Saturday, December 23, 2006

'Unto Us a Child is Given'*

Christmas is the time Christians reflect on their founding mythology: the belief that the birth of a child – a boy – over 2,000 years ago in a place called Bethlehem was a miraculous event. For the rest of us its the opportunity afforded by a public holiday to swill sparkling wine in tall glasses and laugh with our children as they run past us with their latest gift toy (while retailers laugh all the way to the bank!).

Thinking about the great Christmas birth mythology, I can't help wondering that if he were born in Bethlehem this century, Jesus would have a terribly difficult chance of surviving. Palestine's infant mortality rate for 2004 was 20.5 per 1000 live births (according to the WHO's Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean).

Interestingly, Egypt, to which Jesus' parents fled with him as refugees to escape Herod (the King of Judea)'s massacre of baby boys (according to the mythology), had the same infant mortality rate (20.5 per 1000 live births) in 2005. Egypt is still a destination for many refugees from southern Sudan and other parts of Africa (and not a few from Palestine). A small number of them are offered the opportunity to resettle here in Australia. Unfortunately, not enough.

Comparatively, Israel's infant mortality rate for 2004 was 5 (per 1000 live births), which is within the range for developed/industrialised countries.

For instance, Australia's Infant mortality rate was 4 (per 1000 live births) in 2005.

However, if Jesus were born to an Aboriginal family in Australia, he would be twice as likely to be of low birthweight or to die within his first year of life, compared with the rest of the Australian population. (According to Save the Children, quoting research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). Poor health and life opportunities are still a massive injustice that Indigenous Australian have to live with after over 200 years of colonisation, and this should shame us all.

Save the Children's report on maternal and child health, State of the World's Mothers 2006: Saving the Lives of Mothers and Newborns, from May 2006, (PDF available online; it draws on WHO data) offers a range of other eye-opening facts about the health and life chances for babies born today, and the women who care for them.

The worst infant mortality rates were in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan – each 165 (per 1000 live births) in 2004. Afghanistan has the second highest newborn mortality rate in the world (60 per 1,000 births).

Unfortunately, I don't have breakdowns of the Infant Mortality Rates according to gender, so I don't know if the Messiah would have a worse chance of survival today if he/she were born a girl or a boy. Somehow I suspect that girls, as they always do, tend to get the worst of it.

My youngest boy, Jamie, who was born in May this year, is doing wonderfully well and I continue to cherish him dearly – he is such a wonderful and happy baby, with a sunny smile for all around him. Jacob is six now, and brimming with strength, energy and creativity, which is a wonder and joy to see. Although he has been full of vigour for school this year, he's glad for the holidays this summer. When I reflect on what's happening elsewhere in the world where life is far less just or fortunate, I am thankful for my children, and the health afforded them, and to my partner and I that we can continue to raise our children and enjoy watching them grow!

Merry Christmas to you all and your families, and may you have a safe and peaceful holiday.

I am going to take a short – if well deserved – break from blogging, so that I can have some R&R with my family (though there may be some intermittent transmissions if things get really interesting…). Do revisit – I'll be back and blogging with a vengeance early in the New Year.

[*With apologies to Handel (from the Messiah); image: Save the Children, via CNN]


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Friday, December 22, 2006

Truly Kazakhstan – or 'From Russia, with love'

The Borat movie made its own splashes and ripples in Australia when it opened, but I 'ummed' and 'aahed' over whether I should see it. I dislike much of Sacha Baron Cohen's (the film's creator) comedy, and Borat was the character that most annoyed me from the Ali G series, so the chances of my going were slim. They still are. So, this is not a film review but my take on how satire (and humour generally) relates to what's really going on.

The film, as its full title,
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, suggests, allows its audience to laugh an stupid Americans – and wonder at their bigotry, ignorance, insularity and downright stupidity. Yet, as easy a target as the Yanks are, I'm more interested in how Baron Cohen invites us to laugh at the stupid, backward Kazakhs, who may as well be feudal for the way he portrays them.

