Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Do You Trust Women, from Bitch PhD. Why am I linking this?

Well, I don't always agree with BitchPhD about a lot of stuff. Her politics are not mine, nor are her opinions, entirely, but she's generally got a good argument behind what she says, which is something I approve of. But that page I more or less agree with, especially the section on abortion.

I'm pro-choice. Firmly so. I don't think I could ever have an abortion, but I also don't think I get the right to make that decision for anyone else.

According to this guy, Judaism's banning homosexuality, and the Christian continuance of same, is the foundation of Western civilisation.

I'm pretty sure people talk about ancient Greece and the influence of democracy, Aristotle, mathematics, and whatnot more than they talk about Leviticus when they discuss the foundations of Western civilisation. Certainly from the Middle Ages it was getting into the classics that was the basis of enlightenment; hell, in the capital-E Enlightenment it was philosophy, not religious dogmatism, that brought forward much that modern life depends upon, ideologically speaking.

Parenthetically, the Greeks were pretty cheerful about man on man action.

His best bit, though, is this one:

When male sexuality is not controlled, the consequences are considerably more destructive than when female sexuality is not controlled. Men rape. Women do not. Men, not women, engage in fetishes. Men are more frequently consumed by their sex drive, and wander from sex partner to sex partner. Men, not women, are sexually sadistic.

He is, clearly, victim to one of the more subtle effects of our rampant cultural misogyny. This is a touch of Virgin/Whore syndrome, perhaps. Women are clearly noble and pure and sexually passive.


Women rape. Less than men do, it's true, but our culture isn't exactly riddled with pernicious assumptions about men as sexual victims. As for the fetish thing, though... seriously. Lots of women are into fetishistic sex, are sexual sadists, etc. (I am not one of these women, but I know they're out there and have known some of them.)

This is the kind of thinking that not only disadvantages The Gays, but keeps in place some of the underpinnings of our society that are so very, very sexist. Which hurts both women AND MEN. It sucks.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

War History in the History Wars

The History Wars are continuing in Australia, with the current subject being the place of history, and of narrative history, in the education of our children. The importance of the stories of history, of teaching the sense of where we, as a nation, came from, with a side-argument on whether we should be teaching our children to interpret context only, because they can google the dates and such, or whether children should know something of their history.

Given that this is Australia, it gets tied up in the colonialism thing. Essentially, which history? Are we teaching the history of Australia the way I learnt it in primary school, as the founding of a new nation in a harsh natural environment and with regrettable conflicts with the natives who turned out to be living here, a fact which the settlers should have taken more into account, but overall it's a grand tale of which we should be proud? Or are we teaching the history of Australia as one of shameful mistreatment of the natives, with little focus on anything else? (Since those seem to be the only two options being offered in the argument, although neither is ever treated without bias by its proponents or opponents and I admit that my view of Australian history is somewhat affected by the fact that I learnt most of what I know of it in the 80s and early 90s.)

I'm not really going to weigh in on this one, except to say that it reminds me of a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald I read which was written most of a century ago (I forget when exactly, and the book it was in has been returned to the library from whence it came), commenting on a pageant of Australian History (what there was of it) performed in honour of a royal visit. The writer commented, with heavy irony, on the way the pageant had managed to convey the full story of Australian settlement and onward without mention of a single convict.

Australia's always had a weird ambiguity about its history. We're proud of part of it and don't want to think about the part we don't like, unless we're hyper-aware of it and focus on it really hard. The version of Australian history I learnt in school was heavy on the convict stories - I remember we read through lists of convicts transported and the crimes they'd committed. There was a lot of emphasis on the fact that a lot of the crimes weren't what we'd consider criminal - starving, impoverished people convicted of stealing a loaf of bread to feed their families, that sort of thing. In the 80s (and remember in 1988 we celebrated, comprehensively, the Bicentennial of the arrival of the First Fleet), we were reclaiming our convict past with pride.

Now that that's done, we're into self-flagellation over what dead people did to other dead people. The Left are into making us take responsibility for it, and it's one of the areas where the Left and I don't really agree; I am deeply concerned about the current plight of the Aborigines, many of whom have pretty much zero opportunity to live an even slightly healthy and productive life, but I happen to think that in order to go forward we have to let go of the past. No-one who was involved is alive today. I will not take responsibility for the actions of the long-dead.

