Thursday, March 31, 2011

Unlocking the nit code

Banjo's teacher this year is right onto the treating of nits. After the note went out, he followed up by talking to parents, and asking the kids whether they were being checked and /or treated.

The reason? He has dreadlocks.

So, I reckon that is the key. What we need in the public school system is more teachers with dreads!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This from MIRCI at York Uni.

On January 24, 2011, during an on-campus safety forum held at Osgoode Hall Law School to discuss recent attacks on women at York University, Toronto Police Const. Michael Sanguinetti explained that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."
He later apologized, saying he was "embarrassed" by his remarks.

There will be a protest called Slutwalk at York Uni on April 3rd.

Meanwhile, protesters in Australia carry posters calling our Prime Minister 'Bob Brown's Bitch'(Ok, so I put in the apostrophe) and in Libya a woman who claims to have been raped by 15 Gaddafi militiamen is being taken to court for defamation.

A few years ago the NSW Police Commissioner stated that women are fundamentally disrespected in our society.

Do we wait for sexism to die out with the men who believe women have no rights, or do we educate people every chance we get?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lets look at the reporting of a family tragedy

Yes, it is a family tragedy that a father, upset at losing custody of his children after divorce, threw his daughter over a bridge to her death. But lets look at how this is reported in The Age.

The descriptions:

The father, who, in other circumstances, could be seen as an artist or businessman or tradesman or any sort of normal man. He could be any of a number of the dads at school.

In the dock sat a man of distinctive appearance with long, unkempt hair surrounding his bald crown, in the middle of which stood a small tuft of unruly strands, like a cockatoo's crest.

His deep-set eyes sat below a large forehead etched with two v-shaped lines, gave him a look of permanent puzzlement.

In other circumstances, an on-looker might think of him as homeless, had he not have been decked out in a suit and tie each day.

To the prosecutor, Freeman's presentation suggested a "Rasputin-like appearance of a mad monk."

The daughter - a normal kid. And I'm not suggesting any child deserves to be hurt - of course she was innocent. I'm just noting the description as angelic. She was actually a normal child.

DARCEY Iris Freeman looks as angelic as she does innocent in the photographs her family released to the media in the wake of her death.

She has her mother's button nose and her father's fair hair. She has a cheeky, mischievous twinkle in her eyes that most four-year-olds possess.

The mother - a normal, overweight, nothing describing her clothes or hair, mother:

The tall, kind-looking, motherly figure shot only momentary glances at her ex-husband from the witness box, as she told the court she did not want to miss her daughter's first day of school.

She is a motherly-figure, not a mother.

Objective reporting? No. Demons and angels. Way to go The Age.

Points, though, for ending the story with ways people can seek help and support, and Anne Hollands for this:

To assess any risks or problems, we need to have services available very early on, to screen for these problems. The services that support families have suffered cutbacks in the last federal budget and those cuts are coming in from July 1. To screen at-risk families, to create links with courts and police, there must be continued government investment in these services. Access to counselling should be universally available, and it needs to happen long before people get to court.

Systems must be in place. Systems funded by government.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Talking about mothering in the UK

Remember I mentioned earlier a new book called Shattered: Modern Motherhood And The Illusion Of Equality, by Rebecca Asher?

Well, The Guardian have a run a piece promoting the book, and boy, has it gathered a lot of comment!

The comments cover the usual ground: count yourself lucky you can have a baby, you made your bed now lie in it, they do families better in Europe because of gov't policy, they do families better in developing countries because families live together and mums aren't isolated (and domestic labour is cheap), this is a personal matter and men and women need to communicate better, it is all about working life - we need more flexibility, it is the fault of feminism for making women think they can have a career and be mothers when really you can't have it all (unless you are a man), and plenty of people identifying with the problems the author describes.

The important point is that the conversation is happening. Keep it going.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More on theatre directors

(that may be a play on words...)