And here is the rub – the Kazakhstan government criticises
Baron Cohen's depiction of their country and people, and has urged him to visit their country and see for himself how wonderful the people and their nation is. (Borat was actually filmed in Romania. Wikipedia has a good run-down of the film's production and its lack of Kazakh content here). Their argument is that Borat doesn't truly represent their country.

I've really intrigued at how people can be taken in by
Baron Cohen's Borat character, and the few times I caught the act on Ali G, I wondered if people really new if he was just an actor in character – these non-actors were really treating Borat as a real person. There's a great op-ed piece by Joel Stein, republished by the Sydney Morning Herald, where he points out how journalists are so prepared (or naive) to go along for the ride with Borat – by pretending they are interviewing Borat – rather than the actor – just to get some outrageous copy:
I love that Cohen is using his performance art on journalists themselves, who are willing to email him questions and then print Q-and-As with a fake character as if it were a real-time interview. I believe journalism should be entertaining. But not in the Stephen Glass/Jayson Blair/Loch Ness monster way.

If you can't make a story about a movie this complicated and different interesting - without just getting Cohen to perform - then you might as well just direct people to a clip of his movie. The excuse is that it's only entertainment journalism.
While the Kazakhstan government's protestations of their country's beauty and their people's grace makes us stop and think about how another country – especially one so newly emerged from the Iron Curtain and we know so little about – can be misrepresented in our popular culture, I still wouldn't want to accept the 'official' version – no country's official, government version of its self should be taken a face value. For one, I seriously suspect the Kazakhstan regime of wanting to gloss over their horrendous nuclear legacy from the Soviet Union.

Environmental Memoirs is a website of stories of environmental degradation and disaster from people who have witnessed the ecological changes in their home regions – collected by two friends of mine who have been travelling across the globe overland. They recorded some shocking stories about nuclear contamination in Kazakhstan, where the main ecological issues are:
radioactive or toxic chemical sites associated with former defence industries and test ranges scattered throughout the country pose health risks for humans and animals; industrial pollution is severe in some cities; because the two main rivers which flowed into the Aral Sea have been diverted for irrigation, it is drying up and leaving behind a harmful layer of chemical pesticides and natural salts; these substances are then picked up by the wind and blown into noxious dust storms; pollution in the Caspian Sea; soil pollution from overuse of agricultural chemicals and salination from poor infrastructure and wasteful irrigation practices.
I wonder if that would have made it into the Kazakhstan government's attempt to correct the record. Or this:
The residents of Semey in northern Kazakhstan live 150 kilometers from the former Soviet nuclear test site known as The Polygon. From 1949 to 1989 the residents of Semey and the surrounding villages were exposed to the fallout of numerous nuclear tests. In fact, a total of 456 tests were carried throughout this period.
Environmental Memoirs has some amazing perspectives from people who witnessed the nuclear testing, including Telman Kadyrkhanov, who "recalls witnessing several explosions and tells of the impact it had on his village", and others who are dealing with the legacy of cancer.

For another perspective on the Borat film, Kazakhstan and the truth, from someone who has travelled there and knows the region's geo-politics intimately, I highly recommend Craig Murray. Murray was British ambassador to Uzbekhistan, and is now a writer, blogger and broadcaster who exposes the corrupt regimes of former Soviet Central Asia. Worth a look, to reveal more of the region we know so little of. Lest some comic takes us for another ride.