(Even if I were native to Australia, even if I could trace my ancestry back to that selfsame First Fleet, I wouldn't. As a first-generation immigrant it certainly had nothing to do with me. I don't believe in ancestral guilt, really, and if I did it would cause me serious problems, considering what horrible, evil things some of my ancestors suffered at the hands of, well, some of my other ancestors. MY ANCESTORS PUT MY ANCESTORS IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS. I WANT COMPENSATION FOR THAT FROM... ME. OH WAIT.)

Anyway, I wasn't going to get into that.

My point is actually rather more that the truly great narratives of history, the inspirational ones I think people should learn, are not, in general, Australian. I was reminded of this because earlier I was talking about the Battle of Britain with my mother.

Apparently some moron in the paper has been going on about how the Battle of Britain was won by the Navy, not the RAF. Because he's a moron.

It is, of course, true that Hitler didn't want to invade Britain because the Royal Navy would sink his ships. On the other hand, had Germany attained mastery of the skies, the Navy would have been sunk by bombers and Britain would have been open to the German invasion. The Battle of Britain, as was clearly acknowledged at the time ("Never have so many owed so much to so few...") and has been since, was a battle of the air.

World War Two was Britain's finest hour. It never yet fails to move me. You have to consider just how much Britain went through during the War - it would help, really, since it puts the world as it is now into perspective.

Not just the rationing. (Although everything was rationed closely.)

Not just the blackout. (Although that went on for years.)

Not just the air raids. (Although those happened often. Night after night of interrupted sleep, of bombs falling, of fear. People dying, homes being destroyed, and everyone going to work the next day and just getting through.)

Not just the terrifying long-range bombs. (Although those were awful. Imaging hearing the drone of the engine, knowing it's a big, big bomb heading for your homeland... and then hearing the engine stop, and knowing that now is the time for fear, because now it's falling, and it's going to hit somewhere nearby.)

Not just the Blitz, when Britain stood more or less alone and was bombarded constantly.

All this, and at the same time you have the Royal Air Force, fighting off attack after attack on Britain, as the defences wore away. .Britain was very nearly left open with no long-range radar left operational by the time the Luftwaffe gave up. The war seemed like it would be endless. Whole cities were almost entirely in ruins. No-one was left untouched by the effects of the bombardment.

And through all this, Britain would not surrender. The worse things got, the more determined the British people were to fight on, and win. Their morale never failed no matter how bad things got.

It's a courage and a strength of spirit that I think people lack, today. Certainly it's something nations don't manage to aspire to.

We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them in the streets, we shall fight them in our homes, we shall never, never, never surrender. - Churchill

Anyone want to suggest that Blair, Howard or Bush has come up with something on that level, or that people would find it passionately inspiring if they did, or simply treat it as hollow rhetoric. (In Churchill's case, it was certainly rhetoric, but it was anything but hollow.)

Britain's finest hour. Never before had Britain been so noble, strong, so representative of the ideals of strength and fortitude she stood for. It's sadly unlikely that Britain will ever be as fine and glorious again.

To return to my point of origin: this is the kind of history that we should learn. Learn that sacrifice can be nobility. Learn that sometimes, though it costs you money, hardship, and tremendous tribulation, though it makes daily life a struggle, doing the right thing isn't just the best choice, it's the only choice. These days we don't want to deal with things if it makes things too hard. We don't want to face privation for the sake of That Which Needs To Be Done. In Britain of the Second World War, enduring privation wasn't just what had to be done, it was the only thing to be done.

Because the alternative was unthinkable.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Except, Narnia

Okay, so all the animals in Narnia are sentient and they talk.

People (and animals) still eat meat in Narnia.


Puffing on the Opiate of the Masses

The other night, in search of something relaxing to read, I picked up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I hadn't read in about ten years. I'd somewhat forgotten how much I loved it, for a few reasons.

CS Lewis is just so charming in his style... and so appealing in his theology. I think Mark Rosenfelder was right (commentary on the movie vs the book, down the bottom of that page) when he put it: "His version of Christianity is attractive precisely because it doesn't ask you to leave your intelligence, your pagan inheritance, and your sense of fantasy at the door. Narnia is liberating and a little subversive..."

