeed living (those of us in the rich nations) in the best time of history. It's all downhill from here. It makes me deeply sad to contemplate the ruin which awaits my son and all his generation.

template

Somehow Blogger lost all my links and had relgated my profile (such as it is) to the very bottom of the page where no one could see it. I changed templates, but the links are still lost. I don't have the time to sort this out, so this will be a very streamlined, no-frills blog for the forseeable future.

sea.nce

From some friends of mine currently in Paris:

You are invited to Séa.nce, a networked performance that is part of ISEA2004.

Séa.nce is a 'pataphysical experiment to demonstrate the relays of perpetual emotion on the internet. It is part of a larger project, The Perpetual Emotion Project, which researches emotion in digital culture.

In the 19th century Etienne-Jules Marey, Henri Bergson, Arsène d'Arsonoval and Marie Curie met to investigate "the manifestations of yet undefined forces" through scientific investigations using Marey's graphing instruments. These investigations attempted to measure radioactivity and electric discharge of hysterics; to study telepathy and levitation; and to hold Seances.

Séa.nce, following these earlier experiments, is based on this popular parlour game from the 19th century. The original Ouija Board was also known as the Talking Board or the Message Board where one would search for answers from the spirit world. The modern equivalent of this 'searching for answers' could be imagined as Google or any search engine for that matter. Are there 'unknown forces' still at play? What happens when answers depend on a network of movement?

Times:
August 15, midnight – 1:00am GMT+2
August 16, 22:00 -23:00pm GMT+2
GMT+2 is Helsinki time

Please bring your own data. For those on board the ISEA ferry please bring your own Laptop.
Séa.nce will be particularly helpful for those of you who are feeling at sea with your networked emotions.

Bring all that pentup listAngst, emailObsessiveness and spamRage.
The Board is here to help.

Séa.nce http://turbulence.org/studios/rumor/emotion/invitation.html
The Perpetual Emotion Project is at Turbulence.org

Séa.nce is a collaboration between Norie Neumark, Maria Miranda and Greg Turner.
This work was assisted by the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding and advisory body.

Monday, August 09, 2004

education

Olle's first words this morning were "Is today a holiday?" I told him no, it's a school and work day. "What would you do if it was a holiday?" "Read all my books and watch all my videos". (We've rented the video of the 1950s Richard Greene version of Robin Hood for the week - this was a TV show when I was a kid, but it's been colourised and made into a kind of movie. He likes to watch a chunk a day.)
I feel concerned when he's negative about school. If that's what it is. Maybe he just wanted time to do nothing. We had a very sociable weekend - a friend and her five year old son visited us on Saturday; we visited friends with a 14 year old son on Sunday - he and Oli spent hours playing with lego. So he got a lot of playtime, though not much on his own - and as an only child, he's used to and enjoys time on his own.
I'm certain he enjoys playing with his schoolmates and adores his teacher. I'm not so certain he enjoys all of the schoolwork.
Before he started school, I worried that he wouldn't respond well to "compulsory learning". He had always made it clear that he resented explicit instruction. I stopped reading him alphabet books as he would frown whenever I brought one out. I stopped doing jigsaw puzzles with him, as I was too bossy and directive and he would give up halfway through. Although he's a quiet, studious little boy by nature, capable of long periods of intense concentration, he seems to want to learn things his own way or wait until he can do something easily before doing it often.
I suspect it's going to be that way with reading. The kindergarten readers are very boring and I get the impression that he doesn't link 'learning to read' at school with any of the books he loves to have read to him at home. Reader homework is a chore that he tries to avoid. He'd rather sit at the kitchen table with his nose buried in a Tin Tin book than read "Here are the cats. Here are the dogs. Look at the fish" etc etc.
I'm trying very hard to follow his lead and not apply any pressure. I know he'll be a brilliant reader before too long and I don't want to spoil the process by making it "homework". (I'm almost certain we didn't do homework when I was in kindergarten way back in the early 60s. In fact we didn't do homework at all in primary school. Olle already has to read one reader a day and now has spelling homework too.)