[Images: Borat movie poster – Wikipedia; Nuclear disaster memorial in Kazakhstan – Environmental Memoirs]

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The "cunning little desiccated prick" can test this

More along the theme of keeping a sense of humour over Howard's citizenship test (humour being a lot healthier than blowing a gasket over it… until we find a more effective response), I found Nabakov's contribution at Lavartus Prodeo hilarious – but so true, as the best satire is. Nabakov's a regular commenter at a number of blogs, including LP. He has come up with a brilliant multiple choice test, the best of which (for me) are:

The supreme political leader of Australia is generally referred to in public as:
a) the Exalted Jewel in the Navel of the Great Elephant who is a River to his People;
b) that cunning little desiccated prick;
c) the Prime Minister; or
d) who cares? They’re all right conniving ratbags once they get to Canberra

Australia’s national animal is:
a) the dull but surprisingly tasty kangaroo;
b) the wombat, which eats roots and leaves;
c) the grumpy, sleepy, weak-bladdered, stoned and frequently psychotic koala; or
d) the larger often spotted hoon

If you want to how with laughter, instead of wail in despair, read the rest of it. Thanks to Phil for recommending it on VVB.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

"Keep the riffraff out"

Yep. This is what I heard a man – who had just been sworn-in as a new Australian citizen – say about why the Howard government's plans for a citizenship test was a good idea. He was of English-Italian decent, and sounded very much like a Pom. He was speaking to ABC Radio, and I'm sure he was being quite serious.

And this is pretty much why I think Howard's citizenship test is such a degrading, condescending,
hugely dangerous, and ultimately racist, proposition.

Tim, in Sterne, has dissected this issue very well, and managed to keep the sense of humor that I completely lost over this. He says that according to a Herald Sun report,
… the quiz will be delivered online, with successful applicants receiving not only Australian citizenship, but also the html code for a special blog badge to show off their newly-confirmed Aussieness.
I suggest that it could look something like this:

That oaf interviewed on ABC radio was not alone, as Tim's examination of the Herald Sun's readership's response to this issue attests:
Naturally, the news that migrants will have to take a citizenship test has warmed the cockles of many a western heart. Embarrassed Aussie of Melbourne writes: "For too long too many migrants have come to the shores of Australia purely to find a better place to live. No thought of assimilating or enbracing our way of life. " And if migrants won't "enbrace" our way of life, what then? Riots, that's what! "The Cronulla riots started because the different cultures represented in this country are not assimilated, we as a country are not one."
And, of course, tips this country right into Howard's openly admitted agenda: to replace multiculturalism with 'integration' – which is just a weasel-word for assimilation.

Antipopper, come home! We need you!

[Image by me; published as agit-prop under the terms of my Creative Commons license. BTW, the link in the 'html badge' is a dead end…]

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Fleeing Disney for Miyazaki's gifts of imagination

The school holidays (and Christmas!) are right on our tails, and legions of parents are trying to figure out what they're going to do with the kids over the summer – if they (like me) are unlucky enough to not be able to take the kids away from the city for a week or more!

If you want to run screaming away from the American studios' animated offerings this summer cinema season, but need something for the kids to do, try Japanese
anime for a change. I wouldn't normally encourage kids to spend their summer (or any other) holiday in front of the TV or DVD, but there are some good things worth watching!

One of my family's favourite films is from the anime (Japanese animation) stable of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki –
Spirited Away. My partner's brother gave it to my eldest boy last Christmas (he was five then).

It is full of the elements that make a great Miyazaki anime: spirits, fantasy, amazing colour and scenary detail, a fully imagined 'world', some insights into 'traditional' Japanese culture, and a gutsy heroine. More importantly, it doesn't have the violence, misogyny, bizarre sexuality and dystopian sci-fi of a lot of other Japanese anime.

In fact, one of my favourite things about Miyazaki films is that he loves girls, or young women, as his central characters – strong personality, inquisitive, sometimes fearless, other times fearful in facing many horrors. Chihiro, the central character of Spirited Away, is all this.

But, Spirited Away is no Disney cream-puff, as none of Miyazaki's films are. It has its scary bits, can be quite gross, is very long, and has a narrative arc that challenges an adult's attention span, let alone a child's (which lends itself to DVD home viewing – you can pause the movie, the kids can get up and down, get food, go to the toilet etc, and come back to it). It also has many subtle social messages as sub-texts: Chihiro's parents' gluttony ensnares them in a spell that is turning them into pigs, and Chihiro has to save them. Becoming trapped in the dangerous spirit world, Chihiro must survive in a spirit bathhouse, befriending many strange spirits, to secure their freedom.