I think that was why, back in the day, my nascent theological standpoint, predicated as it was on hardcore agnosticism I admit, was that the only God I could love was a God in the mode of Aslan, allegory of God as he was. Not just a God who is loving and lovable even as he is fierce as well, and not just a God who is so present and real, but the God who rewards virtue, for whatever reason, and condemns evil, no matter whose name it's committed in.

I can't quite get in board, entirely, with a theology where the evil are forgiven and rewarded, so long as they claim Christianity, and the good are condemned if they don't. Possibly this discomfort with total forgiveness is merely a sign of my human weakness. A lot of my religio-philosophical viewpoint is also rather unorthodox, since I come at Christianity through CS Lewis, the Dalai Lama, and a bit of paganism, but still.

I think the problem for me is that some people seem to view the symbol as the signified; if you claim to repent, if you mouth the words of prayer and if you are administered the Christian ritual, your sins will be forgiven, even if all this is just a way of hedging your bets, and... no. That bugs. I think, to me, it seems like it only can count if your repentance is sincere, if you truly, genuinely regret and repent of the sins you have committed against others.

Atonement for that isn't easy, but you have to realise you need to do it first. I think the Jews had it right, that you must attempt to reconcile with people you have wronged, and right the wrong if possible, before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when you have the chance to repent your sins before God.

I think, when you get right down to it, insincerity of religion bugs me. You shouldn't claim to believe unless you believe; you shouldn't claim repentance unless you're really really sorry. I can believe in total forgiveness after true and sincere repentance, and in forgiveness granted by deity in lieu of the perfection of humanity, but...

Maybe it just boils down to there being too little sincerity in the world.

Maybe it's just that really, I was reminded of how much I wish I lived in Narnia... sure, there's no World of Warcrack, but on the other hand, talking badgers.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Also, hilarity

Best referrer tracking hit ever:

"Windschuttle is a windbag"

It only makes me sad that Lasting Ephemera is as yet the only hit for that.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's all about image

I've never been inclined to concern myself with appearances. Particularly my own. I suppose when I was young I just didn't think of it; I'd never been taught that looks were more important than character and intelligence, and by the time I encountered that mindset... Well, I was never going to fit in anyway. I accepted my freakdom, eventually with pride, and have always done my best not to judge other people by appearances either.

For the most part, my friends don't seem to either. Very few people I've known at uni have, either, and when I have gone places where appearances are what matter... I've more-or-less been looking appropriate for my identity, as it was constructed at the time.

Which is why it's mildly disconcerting to spend time around people who *do* judge by appearances. I don't necessarily mean that in a harsh way, but...

Okay, I have a new jacket. It's an awesome jacket - waterproof, with a hood that tucks away into the collar and a zip-out liner. It's also bright neon yellow with stripes of reflective silver for night visibility. This jacket is visible from space. It's supposed to be; the idea is that it makes me more visible while I'm riding my motorcycle, day or night, and thus makes it less likely that people will fail to see me and kill me by accident. The guy who sold it to me commented that people would probably see the bright yellow and think I was a cop. I wore it to work today even though I didn't ride to work, because I don't have another raincoat and the weather was vile. Everyone who saw it commented, and most of them made a joke about my becoming a construction worker/joining a road gang.

It's symptomatic of a tendency common among my workmates to judge by image, really a lot. I feel like a judgmental sort of bitch for the fact that I think a lot of my coworkers are shallow, for reading celebrity gossip magazines all the time instead of anything with what I regard as merit, but... it's not just the magazines, it's this whole general trend. I think it's part of what's starting to bug me about working there.

There's this whole dynamic of Appropriate Behaviour or people get hostile - I recently provoked great irritation from one guy by breaching this unwritten code. My breach was in not playing nice enough with something that would, essentially, make the rest of my shift slightly more irksome but grant him something he wanted; the hierarchy factor in his needs, in his view, outweighing mine was this whole complicated thing to do with the night shift being a) cliquey and b) convinced they're superior to the rest of us (some of them consider me to be semi-night shift, and therefore I get semi-included in some of their dynamic, which included one of the nicer ones venting her annoyance to me about some of the day-shift people who were on a little later than usual who were sitting in the night shifts' regular seats.