rolls royce usa

Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald carried a feature interview with John Howard, which I avoided reading in its entirety. {I've moved from being a detailed follower of domestic and global politics to hardly being able to bear reading the headlines. I'll probably flip back again at some point soon.] On the front page they carried a summary article which was supposed to entice us in to read the whole thing. (It didn't work for me.)
In the summary, Howard was quoted as wanting Australia to move in a more "entrepreneurial" direction, like the USA, where, he claimed, if Americans see someone driving a Rolls Royce, they are inspired to new heights of entrepreneurial activity so that they too can have one.
I slept restlessly on Saturday night, half-composing in my half-sleep a letter to the editor about this nonsense.
I didn't write the letter, though some other readers did (you'll have to scroll down the page to find them).
None of them makes the primary point which occured to me straightaway, and which my best friend Sue, an American living in England, confirmed when I told her about this in a phone call last night: Howard has completely screwed up the cultural reference. An American wouldn't be envied for driving a Rolls Royce, but for having a gas-guzzling Hummer or a minivan or an SUV.
And such envy (which is what it is) wouldn't typically inspire an American to work harder in their job (what job?), but more typically would lead to robbery at gunpoint, possibly even murder.
Such is the society Howard wants us to emulate.

I'm perplexed by the extent to which Howard, seemingly an anglophile, is now so totally slavish in his devotion to the USA.

unexciting blog...

... ie. mine. [Blog crisis #101...]
I've been browsing through numerous other blogs, mostly done on Typepad, with pictures, in colour. They're all so good to look at, so focused. Brevity is the soul of wit, encapsulated. Unlike this one.
I have writer's block in another compartment of my life and the feelings of frustration are playing themselves out here - or being mirrored here. Everything seems too hard.

narnia

I'm reading Prince Caspian to Olle. It's the second book in the Narnia series by CS Lewis. I read him the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, last December, in preparation for going to see the stage musical version (which was unexpectedly fabulous).
That was one of our first "chapter books", read around the end of last year, when he'd just turned five - the others were from the Finnish Moomin series (which we have on tape, read wonderfully by Hugh Laurie - who does most things wonderfully).
I had mixed feelings about reading non-picture stories to him. Unlike just about everyone else, it seems, we haven't read him Harry Potter (nor has he seen it any of the movies). I haven't read any HP myself, but that's not why I haven't read it to him. It's just that I have such intensely pleasurable memories of reading the Narnia books - and many similar - for myself that I've wanted to leave that pleasure for him to discover when he's eight or nine or ten. If he's had everything read aloud to him or seen the video version, will there be anything left for him to do as a pristine "first"?
We get about eight books out of the library each week. They are all 'picture books', though some of them are way beyond preschool level, quite dense with text and aimed at older children. But I admit lately I'd begun to feel the need to read something a little more sustained. Olle had taken Prince Caspian out of the bookshelf and stared hard (many times over the course of a week) at one of the simple line illustrations of a battle. (He's a boy who loves a good battle scene...) So it seemed a good idea to read that one.

I haven't read them since I was in primary school and feel almost euphoric rediscovering them.

Friday, August 06, 2004

horse and carriage

As I've said before, I'm abivalent about marriage, gay or straight, or should that be straight and gay.
Nevertheless, I pass on the following and hope readers will duly cut and paste their objections...

From: Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby [mailto:glrl@glrl.org.au]

Dear Members and Supporters,

It’s Time to Play the Numbers Game - Respond Now to Labor’s Betrayal

The Howard Government plans to re-introduce its same-sex marriage ban. This ban will define marriage as between a man and a woman and ban the recognition of valid foreign same sex unions.

The ALP agreed to await the outcome of a Senate inquiry before voting on Howard’s marriage ban. But in a spineless move to pander to the fundamentalist Christian Right, the Labor Party has disgracefully betrayed our community. This week, at a forum organized by extremist, homophobic Christian fundamentalists, Nicola Roxon, the Shadow Attorney General, announced that Labor will ignore its commitment and will vote for the ban next week.