Spirited Away was made in 2001 and is rated PG. It is available on DVD from most good video shops.

There's more on Miyazaki on Wikipedia. If you want to introduce younger kids to Miyazaki's anime, it may be better to start them with something like Kiki's Delivery Service (1989, rated G), which I'd love review another time. Earlier work My Neighbour Totoro (1988, G) would also suit younger kids.

If your kids are a bit older, or have seen
Kiki or Totoro, then Spirited Away would be ideal. One word of warning – Miyazaki's most recent film, Howl's Moving Castle (2004, PG), is very dark, is concerned with the violence of war, is quite long, and definitely for older kids (say, 8/9 +).

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's not just cricket

I have the misfortune of having grown up in a former British colony that wasn't cricket mad. Unlike India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies or South Africa, the country of my upbringing was crazy about soccer (amongst other sports), but not cricket.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Cricket was played, but it was not a popular or widespread sport, and certainly not a game children played in the streets or backyards. In fact, I have no memory of ever seeing a cricket match either live or on television during my childhood.

What this means is that I have very little understanding of the finer points of cricket, and don’t play it at all well. I can't tell the difference between ‘long leg' and ‘short leg', and I have absolutely no idea where 'mid-on' is. After over a decade living in Australia, I do have an idea of how the game is played, but only a middling understanding of how it is scored or how a test proceeds. Strategy? Not a scratch. So much so that during the recent Ashes test in Adelaide, I had trouble keeping up with what was going on, while my colleagues could asses exactly how the day’s play had progressed and what the scores meant in an instant. I was left going, ‘What happened? What happened?’.

As the days get longer, the mercury climbs, and the cicadas warm up for their Hallelujah chorus, cricket takes centre stage in Australia and everyone from professors of literature to the packers at the supermarket warehouse becomes cricket mad and boffins of the game and Ashes arcana emerge overnight.

I realise, however, that I’m not alone in my ignorance. Many in Australia are unfamiliar with cricket’s finer points or simply dislike the game. Some just feel left out, or can’t comprehend the fuss. To an extent, my cricket handicap unites me with them, but it also resurrects the sense of being an outsider that so acutely accompanied my first years as a migrant to this country, and still lingers in many of my experiences of Australia. Where most who grew up in Australia would have played cricket at some time and some place as children, I didn’t have childhood experiences of the game.

In my father's school days and earlier, cricket was played in select boys' schools established by the colonial government. Of course, the British were re-creating their colonies in an image of their selves, down to the boys in white playing cricket on grassy fields, but this meant that the game found a footing in the country, however shallow.

Beyond Independence and the rejection of the culture of the Empire, the game barely survived in those institutions in which the British had left an enduring impression: some schools, the police, the universities, and various social and sporting clubs. There was even a national competition, but the state teams never approached the popularity or passion that my country reserved for soccer (or football, as we knew it). Soccer, despite also originating in Britain, could claim to be the world sport and so thrived.

In essence, this meant I had none of the classic Australian childhood experiences of backyard, school yard, or beach cricket, and none of the infatuation with Australia's cricket stars – and so none of the cultural capital that accompanies it all, and prepares one for Australia's summer obsession.

My inexperience with the game puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to explaining the finer points of cricket to my eldest son, who at six is developing an interest in the game. He's started ‘Milo have-a-go’ cricket workshops at the local cricket club. It’s a Cricket Victoria initiative in what I assume is an effort to encourage the participation of the next generation in their local clubs.

I can at least throw the ball (underarm) at him to bat, remind him which way the bat should face, and take my turn at batting when he has a go bowling. But I'm unable to explain 'lbw', or why the bowler has to yell 'Howzat!'. And I’m crap at catching the ball.