We have hot seating, which means you pick a free chair and sit in it; people who work the quieter periods tend to have preferences for where they want to sit, and dislike sitting anywhere else, ever. I have my own preferences for where to sit, it's true, but I don't get shirty about other people sitting there if they've claimed it before I show up. My favourite seat is also uncontested with the night shift. The guy who got annoyed with me was wanting a seat not his usual seat for frivolous purposes; my contention was that:

a) I was sitting there first
b) It was my preferred seat
c) That seat did not serve his claimed goal at all, so wtf
d) I was in a bad mood and did not feal like giving up my seat of preference

Yes, adults in a professional environment do have interpersonal issues over crap this trivial.

But that's rather the point; it's all so irksomely banal, and so much of it is wasted time and effort. There are expectations on who you greet, how much of a conversation you will have with them (or non-conversation, really, since giving a sincere answer to the formulaic questions like "how are you" is even more discouraged than in usual society, so much so that people will often skip actually answering the question at all, even in a token answer), and I spend most of my breaks exchanging these phrases with people because social interaction in the workplace takes up all your free time for no meaning. Again, it's all style, no substance. Just occasionally I'd like to skip spending thirty seconds on "Hi, how's it going?" "Not bad, yourself?" "Yeah, pretty good. Looking forward to the weekend." "Yeah, me too." "Isn't it cold today?" "Freezing, the air con is really messed up." and/or formulaic complaints about customers. If you try to introduce an actual topic to a conversation, people always react with surprise before they drag up a response.

Anyway, before I got on to my frustration with office socialisation, I was going to get into the various confrontations one has with image when one is a woman on a motorcycle, but it's past midnight and I need sleep. This is the problem with composing straight into Blogger...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A lack of road rage

As everyone who will read this already knows, I ride a motorcycle, and I don't own a car. Which means I ride a motorcycle in winter.

This is relevant, because I think it's connected to the increase in motorists doing really stupid things that threaten to involve me in accidents. Motorcycles in winter aren't that common; I see a tiny fraction of the number of other bikes on the road that I see in summer, and believe me, I notice motorcycles on the road if they're there, because I'm looking for them. I love motorbikes and I love seeing them.

So, today.

I had somewhere to be. On the way, a car pulled out from a side road directly in front of me. I had to brake sharply, and beep my little horn at the driver. For some reason I always beep three times, one long, two short. I did that today, and a number of highly uncomplimentary thoughts about the driver crossed my mind. As I often do, I fantasised momentarily about yelling at him for it. I always want to because I want drivers to be made aware of what they nearly did, and I never do it, because I'm not a huge fan of confrontation.

(No, really. Once I'm in an argument with someone I'll get into it and I'll want to win it, but I don't look for one.)

Not far beyond the point where this happened, there was a red light. Couple of cars queued in each lane. Being on a motorbike and all, I went between the lanes to go to the front.

I could see from behind that the driver of the car that pulled out in front of me had his window open, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to tell him off I could; he'd hear me, I could say some choice words and move on ahead of him. If ever I had an opportunity to hurl abuse at someone without giving them the chance of riposte, this was it.

I wouldn't do it, but it was a nice thought.

Then I went past the car.

I glanced down at the driver as I idled past. If he could have seen my face he would have seen I was glaring mildly until I saw him, but between helmet and my big giant sunglasses my face isn't really visible when I'm riding in daylight. So all he saw was the helmet turn towards him briefly and then I was past.

I saw him, through his open window.

He was an older gent, maybe seventy, wearing a tan suit. And he was hunching down and away with his shoulders at the same time as he was looking up at me with an expression that mingled guilt and fear and shame, and I felt terrible.

He did know what he'd done, and what the consequences could have been. He knew that he could have hurt me, could have killed me, and that I'd probably be angry, and he was afraid of my rage. He was old. I'm not. I could hurt him. I wouldn't - even more than I wouldn't, in general, assault someone, we're up against the thing where I tend to like old people - but he didn't know that, and I felt awful for his fear when he'd just not seen me.

