Footnote of the day

I don’t want to turn this into a political science blog but I wanted to share a footnote that has brightened up the 30cm stack of articles sitting on my desk.

Universal male suffrage ranks among political science’s best oxymorons, although it is rivaled by the name of Mexico’s longtime dominant party – the Revolutionary Institutional Party.



It’s a classy kind of thing

Rod Quantock has argued that the reason there never has been, nor ever will be, a political revolution in Australia is because the middle class is completely obsessed by their lawns. The maintenance of their lawns and the rituals of mowing the lawn keep them from coffee, Gauloise and revolutionary talk in dimly lit cafes.

The bloke argues that the lack of Parisian-style cobbled streets is a significant barrier to glorious revolution.

As a political scientist, I argue that a persistent commitment to the myth of egalitarianism and a classless society significantly hinder the development of the class consciousness that is a necessary component to revolution of that type. I provide the following comment as evidence. The fact that I heard it on campus nearly made me weep.

Young woman to friend: “I mean, it’s not like they’re well-off or anything, but they’re not bogans either.”

Of dressing up and dressing down

We’re a very casual household as far as dressing goes. I have a one or two corporate pieces in my wardrobe, relics of the time when a top with a collar seemed requisite for the Monday afternoon parliamentary meetings. The bloke’s not one for formality and as a musician, teacher, or lab tech it’s not really a job requirement. I rarely wear make up and find jeans or trousers the most comfortable garb to get around in.

So when I get dressed up it’s the cue for the rest of the family about the sartorial expectations of the event. A skirt or dress indicates something just a little fancy or grown up; a bit of make up with shirt and jeans indicates a more important kind of family gathering. A dress or skirt AND make up indicates to the bloke that he must wear suit and tie; for the kids, the only plausible explanation for this freakish display is that I am running away to join the circus.

This helps explain a couple of scenes from our recent domestic life.


Setting: Preparing for the soiree presented by the school’s instrumental program. The lad will perform a duet, on saxophone, with his friend Elizabeth. The lad’s mother is away in Perth. The dress code is ‘something nice’ rather than the usual band uniform.

The bloke: What do you think you’ll wear tonight?

The lad: Jeans and a t-shirt.

The bloke: Um, don’t you think it might be a good idea to wear a shirt or something? I’m sure Elizabeth will dress up a little bit.

The lad: Nah…she only wears jeans and shorts and stuff to school. She never wears dresses.

The bloke: Well, she might tonight because it’s a little bit important. She might want to get dressed up a bit because she doesn’t have to wear the uniform.

The lad: (furrowed brows) Why would she do that? Jeans and a t-shirt will be fine.

The bloke:  (sighs)

An hour later, at the soiree: the lad walks on stage, neat and casual in jeans and t-shirt. He is followed by Elizabeth, wearing a red, empire line dress with black boots.


A discussion of the lass’ Halloween costume which she will wear for her first ever trick or treat experience (for which we are in no way responsible). She has decided to be Hermione Granger and has pointed out the she has similar hair to Hermione. I have pointed out the she has a similar brain. The bloke has pointed out she has a similar personality. The bloke got kicked under the table.

The lass: I don’t think I’ll wear that thing she has. I think Harry and Ron wear it but not Hermione.

Me: The cloak?

The lass: No, not that (pauses and taps her upper chest). I’m not sure what it’s called but she doesn’t wear it.

Me: Oh, I think that they have pretty much the same school uniform.

The lass: (ignoring me, and still tapping her chest)…oh, it’s that thing that Dad wears around his neck sometimes for special occasions…

Me: Oh, a tie!

The lass: Is that what it’s called? I didn’t know the word for it.


What’s hot and what’s not (Perth edition)

Business travel has not figured largely in my professional life despite the occasional possibilities. Particularly the one that involved a personally designed itinerary to visit six of the top sites for public art in Europe. The trade off would have been to babysit a group of politicians but I was happy to sell my soul. The trip was canceled after 5 months preparation and 12 hours before final confirmation was required. Bastards.

Anyway, clearly over that disappointment, I’ve spent the past few days in Perth. It’s a very long way (2,760km), it’s closer to Johannesburg than it is to Sydney and there seems to be a mutual antipathy between it and everything in the ‘Eastern States’ ie. 90% of Australia’s population. So here’s my verdict.