Where I’d thought it was okay for us to just have fun mucking about with the game the way I assumed most 6-year-olds and their dads did, I recently discovered that many Aussie dads are out there practicing over-arm bowling and batting in 'the nets' at nearby parks with their kids, and take their cricket quite seriously. While cricket doesn’t compare with the role of Little League baseball in US cultural lore and father-son dynamics, it does have its local significance in how boys are schooled in the ways of the Australian summer. When your father can’t catch or teach you to bowl, are you left out in playground games?

To an extent, my concern is whether my son will lack the necessary cricket skills, as I don't want him to miss out on learning the game and being included in the matches that will invariably spring up at school, or at the beach or park with friends and family as the summer progresses.

But I recognise there is more to it: some of these concerns stem from my anxieties about what it means to be a migrant in Australia and, by extension, being an outsider. It is also an anxiety about whether I can truly prepare my son to be at home in Australian culture – to not be an outsider through no choice or fault of his own.

So, in a way, I too have started ‘cricket school’. I go along on Saturday mornings with my son to his Milo cricket activity, throw and catch – or fumble – balls along with the other dads helping out, pay close attention when the instructor teaches something new, and try really hard to not look like a klutz.

But I still feel like I’m floundering. Perhaps I should just snap out of it and realise that at six, my son has many more years of summer cricket ahead, and thus a far greater chance of learning the game that will probably continue to elude me. Hopefully, when he’s 11, he can tell me all about it.

[Image from
Wikipedia: English cricketing legend WG Grace, from early last Century]

This has also been cross-posted at Sarsaparilla, as a guest post. Thanks Sarsaparilla!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

They are dancing in the street

And I wish I were in Santiago to dance with them. And that’s because Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s former brutal dictator, has died – a week after a heart attack. He was 91. Despite his dictatorship finally crumbling over a decade ago, the old man can still make the headlines – but mainly for cheating justice.

He still has his supporters, the most noteworthy amongst his international ones being Margaret Thatcher, who was saddened by the news of his death (to me, one of the most unfortunate things about Thatcher’s reign was her support for Pinochet and other anti-communist heavies and her wishy-washiness over opposing South Africa’s arpatheid regime).

Not so saddened was human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who told ABC radio this morning:
“If there is a Hell, he’s certainly burning in it as we speak.”
Robertson is annoyed that Pinochet escaped justice –first by being declared too ill to stand trial and thus not be extradited to Spain to face charges, and now going and dieing. Not wanting death to let other dictators, war criminals and torturers wriggling off the hook, Robertson reckons we should "Get them now”.

As an undergrad, I befriended a number of the Chileans who fled Pinochet, his military junta and secret police and had made Australia their home. Many of them were actively involved in left-wing solidarity campaigns against the dictatorship and then to bring justice to the thousands of victims and survivors of the torture, prison camps, and murder and ‘disappearance’ that had characterised Pinochet’s brutal reign. Axis of Evel Knievel has an excellent post on Pinochet, marking Pinochet’s 25 November birthday.

Even after Pinochet lost a plebiscite on his rule and loosened his grip over power, I remember joining in a campus protest against a visiting post-Pinochet Chilean government leader who visited our university to receive an honorary degree (whose name I forget). He had been identified as a collaborator with Pinochet’s army at the time of the coup against the Socialist Allende government in 1973.

I was also horrified to learn from them that the ship – ostensibly a leisure ship – the Chilean delegation used to visit our shores and host a state function on – had been a Chilean navy prison ship where left-wing activists had been imprisoned and tortured. It had just tarted up. What got my Chilean friends so upset was the efforts underway in post-Pinochet Chile to forget, renovate, and erase the memories of the dictartorship – as if it were just a bad dream that had to be shaken off, before Chile could then go on with being a ‘civilised’ modern nation with a great neo-liberal economy.

I understand their horror that the terrible things that Pinochet and the military did were being swept under the carpet, and their burning desire for justice. It was inspiring to hear them talk of their struggle for true democracy and freedom.

I am sure they are celebrating in Australia now too. If there is a party, I’d like to join in. Hey guys, this one's for you!