I’m doing a study on the director and performance consultant Lindy Davies. I attended acting workshops with Lindy in the early 1990s - I still remember what she taught me, and it influenced my acting, and expectations for theatre performance. Apparently Cate Blanchett still applies Lindy’s methods (I saw the NIDA production of Electra where Lindy directed Cate.) Lindy was head of drama at VCA 1995 - 2007, and instigated a program of performance based on principles of artistic autonomy, collaboration, egolessness, asking what theatre can be, what is the meaning of the piece, what does it do? I love Lindy.

I must admit I’ve been out of the theatre scene for some time. Since having children I’ve only really attended productions that my friends have been involved in. And local musical theatre productions. When I returned to Sydney after studying in the country, I saw Barry Kosky’s production of Tartuffe for STC and thought WTF?? I then saw his direction of NIDA students. It turned me off Sydney theatre - I didn’t want to be spending the little money I had on seeing productions where the actors probably had not idea why they were doing what they were doing. So, I have some catching up to do.

I’m interested to track the influence of Lindy’s work. Graduates from VCA work together - they share a language and aesthetic. It seems independent theatre in Melbourne flourishes as a reaction against the conservatism of MTC, but in Sydney the avant-garde is embraced into the mainstream.

Simon Stone, aged 26, is a graduate of VCA and is being acclaimed as a bright young thing of theatre. He is now Belvoir Street’s resident director.

This is from an interview he did with Arts Hub.

I worked as an actor in film and television quite regularly in my first year out of high school, then I went to the Victorian College of the Arts. While at the VCA I developed all the creative partnerships that constitute the fabric of The Hayloft Project. We started at school the same investigations that we are now conducting – we are trying with each project to get closer to what makes theatre a unique form, irreplaceable, magical, overwhelming. The teachers at the VCA created an almost utopian environment in which this was our complete focus. The school has often been criticised for being out of touch, for not preparing its actors for the industry’s conditions adequately, but this is precisely what I cherished – it is a theatre laboratory, pushing the form’s boundaries, testing its limits, not a preparatory school for a rather paltry film and TV industry. The VCA, for this very reason, is largely responsible for the current renaissance in independent theatre in Melbourne.

In an interview with SMH, he boasts how many films he has watched as if it is an achievement. A tangent, I know, but it just makes me glad he wasn’t my flatmate. Also, off track, it bothers me that people are so proud of having watched a DVD box set of a tv series. It isn’t as it you made the shows. You sat on your lounge and watched. Not really an achievement. Anyway.

He is interested in directing new plays and rewriting classics. His production of The Wild Duck, based on Ibsen, is finishing at Belvoir on the weekend. His next one will include a naked cast. Not sure why.

He started the Hayloft Project in Melbourne. He states on its FB page that theatre must be its own medium - it isn’t film or tv - so why does he mic his actors and present them in a box?

Benedict Andrews is another hot young director. He studied at Flinders, was resident director of STC 2000 -2003, has won awards and regularly works in Europe.

RealTime Arts says
Benedict Andrews is one of those rarities among Australian theatre directors, an artist with style (a hated term in this country but it's vitally about the honing and perfecting of an idiosyncratic theatrical language) and vision (a persistent and personal working through of a set of significant questions).
See here for collected information about Benedict Andrews and reviews of his work.

I saw his production of Measure for Measure at Belvoir. And yes, it is a difficult play, due to the plot. Benedict Andrews set it in a world where porn is the norm. All actors use the toilet. Faeces splattered all over the stage. Masturbation. Set in a rotating room, actors filming, with video screens by the set. I didn’t enjoy it. Did any women?

Can’t we have a more positive vision? I don’t need to look far to see the vision he is presenting me with here. Women clean up the shit. Women are being degrading in my own culture - I see it everyday. Voyeurism of reality tv. Yes, I get it. I don’t have to like it.

It is great that these directors are being mentored and given opportunities. Neil Armfiled and Robin Nevin have been particularly helpful. Young directors do need support.

However, I need to ask, is their work about branding, a la Kosky? Is the avant-garde about being blokey and puerile and voyeuristic? Are they trying to appeal to a Big Brother audience? Are they trying to put bums on seats by appealing to tv audiences?