So not hot, it’s bloody freezing:

  • coffee in Perth is shite. At its best it is weak and insipid, at its worst it is undrinkable (seriously: I chose to skip breakfast coffee, it was so bad). Inflight coffee is gourmet compared to Perth coffee.
  • Perth does not exist. They do not like maps. When forced to produce a map, they will not put everything on the same map. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a town map or a campus map. On the three different tourist maps of Perth I managed to procure, none of them identified the tourist information centre. Not even the one from the tourist information centre (which I only found because I decided to keep walking to see if there were any signs of life in the CBD).
  • trading hours would be better if they were medieval because at least you’d have 6-day a week trading. Restaurants close by 9pm, frequently 8pm. Retail shuts down on the dot of 5pm. Or 4.55pm, if they can. They only time Melbourne streets are as quiet as Perth’s is during the Grand Final or the Melbourne Cup.

Quite hot and even rather trendy:

  • tiger, tiger cafe. A complete exception to the rule about Perth coffee. It also serves the best iced coffee I’ve ever had. Plus it’s in a laneway. What more could a Melburnian beg ask for?
  • Fremantle. Although they do the thing with maps as well, it was the only place that managed ‘bustling’ and ‘alternative’. I even saw two women wearing skirts over trousers which is so Eastern States I’m surprised they haven’t been put in the stocks. Though the Fremantle Arts Centre closes early I did find this bit of street art opposite.


  • Little Creatures Brewery. Amazing beer, best pizza outside Florence, and smack bang on the docks. It says something that it’s only other venue outside Fremantle is its Melbourne Dining Hall in Fitzroy.


  • Winifred and Bance. I sussed this out before I left and set off bravely into Perth suburbia. I came back with a loverly handmade 1960s green floral summer dress. Apparently I have a 60s figure but not in the Marilyn Munroe sense. More the short hourglass sense.


  • Coming back home.

*edited to add: don’t forget to look at loobylu for other Hot + Not!

Zero gravity

It’s not often I travel alone. Last night, I tried to count how many times I’ve done that in the last ten years (since the first kid) and I struggled up to three.  There hasn’t been a great deal of business travel in my life.

This trip’s a bit of a doozy: three days in Perth, three hour time difference and a four hour flight. In the middle of the flight I was aware of that standing still while moving forward feeling. Travelling without external encumbrance. Travelling without weight of others, shared itineraries, shared responsibilities.

I find that tremendously freeing. I didn’t previously: I suffered terribly from homesickness and I remember more than one wailing phone call from a hostel to home. But now I can write freely on the plane, making notes for an upcoming conference. I started sketching too and that was a complete surprise.

So the next three days are completely my own. I am planning a little exploration of Perth, finding a little cafe or two or a retro or indie shop.

That will be the toughest assignment of the trip. At the moment, Perth strikes me as Canberra trying to do a little of the Gold Coast.

And twelve hours in I am bloody desperate for a decent cup of coffee.

Summer knitting

Not one to forgo knitting simply because the weather will (eventually) climb above 40C, I’ve started on summer knitting. This little number is for the lass, a swing dress from Knitty.


It had to be upsized considerably for a very tall 7yo but I think it shall do well as a dress then as a top over shorts or leggings later in the season. I’m planning another for my neice, this time in lilac. I’m considering a skirt or t-shirt from the leftover yarn – stripey, undulating kind of thing.

I still have wool on the needles at this early part of spring. It helps keep my fingers warm while the car warms up. Mainly I am committed to finishing a top that I started nearly two years ago. It’s not like me to leave things that long but this particular yarn has been through no less than five rippings of half-finished garments. It’s such a lovely, soft yarn in a colour I love and a weight I enjoy working with. So the top has to be special, too.

The first two attempts at a crochet/knit top from Phildar were frustrating; the February Lady sweater got ripped twice; and the last attempt – a 1920s inspired jumper – has just been ripped. I’m going with Arisaig: the style and pattern are just me and it’s the kind of ‘transseasonal’ garment that is absolutely necessary in Melbourne all year round (except for the five weeks of winter).

Keep your fingers crossed for me on this one.