Update: There is a party! of sorts: it is a protest too. Chilean and other Latin American activists in Melbourne have organised a celebration of Pinochet's death, and a protest against the Chilean government's plans to honour the dictator with 'a "funeral service with “honours” and “tributes”…'. It will be Tuesday 12 December in Federation Square at 12 noon. We are all invited. [Updated at 5.25 pm]

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Wrap - 8 December

Bushfires have been raging around Victoria in what had been predicted as a vicious early start to the bushfire season. ABC New Online reports that fires are threatening a number of communities in the state's north-east, while firefighting crews spent another night preparing the Gippsland region for "the anticipated fire crisis." The news has talked about a possible firestorm, with the hot, dry weather forecast for this weekend, and towns coming under ember attack. If you live in the areas threatened by bushfire, I wish you well and safety.

While Victoria burns, Melbourne bloggers will fiddle (but hopefully not with themselves) and drink and maybe dine and all that. There will be a grog blog tonight from 6 pm at the Standard Hotel in Fitzroy for Melbourne bloggers and friends. (Sorry for the late notice.) The event will not feature live blogging. Barista organised this paper bag, so he has more details.

Tomorrow, Saturday 9 December, there will be nation-wide rallies calling for the release of David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay prison and for his return to Australia. He has been imprisoned in hell for five years! While charges have been laid, he has not had a trial – fair or otherwise. Justice delayed is justice denied. Details for rallies across the country are available from GetUp.

The Melbourne rally will be at Federation Square at 2 pm on Saturday.
The speakers at Melbourne's rally will include Major Michael Mori, Hicks's US Military appointed defence attorney and probably his most outspoken and articulate advocate. The rally is organised by Civil Rights Defence - in co-operation with 3CR Community Radio, Amnesty International and Liberty Victoria.

After raising donations from supporters, GetUp commissioned a billboard calling for Hick's return to go up in Sydney. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that its intention was to be in PM Howard's face each morning. It's hoped this will be one of many billboards.

Sunday, 10 December is Human Rights Day. It may end up like other Human Rights Days in previous years where we forget about it until we're accosted by an Amnesty International supporter selling badges, candles or signing us up for donations. Alternatively, we can use this day to mark a hugely significant milestone in the development of not only our fundamental covenant on human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also our very concept of what our rights are and thus what it means to be human. It would also be a good time to take stock of how far things have reversed in places like Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom since Eleanor Roosevelt helped to hammer out agreement in the UN over the Declaration after World War Two.

Oh, and there's 17 more sleeps till Christmas.

[Image: fire-crews ensuring a fire in the Adelaide Hills in mid-November didn't flare-up again, by stephentrepreneur]

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

White bread music holds Australia in death-grip

If you didn't catch it on TV, you may not realise that the ABC ran a televised vote on the top one hundred albums on Sunday evening. I missed it (kid wrangling duties), but this pretty much sums up for me my issues with Australia's taste in music:
The surprising omission from our list is soul and dance music generally and black artists in particular. This is one honky list! Sure there’s Prince at no.61 with Purple Rain and Miles Davis, with Kind Of Blue at no. 65. But there’s no Marvin Gaye, no Aretha Franklin, no Otis Redding, no Martha and The Vandellas, no Ronettes, no Tina Turner, no Michael Jackson, no Bob Marley, no Stevie Wonder, no Yothu Yindi, no Supremes, and no Jimi Hendrix.
Barista has posted the full Top 100 list and the commentary on the vote's outcome by the ABC's Paul Clarke, who made the observation above.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogging fatherhood

J's SandcastleI'm enjoying a relatively new Age blog, Who's Your Daddy, about being a father and parenting. It gets quite good responses, and Sacha Molitorisz, the journo who got this Age gig, is prepared to talk about things that I'm not to on this blog, yet, like sex during pregnancy and after childbirth, the ups and downs of parenting a young child, and being a father.

I do enjoy finding that other dads have similar approaches as mine, though our perspectives on why differ slightly, and it's good to read another dad's blog – especially one that actively tackles parenting, fathering and children.