Is it OK to not like the work of these directors?

And, once gain, where are the women?

I’m not saying that theatre should be staid and conventional and traditional. I just want it to be something other than what these guys are giving us. Something else. Innovation doesn’t have to be nasty and sensationalist for the sake of sensation. Or is there something gong on here, that I'm just not getting?

I need to see more theatre.

Meanwhile, back to my essay.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Right 2 Childhood Conference

A few organisations that lobby to protect children have got together to present this day of talks about children and the media and our present culture. It is being held in Sydney on Friday April 29th. The main names in the field will be there - Stephen Biddulph, Maggie Hamilton, Julie Gale, Emma Rush, Wayne Warburton, Joe Tucci, Richard Eckersley, Melinda Tankard Reist, as well a Nina Funnell.

I might send this info on to the school Principal, to see if she'd like to send someone from school to the conference.

I attended a similar conference last year - it was really interesting, and good to mix with the other attendees - just interesting to see who attended.

I made notes here.

Female directors

Yesterday I posted a question to my online Theatre Studies class about the crop of acclaimed young (male) directors who include lots of shit and masturbation and porn in their productions. I'm talking Barrie Kosky and Benedict Andrews here. I asked whether women actually like these production, because I don't, and where are the acclaimed female directors? It seems to me these (male) directors are boys with toys - their vision is blokey and puerile. Base. Sensationalist. Are they really bringing something exciting to the world of theatre or is the Emperor wearing no clothes?

Today there is a piece in the SMH about theatre and film director Gale Edwards. Here's a snippet.

''But I've pursued the idea of being an artist my whole life to the detriment of having a home, having a family, having kids. All of which I regret but none of which I noticed at the time.

''I didn't wake up and make a decision not to get married and not to have children. I was working. I was privileged because the next thing would be offered. I was a bit like a cowboy - I wanted to go over the prairie and see what was on the other side.''

Once again. Motherhood and a creative life. Incompatible.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My songs - a taste

I've been talking to Saving Private Mommy about writing songs. She suggested I pop some of mine on my blog. I haven't uploaded my demos yet, so, in the meantime, here's one my songwriter partner (I've had a few...) has on the interwebs.

Click on Let It Go.

Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

Great! This is a new centre based at Kent University in the UK. It formed out of an interdisciplinary conference, Monitoring Parents: Childrearing in the age of ‘intensive parenting', in 2007. Worth keeping an eye on - they cover a lot of ground.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shopping for High Schools

Our local high schools have been holding their open days lately, so I’ve been to a few to check them out.

Information from the government recommends that parents look at three high schools at least, and suggests aspects for parents to consider. Religion, values, location, your own child’s needs and not just sending your children to the school you went to. Frankly, I don’t think I know many people who consider sending their kids to their alma mater, but hey, maybe that’s just the circle I move in. According to the government advice, it is all about choice.

So, what am I considering? Location. It has to be local. It has to be multicultural, and somewhere that isn’t elitist. It won’t be a private school. We’re lucky that we have many good public schools nearby. I saw the local school we are in catchment for, met the Principal, and I’m happy. I like the Principal’s energy and vision and management and ideas. I like that the staff and students are happy. I like the range of activities. I like the premises. I like the size. I like that it is an all girl school. I really don’t see the need to keep shopping around. My choice is to go to the local school we are in catchment for. Clancy and her friends have already decided that is where they are going. I’m happy for all three of my girls to go there, but if Matilda gets into the Selective School (and she won’t be going to tutoring to prepare for the test), which is co-ed, that would be good too. She’s the kind of kid who will manage her own stuff, sort everything out, know what is going on, and just get on with things.

What my friends and I have noticed though, is that when schools are trying to impress parents at these sessions, they talk about the overseas trips. The French class goes to France. The Italian class goes to Italy. Another group goes to Samoa. Since when did this become standard? They talk about community service and diversity and then the rich kids go overseas. In public schools many families simply cannot afford overseas trips for high school students. In our household the children will have to work and save to take themselves overseas. It won’t be part of their high school education. I’m sure they’ll have plenty to occupy themselves with without going overseas.