The trouble, of course, being that a small error on his part, in the scale of it being quite easy to do, can have big giant consequences for me; we were both lucky that it happened well within the margin where my observation that he was there and general constant preparedness for something like this to happen meant that I reacted carefully and there wasn't any kind of accident, but if he'd pulled out two seconds later it would perhaps have been a very different matter.

But the real epiphany, for me, was that road rage is worse than pointless.

Let's say I'd hurled abuse at him. Shouted what I'd thought: "Look before you pull out, you moron! You could have killed me! You idiot!"

Well. In the case of the driver who'd done it, it would have heaped aggression and insult and demeaning insults on someone who didn't need that. He knew he'd made a mistake and one that could have been serious. He already felt bad enough.

Had he been the kind of driver who never sees himself as being the one in the wrong, it just would have certified his view that obviously I was a dangerous lunatic. Or it may not even have become that rational, he'd just throw that aggression back at me. Still no benefit to be had for anyone.

It's not really a novel idea that rage and abusive behaviour are non-productive, but it's something I've been thinking about today. Because I can still see that old man shying away from the window of his car, looking guilty and afraid and ashamed, and I hate that image. I can't help but think that if this weren't a world where people are afraid of other drivers' road rage, he'd have looked apologetic and guilty but he wouldn't have had to retreat bodily from someone passing his car window, just apologised to me through it.

I would have been okay with that.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Apathy is the Leitmotif of the 21st Century

I was reading an article in this month's issue of The Monthly: The Punishment of David Hicks. And, of course, reviewing a few secondary sources on their claims about what's going on. It's...

Well, actually it's really terribly familiar territory to me, since I've studied the history of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, or at least up to a point; the Gestapo and the KGB only wished they were as good at torture as the CIA and the US military are. Of course, when I read about the kinds of things done by notoriously evil totalitarian regimes, that was history; it's a whole different feeling when you're reading about current events.

And the thing is...

I feel powerless.

I want to be angry at the American people for letting this happen. The American government has concluded that the Geneva Convention doesn't matter, that the rule of American law is to be avoided, that the US Supreme Court is something to get around, not to be subject to. Right now, this minute, as I'm typing this, the United States is torturing people, physically and psychologically; they have it down to a science.

And they break people. Even the ones who are still holding out on false confessions - like David Hicks, and even though he's someone I wouldn't have wanted to know before 2001, I kinda admire the guy for that - start manifesting signs of serious psychosis, induced by long-term torture. By Americans.

"1. Public reports have documented hundreds of cases of torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment involving detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay. The military has admitted that at least 86 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2002; 26 of these cases were determined to be homicides, and in almost all of these 26 cases, there is evidence indicating that the detainees were beaten or tortured before death." - Human Rights Watch Submission to The Human Rights Committee Regarding Post 9-11 Practices of the United States of America, September 2005 (source: here, from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website

But you know, I can't be, because while America is letting this happen, Australia is letting this happen to an Australian citizen, when other countries are interceding for the protection of their own nationals. The Howard government happily accepts whatever the Bush government claims, despite all evidence to the contrary from bit players like the United Nations, the Red Cross, and Amnesty International.

Which is wrong. It's wrong of us, it's wrong of the American people, it's wrong of everyone that this is happening and no-one's stopping it. It's wrong that Bush was ever re-elected, frankly, but that's a whole different post. Humanity is letting itself down.

But you know... even though I think this is wrong, even though I, myself, know this is happening and sincerely believe it shouldn't be... it's not like I know how to stop it. I don't know how to change the world. I don't know how even to begin trying to make the Howard government uphold Australian sovereignty and demand that Australian citizens be treated in accordance with law, with the Geneva Convention, and with the United Nations Charter on Human Rights to which we are signatory. And if I don't know how to change Australia, my own country, I sure as hell don't know how to change someone else's.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In My World, History is King

My choice of leisure reading has on occasion caused comment, most recently after I'd remarked that I had indulged myself in reading an article about the operation of the state judicial system in Nazi Germany and its interactions with the Gestapo and Nazi policies. A few weeks later I got quite a few jokes at work for the subject of the book I'd been reading on my break - Ian Kershaw's excellent biography of Hitler (which is tremendous in its scope and depth, which is also why I've never yet finished reading it). People find my predilection for reading about Nazis odd. People find my predilection for reading it as a leisure activity even odder, it seems.