I was particularly caught by this post reflecting on an encounter where another father warned Sacha against letting his young toddler daughter play naked at the beach for fear of paedophiles photographing her:
'As a parent,' I said, 'you're always on the lookout for danger, whether it's big dog dog or a big wave or a pervert with a camera. But you can't live your life in fear that something bad might happen. You can't stop going to the beach because there might be a big dog, or a big wave, or a pervert. Otherwise the bad guys win and the kids and the good guys lose.'
I had the same concerns when my eldest was a baby/toddler – I wanted him to be able to enjoy the freedom and exuberance of playing naked on the beach, yet worried if I was being in lax in my vigilance against dangers, or worried if I was worrying needlessly. Nice to see it put so well.

Reflecting on this further, what I find intriguing is the number of men who participate in this blog - who comment on the posts and pass on their perspectives on everything from techniques to get babies to sleep, to parenting models, and personal experiences of fathering. Obviously, there are many men out there who are very keenly involved in parenting their young children, and have taken the experiences of fathering – both the negatives and positives – to heart.

[Image: one of mine from our camping trip to Wilsons Prom last January]

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Rudd has been elected new Opposition Leader

Yep, it's official. In this morning's ALP federal caucus, Kevin Rudd was elected new the Opposition Leader. The numbers were 49–39.

Julian Gillard was elected his deputy unopposed. It appears that despite insisting that she would defend her postition, lame duck Jenny Macklin saw which way the wind blew – blew Beazley out of the water – Macklin decided not ot stand.

The good news is that perhaps the ALP will have a chance to position itself as a viable alternative to Howard. Doubt it.

The bad news is that reports indicate that Kevin Rudd is pro-nuclear. Not a good start, but considering Bomber Beazley was pushing a pro-uranium mining stance, it doesn't seem too far a shift in ALP leadership.

The worse news: more Harry Potter jokes in Parliament.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Wrap – of sorts

My partner announced this morning that today being the First of December, we are officially in the Christmas cheer month. She was excited, I groaned. On a completely un-Christmassy thread, here's a bit of a wrap of what I've come across this past week, and what's on the near horizon – a bit of a licorice all-sorts variety:

Barista is hosting
History Carnival XLIV, a compilation – or rather aggregation – of some excellent posts and stories on historical subjects. There are some really clever history buffs out there, so go take a look! My favourites are the point about the possibilities for a history of disability, and Axis of Evil Knievel's post on the history of the colonialisation of Hawaii (which I'd read on his blog earlier this week. I'm still thanking my lucky stars that Barista introduced me to that blog via previous History Carnivals).

The Long Walk 2006 will happen in Melbourne this Sunday (3 December), in case you hadn't heard. The walk aims to aims to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in some efforts towards Reconciliation, and raise money for Indigenous leadership. I went to the first one last year, and was impressed at the turn-out, if not at having to wait so long for it to start. I won't be able to attend this year, so if any Melbourne bloggers go, I'd like to hear what you think.

The campaign to stop the development of a gas plant in the incredibly important Aboriginal cultural heritage site in Western Australia has had a boost, with "both the Western Australian State Government and Woodside [the company concerned] have just dropped their opposition to heritage listing of Murijuga, the Burrup Peninsula site!" GetUp!, one of the campaigners, got over 20,000 petitioners against the development online, but is pushing for more support to stop the company wanting to proceed with their gas plant on the site despite its heritage listing!

And, after a week of rumour, speculation and what Jon Faine loves to call 'scuttlebutt' about a challenge by Kevin Rudd and Julian Gillard against his leadership, federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley has just called for a leadership ballot in the ALP federal caucus for next week. So, this time next week we may have a new Opposition Leader. Or we may not.

Oh, and I love the twist on the panoramic photograph above. Based on panoramic shots of Notting Hill garden,
London, 'little planet' is by strollerdos.

Update: Oh, yeah. Today is World AIDS Day. How could I forget.

Is that enough to keep you going for the weekend?

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