The Labor Party has decided that there are more votes in homophobia than in equality. This legislation is spiteful and discriminatory. Our community must let the Labor Party know loud and clear that we will not stand by quietly as they join John Howard in beating the drum of homophobia.

It has been alleged that this backflip by the Labor Party was in response to 12,000 submissions by the fundamentalist Christian Right in support of Howard’s marriage ban.

It is a dark day for equality. We must act now. By next Friday the 13th, we want Mark Latham, Leader of the Labor Party, and Nicola Roxon to receive 13,000 e-mails expressing our outrage at their betrayal.

This has become a numbers game. It’s our turn to show our strength in numbers.

Below is an e-mail for you to send. Help us reach 13,000 by Friday the 13th.

Yours in the fight for equality,

Somali Cerise & Rob McGrory
Convenors

Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby
Room 6,Level 1,94 Oxford St
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
PO Box 9, Darlinghurst NSW 1300
Phone: (02) 9360 6650
Fax: (02) 9331 7963
Internet: www.glrl.org.au

===================================================================

Mr Mark Latham MP
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Fax: (02) 6277 8495
E-mail: M.Latham.MP@aph.gov.au

Ms Nicola Roxon MP
Shadow Attorney-General
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Fax: (02) 6277 8405
E-mail: Nicola.Roxon.MP@aph.gov.au


Dear Mr Latham and Ms Roxon,

I am writing to express my outrage and deep disappointment in the Labor Party’s decision to abandon its commitment our community.

When the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 (“Bill”) was first introduced, the Labor Party gave a commitment to our community to send the Bill to a Senate Committee to investigate fully the implications of the Bill. I strongly condemn Nicola Roxon’s announcement at a forum organised by those who hold extremist homophobic views, that the Labor Party plans to renege on its promise to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians.

I urge the Labor Party to stand true to its commitment and wait until the Senate Committee hands down its report before making any decision on the Bill.

This Bill will further entrench discrimination against same sex couples and deny same sex couples who have validly married overseas the right to have Australian courts recognise their marriage.

Howard’s marriage ban sends a strong symbolic message that same sex relationships are second class. By singling out a section of the population as inherently less worthy and taking steps to deprive us of lawful rights, federal Members of Parliament who vote for this Bill will stigmatise lesbians and gay men. Gay men and lesbians already face alarmingly high levels of violence and discrimination and this Bill gives comfort to those who perpetrate such violence.

By supporting this Bill, the Labor Party is promoting homophobia over equality. As a party that prides itself on fairness and equality I urge the Labor Party to oppose this discrimination, and defend this attack on gay men and lesbians.

I implore you to await the outcome of the Senate Committee inquiry and to vote against this Bill.

Yours sincerely,




taylor and khoo

A couple of months ago I bought a t-shirt on sale in one of those incense-type shops. It was plain white with black writing. The shop assistant told me it said "Hope" in sanskrit.
The next month on the plane to Melbourne, I read an article in the Virgin airlines magazine about Taylor and Khoo. I was very impressed and delighted to discover that the Hope t-shirt was one of theirs.
They're having a sale next week, if any readers of this blog happen to be in Sydney then with money to spend.
[Or you can buy online, where it tells me the word Hope is written in Cambodian - I'm not sure if that's the same thing as sanskrit...]

Thursday, August 05, 2004

iraqi civilian toll

Deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians from March 21 - July 31, 2003. (A count which the 'coalition of the willing' has not bothered with.)

vietnam continued, maybe...

I can tell that I'm running out of steam on my Vietnam travelogue (not that it's a travelogue per se). At least I got a bit further than with my written log, which got as far as halfway through the flight from Sydney to Saigon, written two days later, before I gave up. There was just too much to see and do and think about. Our newly-met friend Janice wisely had a little notebook in which she constantly jotted down notes for her online diary. And she had a laptop. And a digital camera. I was not equipped with any of these. (Call myself a blogger?! or even a proper traveller?! Oh, I gave up on trying to diarise or accurately record my own life after the second theft of a diary from my bag about a decade ago. I haven't kept any kind of appointments diary ever since. Even the calendar on our fridge remains mostly blank. I have boxes of letters and postcards and photos in the attic which are in hopeless disorder. I have old computers full of emails which I haven't yet printed out, in ditto condition in attic. I no longer know where to locate Oli's baby photos, the ones which aren't propped up in frames - or unframed - on shelves around the house. Maybe I'll deal with all this at some point in the future or maybe not. Maybe I'll just sit and think about it all.)

learn to rest

It is worth doing nothing, says Mr Curly, aka Michael Leunig. "Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our CONSCIENCE and must be heeded or else we will not survive."
(It could also have something to do with what passes for cold weather in Sydney - or eating too much Just William's chocolate yesterday.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

get smart

The 13 year old son of friends of ours has a new watch which has a memory chip in it. It functions like a floppy disk. Apparently this is how students now transfer information, say from the library to home.
He and his twin brother already have phones which include a digital camera. That's becoming old hat, even though it's only several months since I first saw one of those.
Merlin Luck read his Chilout speech straight from his laptop the other night. I think that may have been the first time I've seen someone do that (although I have seen many Power Point presentations.)
I work for a new media company, but even I find it hard to keep up (and mostly I don't even bother).

Monday, August 02, 2004

the war

Vietnam is of course synonymous with war. I was 18 when the war ended. The war shadowed most of my later childhood and high school years: the nightly news reports, inexorably rising death count, Song My, My Lai, Khey San, conscription, the Moratorium, draft resisters, Normie Rowe, conscientious objectors, demilitarised zone, napalm, agent orange, Nixon, anti-war protesters, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

Reading the Lonely Planet guide (see entry 30/7), I noticed immediately that they referred to it as the American war (preceded by the French war). This struck me as very amusing in a the-joke's-on-us kind of way. Language has a sharp way of revealing the perspective of the speaker. After all, why would the Vietnamese refer to it as the Vietnam War?

We went for a daytrip to some villages and pagodas around Hanoi with a guide, Ms Heiu, who was about 40, very smart, with excellent English. She told us that she'd been evacuated to the countryside as a child, to escape the bombing. Her parents came and visited her by bicycle on the weekends.

I decided to share my little ironic discovery and told her I was amused to discover that what we called the Vietnam war was called the American war by the Vietnamese.

She frowned. "No, we call it the anti-American war."

milk

While I was in Vietnam, I read Fresh Milk by Fiona Giles, a book about breastfeeding. (Not a how-to book.)

I remember receiving Giles' email questionnaire in 2000, when she was researching this book. It was so long and so detailed that I never got around to filling it in, though I did forward it to a number of other women. I wish now that I had completed it, as at the time I was going through the angst-ridden process of taking fertility drugs while still breastfeeding my toddler, after months trying to weigh up which was more valuable to me - the breastfeeding relationship with him or the possibility of having a second child. I decided, after a lot of web research and email discussion, to try to have both. I'm glad I did, as the second baby didn't eventuate, but the continuing breastfeeding relationship with him was priceless.

I read a feature article about Giles around the time that her book was published in early 2003. I remember thinking what an interesting woman she seemed to be. It shows in this book, which I highly recommend.

chilout - travel interlude

I have more to say about Vietnam ... meanwhile, the other night I went to a Chilout meeting, the speakers were Senator Aden Ridgeway, Merlin Luck and Julian Burnside QC. I wanted to see Merlin, having seen his post-eviction interview with Gretel Killeen a couple of days after the eviction show in which he did not speak. I was surprised then that Killeen, who I generally like, was so angry with him, accusing him of frightening children in the audience, of being aggressive in his silence, challenging him about the fact that he's not an Australian citizen. From the way she handled it on tv, you would have thought that his protest was immensely unpopular. But there were a number of young people in the Chilout audience who I guessed had come to see him - and he spoke very well.
Julian Burnside was even more impressive - I began crying within minutes as he told the story of a detained Iranian man whose seven year old daughter was sent back to Tehran without his knowledge. I could see many others wiping tears from their eyes. As he put it, with that one action, among many others, this government lost any moral right it had to govern.

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