I found a big part of the explanation of this, though, put into words in the preface to Ernst Nolte's Three Faces of Fascism: Action Francaise, Italian Fascism, National Socialism. To wit: "... the fascist era claimed more victims than any era in history, and for this very reason demands the utmost intellectual effort at understanding." I believe it's necessary for humanity to understand how fascism, and, yes, Nazism in particular, came to happen, because if we don't know how it happened the first time we won't necessarily be able to stop it happening again.

I think to a certain extent modern culture, with its focus on the ephemeral and the way it ignores the past (and, a lot of the time, the future), is something of a sickness. The world is crazy. The mass media are certainly insane, and the culture of celebrity and its trappings and the incredibly sick excess of that is the visible signifier; lost children like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are a sign of a culture that's lost the plot. When millions of people know that people who are, pretty much, children are in dire need of help to correct their lives' downward spiral, and those people watch avidly and no-one does anything to fix it... there's something deeply wrong. And it's incredibly pervasive. The fucked-up and famous are just the noticeable symptoms. (Australia, for now, is still marginally healthier than America and England, but only marginally, and the way Australia panders slavishly to America is twisted, considering that, collectively, we seem also to think that America is crazy.)

In the past, people maintained the awareness of their past. And that's important. People need roots, need background. It's hard to develop a strong sense of where you are and should be going when you don't know where you're coming from. Society has broken down and is cruising, it seems, largely on the momentum of the minority who do maintain that sense of history.

Progress isn't coming from the people who obsess over the ephemeral trivia that obsesses the mass media (and, judging by the blogosphere, a hideously large proportion of the population). The people who work at NASA are at the cutting edge of the future still, but they have a grasp on the past. That's why they still name stuff after people like Galileo, when it seems like most people nowadays wouldn't have a clue who Galileo was if you asked them. They don't think history matters, when it really, really does. Not just because, as the saying goes, those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it; because the present is meaningless without the context of the past.

Liberals and conservatives wrangle without really knowing where the words come from or what they mean. People who fight for the Left or the Right don't know why they're called that. People claim, for example, that the United States of America is a country founded on Christian principles when it absolutely was not; it was founded by deists and atheists and post-Enlightenment rationalists who wanted more than anything else to establish the separation of Church and State.

None of them, it seems, realise that the battles they're fighting have been fought before. A hundred years on and we're still caught up in the Dreyfus Affair and the people doing that don't even know what the Dreyfus Affair was or why it matters, why one Jewish captain mattered that much then, let alone now. Hell, we're still caught up in the repercussions of the French Revolution. Not enough people understand why. Not enough people even know that; know why it happened, why it changed the world. Not enough people are willing to accept that, whatever the modern-day moral judgment of the era of European imperialism may be, until the end of the Second World War, the history of Europe is the history of the world. American history is only relevant because American history before the World Wars affects America beyond the World Wars.

Or at least, it used to, but you know, Independence, the American Constitution, the principles of the Founding Fathers, the good intentions and the importation of slaves, the violent and horrific abuse of the Native Americans, the buildup to and reasons for the Civil War (no, it wasn't "about slavery")... none of this means jack shit any more because no-one pays attention to it, and that's why America is flailing and unstable and prone to wild fits on a national level. American history would, no doubt, be hard to come to terms with. Even a light study of it, which is all I've really done, brings one into contact with elements to which the only real reaction can be revulsion. I still feel an automatic horror and loathing when I read the words, "Texas Ranger," and I'm not even an American trying to come to terms with my own history. But unless America manages to deal with that, acknowledge it all, it's not going to be able to overcome it, and it'll still be nationally crazy.

Australia has the same problem, although trying to fix it has gained greater prominence and momentum. We've tried to come to terms with Australia's less salutary areas of history, but it's been rejected by some people and, unfortunately, by people like Howard, so it hasn't worked, and funnily enough Australia is getting to be a bit crazy too. It's cognitive dissonance on a mass level, and it's sickening society.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How to take a holiday (in four hours or less)

I needed a holiday. Desperately. Of course, I had no foreseeable consecutive days free, and almost no money, and yet... I really, really needed a holiday.