What’s hot, what’s not

This has turned out to be a fun little midweek thing to do and it’s nice to know that ‘what’s hot’ outnumbers ‘what’s not’.

The hot stuff:

  • This gorgeous and simple chair, shown by Rosa Pomar of Portugal.
  • The spring/summer 2010 collection from Atelier Assemble of Belgium – breathtaking contemporary design for kids using vintage fabric. I hyperventilate every time I look at their collection. And then devise ways to get myself over to Europe for some shopping.
  • Checking out Perth oppies and vintage shops in the lead up to a business trip next week. Winifred & Bance looks terribly appealing.
  • Whip It, the roller derby film directed by Drew Barrymore – worthy babysitter points. Don’t be fooled by the trailer – it’s definitely a feminist film.

Not hot:

  • Hayfever in a 7 yo. I can’t remember the last time the lass was this permanently drippy.
  • Moving house is still crappy.

Learnings and yearnings

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I insisted to the Bloke that we must buy Don Watson’s latest book, Bendable Learnings. With zeal, cynicism, and a fine grasp of the English language and its possibilities, Watson has waged a campaign against soul destroying managerialist language. That language that brings us such horrors as ‘performativity’, ‘going forwards’ and ‘key drivers’ and forces out of your head the likes of Auden, Heaney, Woolf and Plath.

We have his previous books (Weasel Words and Death Sentence) and they leave you groaning with the weight of mangled syntax that modern managers and politicians can produce. Bendable Learnings cries to be read aloud, sometimes because it’s the only way you can wring meaning out of a sentence. That and you need to share the pain or go mad. This book is particularly excruciating because it replicates the language and experience of a year’s work with a university on their strategic something or other. A team of people, many quite senior and presumably well educated, adopted this managerial language and behaviour because they were convinced that it was the only way to legitimately reinvent themselves and their institution. It was like watching a snake devour itself as they accepted the behaviour and logic of corporate managerialism without understanding its purposes, used the language without understanding it, and pursued it ever more vigorously as the project stumbled and slid.

From experience, I can tell you that it is madness to be a part of this and to know that the language is obscuring meaning, purpose and intent, making the project an impossiblity even before it began. I remember meetings late in my time with the project where I gave up on making the distinctions between strategic plan and its implementation, between outcomes and their measures of attainment, between an indicator and a metric. When few in the project could discern the differences they preferred to rely on ‘buy-in’, ‘stakeholder relationships’, ‘team building’ and ‘value adding’. Disagreement was dissent and it certainly didn’t count as buy-in. Which is why I bought out, in the end.

Now I have the brain space to yearn for more time in my studio with a new-to-me screenprinting process, some fabric found at a local quilt exhibition, and patterns for spring blouses and skirts.

What’s hot & what’s not

This kicked off at loobylu and I thought I’d join in. Helps me focus on the ‘hot’ stuff rather than just feel miserable at the ‘not hot’ stuff.

What’s hot:

  • Lancefield Op Shop. I know I mentioned it last week but it’s still hot because I’m already thinking about my next raid. And what’s not to love about 70s owl curtains?
  • The Hobbit. The lad has discovered this after plenty of encouragement from us. Every now and then he asks me to read a few pages to him so we cuddle up on the couch, grab a blanket, and read away.
  • Print your own fabric transfers. The lass is planning to brighten up a t-shirt or two this weekend. I think I’ll scan one of her drawings and print that out on transfer paper as well.

Really not hot:

  • Moving house. It’s crap.
  • Gas companies that forget you’re a customer and bill you once a year. Did it last year and they’ve done it again this year. I”d rather not have to spend time reading the energy retailer’s code of conduct.
  • University travel forms and policies. Labrynthine and kafkaesque at the same time.

Lancefield steam punk

I’ve been at home with the kids for the last week of the school holidays, with plenty of play dates for all of us. I subscribe to the theory that if you have your kids’ friends over, all of the kids occupy themselves quite happily, leaving you free to do housework or whatever it is you do to avoid housework.

We took a day trip to visit innercitygarden and her lad and went for a country drive. There was some location scouting and photo shooting for the lad (scenery designs for a role playing game), op shop scores all round and some steam punk for me.


It has definite design possibilities…

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