So, that’s another winning point for our local high school. No mention of the overseas trip.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Happy Days - again

When the children went back to school a teacher asked the class their favourite tv shows. Most said the shows I had watched as kid. Their favourites (other than The Simpsons) were Happy Days and The Brady Bunch. My kids have been watching these shows too. When the new free to air digital channel Go! was released, they watched I Dream of Jeannie, Bewtiched, Get Smart, Green Acres, The Partridge Family. It was interesting to see these again as an adult, noting how sexist the show Jeannie is, how on Bewitched the women have the power, but cater to the men’s egos by making them think the men are in charge. Get Smart is still fun. The Partridge Family and Green Acres are a hit with my kids.

Then Channel 11 was released, and the kids are now watching Mork and Mindy, Happy Days and The Brady Bunch. What has struck me is how much of Happy Days and The Brady Bunch I remember. Word for word. I hadn’t thought about these shows for thirty years, but they are embedded in my memory. Did I watch a lot of reruns, or did they make a big impression on me?

So, how do they stand up now? Mork and Mindy has a blatant message at the end when Mork reports back to his home planet, which could be a lesson for kids about how our society works. Happy Days is more sexist than I realised, and more based on sex - everybody is making out or trying to. The parents are pretty good role models though. The Brady Bunch shows, in a pretty heavy handed way, what it means to be a family; it helps if you have a housekeeper and two parents who really like each other. This show is the big winner in terms of popularity. After watching The Brady Bunch , Clancy has taken to brushing her hair. She has long blonde hair, so I’m grateful that, finally, something has prompted her to look after her hair. I think she might be identifying with Jan, but hope she doesn’t also display Jan’s Middle Child Syndrome (really, she was quite excessive at times...)

As kids we watched these shows when it was considered OK to watch a lot of tv. We didn’t have the after school activities that my children engage in. We didn’t have any other screens, and still spent plenty of time playing outside.

As I child I watched these shows with no adult supervision, and I’m thinking the kids will be alright. The part that is new into the mix is the advertisements for Sex and the City, Dexter, Californication, Nurse Jackie and The Office. Hmmm. Perhaps it’s time to pop onto the Eleven forum and ask why advertisements for M rated shows are being aired during G rated programs. You can make requests for programs you want to see. It would be fun for the kids to watch The Flying Nun and Gidget. I couldn’t find a complaints section on the site, but lets see if we can get rid of those advertisements.

To contact Channel Ten

The Eleven Forum

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Big Fat Lie About 80s Music

Some good news this week. Phil Collins has retired from the music business! YEAH! Time to share what may be my most controversial piece yet!

The 80s are back, apparently. Young people seem to think that everyone in the 80s was into the music they now identify as uplifting and fun. Not so.

In a music shop I heard the unmistakable sounds of Phil Collins. I hear Phil Collins every time I venture out in public. If I go into a shop, there's Phil. If I pass a building site Phil is blaring out at me. What surprised me was that the music in the music shop was chosen by 'young people'. They think Phil Collins is cool.

Our children are being fed a big fat lie. Phil Collins is not cool. Never was. Never will be. The man is boring. And in the entertainment industry, that matters.

The man broke up with his wife by fax! He's paid out 17 million pounds and 25 million pounds in divorce settlements. He has houses in Switzerland, New York and England. He doesn't need any more money. And have you ever seen him act? I sat through the film Buster in 1988. Never heard of it? With good reason.

The music of the 80s was not great. Mainstream 80s music was poxy then, and it's poxy now.

Phill Collins, Eurythmics, Belinda Carlyle. I don't know who decided their music should be radio staples. Radio stations that are meant to be nostalgic for people in their forties are an insult.

When the radio station Vega started, their motto was 40 years of music. I was hoping that as each year went by they would drop from their playlist a year from the 80s.