As it turns out, consecutive days off and money are both superfluous to a holiday. I booked out on my bike for an afternoon away from all the things that had been getting me down. It was surprisingly effective, and tremendously enjoyable, and took three and a half hours and a few bucks. (I could have cut it down to about six bucks' worth of fuel, but I could at least afford coffee, cake, and a couple of souvenirs.)

This then is that story.


Set out. Headed in the general direction of the Swan Valley, then to head up Great Northern Highway to Bindoon. Pleasant enough run - it's pretty country around there. Every time I go out far enough to be at the point where I'm out of the suburbs, I'm reminded how much I want to live in the country. Some interesting sights. Heard a plane pass low as I went past the RAAF Pearce base. Traffic slowdown at Bullsbrook because they're "upgrading" the highway. I seem to recall traffic snarled at Bullsbrook last time I went through there - a year ago.

1:00pm, maybe

I needed to stop off and get petrol at some point on this trip, as I'd planned about 180km and didn't have quite enough fuel for that. Saw a shiny new-looking sign by a gravel off-road for Fuel and Roadhouse, and turned off that way. After navigating carefully along the road (my bike is not designed for off-road and feels a bit disturbingly uncertain on gravel), found what looks like a couple of large, disused corrigated iron sheds. There's a pile of rusted farm implements, a foreboding "this is where the bodies got left" look to the biggest shed, and no sign of habitation or petrol. Bemused, I returned to the highway and got fuel further down the road.

1:40pm - Bindoon!

Last time I set out on a long aimless ride I decided to go to Bindoon but didn't get all the way. This time I made it! (It's a long ride and last time it was hot and I hadn't brought water and all the roadhouses were closed.) But due to trifling shortage of a key point of knowledge about local geography, didn't finish all my goals this time. More on that later. I noted a couple of places I wanted to stop and get a look at on the way back - stopping from 100km/hr when you see something beside the road doesn't work that well, especially if there's something behind you, and turning around is annoying.

Had very good coffee and better lemon meringue pie at the Giddy Goat Cafe. Tasty!

In the back garden of the cafe they have this thing I couldn't identify. Wacky. Across the road is Bindoon Tractors, which, for some reason, I really like the look of. It's just a nice building, somehow.


I set out again, still north. Now, earlier I'd seen signs which, at that point, indicated:


Which, of course, meant that from that point, Bindoon was 50km away and Gingin 56. What I didn't realise was that to get to Gingin you have to turn off on the Brand Highway about 30km before Bindoon, I couldn't readily go on from one to the other. (I'd THOUGHT that seemed a little close together for two separate towns...) When I found the turnoff to get from Bindoon to Gingin, it was another 22km, and I was tired.

On those long highways, you don't stop at traffic lights, so you don't ever really stretch your legs. After about 45 minutes of being in the same position and vibrated, my knees ache, and at high speeds the tension of holding my knees together (or at least, against the tank) against the 100km/hr wind force makes this muscle I don't know the name of on the insides of my thighs start to ache (this is the down side of my preference for naked bikes), and so I went back.

I stopped at the Post Office/Visitor Centre for a couple of little souvenirs of my holiday, then headed on back. The roadside range markers stopped being NN (New Norcia) and started showing P (Perth); home.

One place I'd noted on the way north I did remember in time to stop at on the way south. The Holy Trinity Church, built on a land grant from Queen Victoria in the late 19th century, is worth a stop. I spent a few minutes walking around its authentic 19th-century churchyard and reading the tombstones (some of them 19th-century). Some of them tell inherently tragic stories (read the second inscription), but it's hard to be completely moved by the tragedies of over a century ago. It's too remote.

It's good, I think, occasionally to get away alone. The time I spent there was silent, with no interruption to thought or consideration of other people's priorities or wants in the exploration, and I liked that. I do, though, also like doing this sort of thing in company, so I'm not sure which I prefer, really.


I got home. It was a nice holiday anyway. Certainly a good holiday for ~$25 including food, fuel, and souvenirs...