Mondo Rock and Dragon were always poxy. Yes, Tears for Fears and Spandau Ballet had their day. Do we need to hear it all again? No we don't. Not everyone was into the American rock of Bryan Adams, John Cougar Mellencamp, Guns and Roses, and Bon Jovi. Some people simply never liked Dire Straits or Billy Joel or INXS. Believe me. I speak the truth. And if these are the best examples of mainstream 80s music, you can imagine how awful the rest were. Stars on 45, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross when past their prime, Juice Newton, Air Supply, Charlene, Laura Branigan, Lionel Richie, Elton John, The Pointer Sisters, Whitney, Chris de Burgh, Rick Astley, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Sheena Easton, Milli Vanilli, Culture Club. That was 80s music. Phil Collins in context. He might look OK amongst that lot, but compared to The Beatles and The Stones? Lets just say Peter Gabriel can hold his head high.

I was in Year 12 when U2 and Eurythmics became popular. Yes, they were big. But was this the music that the 'cool young people' were listening to? Partly.

In the 80s the 'cool young people' in Sydney were listening to The Velvet Underground. To X. To early Cure and The Smiths. To Feedtime. The Go-Betweens. The Saints. The Damned and Killing Joke. To early Bowie and to Kate Bush. To Magazine, and Joy Division and XTC and The The. To Nick Cave and the Laughing Clowns. To James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Prince. To the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Doors, The Beach Boys and Aretha. To jazz and blues.

Look at the charts. 80s music was not all Walking on Sunshine. It was mostly pretty dire, and plenty of people looked outside the charts to find something to listen to. Just like now.

Advocacy and Agency

I have received a notice about an upcoming conference by MIRCI in Toronto on Motherhood Activism, Advocacy, Agency. I receive these kinds of notices quite frequently. The reason I want to share this one is because I was struck by the range of titles the speakers at the conference have written. And by the kind of work women are doing - advocacy work that is important. I'm finding it reassuring and inspiring that women are doing this work. So here is the list of Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Cindy Sheehan, Peace and Social Justice Advocate

Gayle Brandeis, National Staff, CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Tara Brettholtz, President, Mothers and More

Deborah Byrd, Lafayette College, co-editor of Teaching Against the Isms

Cheli English-Figaro, President Emerita of Mocha Moms, Inc.

Rachel Epstein, Coordinator, Sherbourne Health Centre's LGBTQ Parenting Network

Robbie Davis-Floyd, University of Texas, Austin, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

Ariel Gore, founding editor of Hip Mama

Fiona J. Green, University of Winnipeg, author of Feminist Mothering in Theory and Practice, 1985-1995

Diana Gustafson, Memorial University, author of Unbecoming Mothers

Pat Gowens, founder of Welfare Warriors, editor of Mother Warriors Voice.

Erika Horwitz, author of Mothers' Resistance to the Western Dominant Discourse on Mothering

Amber Kinser, East Tennessee State University, author of Motherhood and Feminism

Jeanette Corbiere Lavell, President, Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC)

D. Memee Lavell-Harvard, President, Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA)

D. Lynn O'Brien Hallstein, Boston University, author of White Feminists and Contemporary Maternity

Andrea O'Reilly, York University, Founder/Director, MIRCI

Karen Shain, Policy Director, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

Wow. So, on International Women's Day, I want to say thankyou to all the women who are doing this kind of work.

And to all the people who work in agencies that provide microloans, train community health workers, dig wells, distribute mosquito nets and other work in developing countries - thankyou.

I'll end with some quotes distributed by MIRCI on International Women's Day.

"[Mama]...maintained traditional family values and still worked toward change. I have come to realize that I can be a mother, educator, wife, feminist - each identity not exclusive of the other but impacting on each other and on my development as a woman."
- Karen Diaz, Author

"Empower women and you will see a decrease in poverty, illiteracy, disease and violence."
- Michaelle Jean, Journalist; Stateswoman

"Feminism's agenda is basic: It asks that women not be forced to 'choose' between public justice and private happiness."

- Susan Faludi, Journalist; Author

"A free race cannot be born of slave mothers."

- Margaret Sanger, Nurse; Activist

For facts and figures about gender inequality, click here: