all my life i’ve been waiting for this linkspam to arrive

See the cultural cringe on a national scale, as embodied by Tourism Australia: Indian celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor labels Australia’s multicultural gourmet tourism strategy ‘not very smart.’ It’s interesting that he says:

“This probably is a time when you can start creating things which you call your own, things which for the next 20 to 50 years you say, ‘This is Australian.’

“Here you are losing a chance and you’re spending so much money and you say that nothing is ours.”

In Australia we have the cultural cringe, the idea that we have no culture or that Australian culture is all bush and damper and diggers and jillaroos. How can we define culture? Is an emphasis on multicultural cuisine a culture?

City of Casey councillor proposes motion to ban LGBTI promotion. Awkward. Then another City of Casey councillor came out.

In embarrassing Auspol shenanigans: What ‘democracy’ means in China is not what Australia’s Abbott thinks, wherein Abbott doesn’t understand what Xi says and we are all hiding our faces behind our hands; George Christensen uses Vegemite to suggest halal products are funding terrorism and sharia; another thing about G20 and Tone’s speech; Clive has implied Jacqui Lambie infiltrated PUP to blow it up? Following, Jacqui Lambie has quit PUP.

20 Tony Abbott quotes, an amazing spreadsheet.

Eating multiculturalism by Cher Tan, at Peril Mag (a favourite of Steph’s), on what multiculturalism means in Australia (and another favourite of Steph’s the idea that Australia is multicultural because we love food whilst hating everything else).

What’s Love Got To Do With It?  The excellent Carly Findlay confronts the popular and dangerous idea that chronic illness — particularly autoimmune disease — is caused by self-hatred.  Liz has multiple autoimmune diseases AND a massive ego.  Take that, dodgy unscience!

Marine paleontology down at Beaumaris Beach! Field trip to Stephanie’s work, yay!steph and the abc

How to take down a Woman of Colour with one word, on tokenism and parochialism. By Ruby Hamad.

Trams are back in fashion. About politics and imagination.

A very important article by Friend of No Award Genevieve Valentine: 10 period pieces to cheat Eng Lit 205: British Lit on TV. RELEVANT.

CUTS TO OUR ABC AND SBS. MUCH OUTRAGE (legit). Track the twitter tag, people went to rallies, Sydney sang the Play School theme.

play school? more like YES GIMME


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Hi No Award. Steph, in conjunction with No Award contributor Ash, want you to listen to some things this morning. We’re not saying it’s important that Play School have some influence on your life as an Australian, but as children we loved it, and as an adult Steph adores Jay Laga’aia.

Prepare to clutch your shirt in joy at the Play School theme

The saddest song ever: Benita sings 5 Little Ducks, which worries Ash:

Five Little Ducks (no video, sorry)

Barbara sings about the creepiest cat:

Noni sings Five Grey Elephants; Stephanie wants to be a puppeteer (age 4)

The Ning Nang Nong is a lot creepier than Steph remembers (stand by for another post on this important ecological feature)

Galumphing Frogs (children all over Australia sing about the noise frogs make when you step on them)

Noni reads Go the Fuck to Sleep

Not a song, but very important. Noni, beloved of many members of Gen Y (and Team No Award) due to her years on Play School, a and well-known potty-mouth, was commissioned by Text Publishing to do a reading of this classic, and it’s so perfect. Her face still brings comfort and the knowledge that something amazing is about to happen.

And to round us out, the GREATEST THING EVER: Simon and Noni and Humpty and Max and Morris in Humpty Dumpty the Opera. Steph doesn’t remember this at all, unlike the other pieces, but prepare to want to watch it twice.

sounds like a linkspam

Because Cory Bernardi is a dickwad: Putting a woman in a headlock sometimes justified, Cory Bernardi ACTUAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER tells domestic violence inquiry.

Juries can be influenced by where defendants sit in a courtroom, Australian study reveals.

The sobering reality of actual black nerd problems, over at Black Nerd Problems, discusses violence against black men, cosplay, and perception. It is unusually US-centric for No Award, but we’re all about perception and intersections and this one time a brown male friend of Steph’s was stopped in the Perth CBD by coppers because he was running with bags (they held laptops, and he missed his bus). We still laughingly refer to that as the time B was stopped for running while brown, but the laughter is mostly to stop the anger.

Stuff about the G20: Junkee implies Obama is unimpressed dad vis Australia and climate change; G20 sounds like one of those terrible meetings where everyone wants to talk about one thing but the chair is the one person who keeps ignoring that one issue (that’s us, and it’s about climate change). No Award hates those meetings.

Here’s more: Australia left to cringe once more at a leader’s awkward moment.  The article is self-explanatory, but we at No Award would like to take a moment to question the policy of international bonding via koalas.  Did you know that 80% of koalas have chlamydia?  This causes urinary tract infections, which makes their practice of pissing on any human unwise enough to hold one even grosser.  And they’re high all the time on eucalyptus leaves.  Is that really a message President Obama wants to send the world?  What is the political subtext of handing foreign leaders koalas?  How has nobody declared war over this yet?

Finally, over at the Guardian (of course), local activist, feminist and columnist Van Badham (of course!) lists 10 things we learned at the G20, from the importance of sunscreen to which bra you should wear while protesting climate change.

(No Award notes that it believes in koala conservation and not destroying koala habitats.  They should be left to flourish and be disgusting in peace.)

The dude on Today wore the same suit for a year and is now talking about sexism and how he’s judged on his performance and his lady cohosts aren’t.  It’s a small thing in many ways, but a good example of a white dude using his white dude privilege for good.

Steph doesn’t want to sound judgy, but there’s a Buddhist school in Daylesford and everyone interviewed in regards to the school has a name that isn’t traditionally associated with Buddhism. Although here at No Award we respect the right of people of all ethnicities to do all things, we have a healthy suspicion of white people co-opting Asian things.

(Someone recently described Daylesford to Liz as the natural habitat of middle-aged, upper middle-class white hippies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  It’s just not a demographic known for being thoughtful about its appropriative practices.)

SPEAKING OF, it was The Colour Run in Melbourne on Sunday, an event which is both cultural appropriation of the actual religious festival of Holi, and also not at all a charity, not even a little bit and wow do they want you to know it:

The Swisse Color Run is a commercial event, which chooses to support charities. As a for-profit event we are proud to give back to the local community, something we do not have to do, but we choose to do.

What copyeditor allowed ‘choose’ to feature in two sentences in a row? A copyeditor who was overruled, that’s who.

The Color Run is neither a charity nor a non-profit organization. The Color Run is a “for profit” event management company and our number one goal is to produce high quality events.


Family Court Chief Justice calls for a rethink on how High Court handles cases involving transgender children.

Basically, a trans kid in Australia who wants to transition needs to have their case examined by a panel of experts, and then the Family Court has the final say.  Liz has transcribed a lot of these cases, and while it’s not an adversarial process, and the judges are generally quite sensitive to these children’s needs and gender identities, it’s still a load of stress that can probably be avoided.  So well done Bryant CJ for pointing out that the court probably doesn’t need to be involved at all.

Fear and Loathing in (the) Land Down Under

There are fault lines in Australia that we know have always run through its sociopolitical crust that can’t be suppressed. A history of shameful, despicable seasons: the White Australia policy, the Stolen Generations, equating Aborigines with flora and fauna, the Children Overboard scandal, the Cronulla Riots, the horrific treatment of “queue-jumping” asylum seekers that gets worse. “Go back to where you came from!” you hear some shriek like harpies. “This is ’Straya, not Muslimania!”

A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names

We at No Award have watched the unfolding of the Winterfox/Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew saga with interest, having been aware of that individual and her, uh, works, for some time. (Liz was a lurker in the 50 Books POC debacle, and found herself frequently agreeing with RH’s reviews while also avoiding them because RH’s abusive language was a major anxiety trigger; Stephanie has been known to nope out of situations involving RH, despite also frequently agreeing with RH’s reviews) This detailed post outlines both RH’s behaviour under various pseudonyms and her more recent actions under the Benjanun Sriduangkaew persona, and offers stark proof that RH particularly targeted fellow women of colour for abuse.  (Screencaps include racist, transphobic and abusive language.)

Who Killed the Cup Day Billy Cart Derby? Steph has friends who live on this street and used to make falafel to sell, and is having a lot of feelings about the Melbourneness of this article and the importance of this bit:

When asked if there is a moral to the story, one organiser simply said: “Get more things like this happening. Don’t rely on other people to produce an event. Do one yourself. There could be thousands of ***** street derbies, it could be an underground movement. If people are that keen to follow it then start more. All you need is four wheels, a piece of wood and a plank and you’re off.

For sale: W Class Tram

Liz and Steph gave serious considering to buying this before we eventually concluded it would be impractical to move, store and restore.  But if you’re wondering what to get the social justice blogger/infrastructure nerd in your life for Christmas…

In No Award news, Stephanie accidentally wrote a really popular parody on the internet with Hayley Inch (OZTEN: Pride and Prejudice for Aussies), and Liz announced she’s editing an anthology (Companion Piece: women celebrate the humans, aliens and tin dogs of Doctor Who).  And Liz and Stephanie are BOTH appearing in FableCroft’s Cranky Ladies of History, an anthology of short fiction about historical women with no time for nonsense.

things people thought it was appropriate to say about the tattoos of No Award



girls with tattoos are so trashy

especially on their lower backs


not a tattoo of no award

oh YOU have a tramp stamp?

you seem so nice

what will your boss say

you’ll never get a proper job again (liz’s boss at the time had two tattoos and a nose ring btw)

why’d you get a dead Roman lady on your back?

what do you mean it’s a feminist tattoo?

what will your children say?

what will your future husband say?

because you want to be more of a bogan?

but why brand it on your body? why not put it on a t-shirt so you can see the message but take it off and it’s not permanent?

oh wow, do you read chinese?

did you join a gang?

art shows australia deserves



An entire building inspired by Lee Lin Chin and her fashions


Portraits of Larry Emdur circa The Price is Right

Kamahl, illustrated with quotes from his songs

Red Hot Rhonda Burchmore and the Channel 9 Dancers; this would be an interactive exhibition in order to properly appreciate her legs

The Gladiators; called ‘Gladiator Ready: the journey of a nation’, and paired with a special mini-exhibition devoted to referee Mike Whitney and Who Dares Wins

David and Margaret. Actual David and Margaret, in chairs, reviewing movies for ever and ever

Play School; includes an ode to Noni Hazlehurst’s potty mouth, and speculation on the absence of Diddle the Cat.

Trams of Australia

Erotic Art inspired by Australian cop shows of the 90s, especially if that art includes Wildside and Water Rats

Gold Logie Award winners in horror movies

Saving Australia: Day Wear of Australian Lifesavers

Failed Christmas Decorations That Narrowly Ate Loved Ones: inspiration from back issues of The Australian’s Women’s Weekly and Better Homes and Gardens

full grown lesbian FAUNS by friends of no award JP and NW

margaret pomeranz and lee lin chin: full grown lesbian FAUNS

Tomorrow When the War: racist art of Australia edited to be less racist and/or feature giant Australian fauna

Waiting Game: lots of different clocks illustrating how late trains in Australia are.

with thanks to Hayley Inch for inspiring and “assisting”

Linkspam don’t get around much anymore

The big-eyed children: the extraordinary story of an epic art fraud

In which a person, male, attaches himself to a more-talented person, female, and treats her badly while claiming both credit for her work and the associated rewards.  This is interesting, not for the intrinsic quality of the art — which is, um, debatable — but for the satisfaction of Margaret Keane’s eventual triumph.

(Bonus!  The comments featuring guys going, “Name one occasion on which a man has taken credit for a woman’s work,” and getting dozens of verifiable cases in response.  Note: this does not make reading the comments in any way worthwhile.)

Architecture for Bikes (in pictures)

Here at No Award we adore cosplay, especially cosplay appropriate to Australia’s climates, and so this photographic project by Klaus Pichler of Australian cosplayers in their homes is just EXCELLENT.

Stephanie has a lot of feelings about ‘authenticity’ and racist and classist devaluation and revaluation of work, and you should definitely read Crafted nostalgia: The romanticisation of a handmade economy by Cher Tan at Kill Your Darlings.

When production reaches a saturation point, the desire to pursue ‘authenticity’ is rehashed to the point of becoming the norm. But in the developed world, is the quest for an ever-changing authenticity evidence of the romanticisation of having less?

Yes. Perfect.

SECRET BOOKS: Melbourne’s hidden libraries. Stephanie, being the unrepentant urban hipster that she is, wants to create a library in the vestibule of her apartment building (which is a refurbed factory in Fitzroy).

The impact of David and Margaret on Australia’s film industry: Pomeranz and Stratton: a critical loss for the Australian film industry.

Stephanie is also pretty chuffed about this: Proposal to curb car traffic in Brunswick Street in favour of pedestrians. High density in Fitzroy. No cars on Brunswick Street! The no bikes thing is fine as well, cos bikes can use Napier street. Yes, thank you. Recently Stephanie took the opportunity to submit to the City of Yarra Local Traffic Management Survey. You better believe she had some things to say about the lack of bike parking and bike lanes in certain areas.

Yay for the internet: Melbourne hotel cancels ‘pick-up artist’ seminar amid outrage over choking technique. PICK UP ARTISTS. If you are a pick up artist, you can leave No Award. Thanks.

Man climbs onto whale carcass as feeding sharks circle off West Australian coast.

It is not yet known why the man chose to board the carcass.

And the follow up: Mum thinks I’m an idiot.

Notes on the Exotic, by Andrea Lee at the New Yorker.

And some people who spoke about Gough at his funeral: Cate Blanchett, who gave a killer, lovely leftie speech and made Tone a bit awks; Noel Pearson, talking about discrimination.

If there were no Racial Discrimination Act that would have been the end of it. Land rights would have been dead, there would never have been a Mabo case in 1992, there would have been no Native Title Act under Prime Minister Keating in 1993.

Without this old man the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day.

There would never have been Mabo and its importance to the history of Australia would have been lost without the Whitlam program.

Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil.

Only those who have never experienced prejudice can discount the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act.

This old man was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination but understood the importance of protection from its malice.


australian movies that would have been improved by the inclusion of vampire Claudia Black

Queen of the Damned was filmed in Melbourne; 3000 Melbourne goths (and Canberran goths) were bussed out to Werribee to film the concert scene; the vampire bar was a derelict bar in Docklands built specially for the purpose. So hilarious. So amazing.

Claudia Black is in the movie for about 2 minutes. So much opportunity lost. So much amazingness.

Australian movies that would have been improved by the inclusion of vampire Claudia Black:

Claudia as Pandora in Queen of the Damned

Queen of the Damned (2002)

Pandora, about whom Anne Rice has written an entire book (AND WHO ACTUALLY SURVIVES THE ORIGINAL BOOK), appears earlier and more frequently. When Akasha turns up in the vampire house with lots of open doorways to the outside, she lets Vampire Matthew Newton go first and as a result doesn’t die, and we all rejoice because Vampire Matthew Newton is a dickhead. VCB helps Jesse through the change and continues to mentor her, with her eternal lesbian relationship with Lena Olin. Her BFF through time, Marius, leaves to go torment the Eighth Doctor. Bruce Spence hangs out.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Miranda wants to become a vampire because she loves Vampire Claudia Black so much. VCB is less enamoured of Miranda; instead, takes her back to the school. Sets all the girls free from the tyranny of early twentieth century Australia. The girls create a vampire collective in the school and kill all the men.


Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Fran is a great dancer, cos her awesome Auntie Vampire Claudia Black has taken the time and patience to really inspire her, unlike her jerkface dad. At no point does Mr Bill Hunter convince Scott to dance with Liz instead of Fran, and they go to the Pan Pacs. In the interim, Auntie VCB teaches Scott to be more respectful and Fran to be more fierce. When Charm Leachman cuts the music, Auntie VCB puts the music back and then eats Charm Leachman.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Vampire Claudia Black prevents the really racist bits from happening, because she eats Bill Hunter and whisks Cynthia away to have an excellent, fufilling life not filled with racial stereotypes. In the absence of Bill Hunter, VCB saves Guy Pearce from the homophobes, eats them. She and Cynthia do the makeup for the drag show, because VCB loves the desert lights. Everybody goes back to Sydney and has a grand old time.


Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

Vampire Claudia Black kills Bill Hunter; makes sure his assets make their way to his family; Muriel still marries that dude and it all ends the same way because it’s a movie about dreams and failure and oneself, and some things remain true about Australia.

The Wiggles Movie (1997)

Nobody makes any ridiculous messes and she teaches Dorothy the Dinosaur to stop being so fucking culturally appropriative.

Wolf Creek (2005)

Vampire Claudia Break eats John Jarratt; fixes the car; torches the camp. She takes the rottweiler and they keep killing gross white Australian men together.

The Sapphires (2012)

Vampire Claudia Black gets rid of that white dude; she supports the Sapphires in getting to Vietnam and everything is all good. The US release DVD cover isn’t white-washed and focused on the non-Indigenous Australian person.


Bonus Australian TV

Vampire Claudia Black reads books to Little Ted on Play School. Her favourite co-presenters are Noni, Benita, and Jay Laga’aia, because she’s hot and she recognises awesomeness and hotness.

Special mention to the show that never existed but always will in our hearts, The Claudia Black Hotness and Variety Hour; and to Stargate SG1, which Claudia Black breathed life into for an extra two seasons through the power of her hotness.


melbourne pt. ugh.


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flooded stationYesterday it rained and Team No Award chose to leave their bikes at home and brave the elements/Melbourne’s public transport system. We’re not happy about it. We’d like to tell you why:

  • people who surge towards the train doors as they open and have to be forced to let people off
  • bikes on trains at peak hour (travelling with the peak) leaving no room for wheelchairs and mobility scootersflood3
  • myki
  • the smell
  • the East West Link
  • every single driver, cyclist, tram and pedestrian on Sydney Road who isn’t Liz
  • Upfield Line comes only every 20 minutes
  • unlit stretches on Upfield Bike Path (obviously the fault of the train line)
  • the number of disposable coffee cups abandoned underneath the seats
  • people who insist on not getting off the tram till they’ve touched off, in the city centre. DON’T DO THAT
  • that time someone yelled at Steph for having her bike on the train (despite it being contraflow and in an empty front section)
  • the way people all crowd around the door
  • the distance between the platform and the train at brighton beach station
  • ptv’s lack of integration
  • giant puddles form a lake between tram and footpath on Sydney Road
  • rail infrastructure dates back to 1930s
  • the smell
  • having to hear ‘dumb ways to die’ four times whilst waiting for your burger from the lord
  • that one time someone Steph knows was masturbated against on the tram
  • how hard it is to actually report a thing to Metro Trains
  • ticket inspectors seem to mostly target young men of colour and the vulnerable or disadvantaged
  • twitter last week had a person whose sister was harassed by PSOs at her station
  • remember that time they assaulted a teenage girl and then charged her for spitting on them?rail_safety_wideweb__430x286
  • and people who get off then stop stock-still right in front of the doors.  I WILL BODYSLAM YOU, PEOPLE, DON’T THINK I WON’T.  YOU’RE MORE YIELDING THAN THE TRAM DOORS THAT WANT TO CLOSE BEHIND YOU
  • people who insist on staying in the doorway until their myki has registered before they’ll get on the tram.  THERE ARE FORTY PEOPLE BEHIND YOU AND WE ALL WANT TO BOARD.  SWIPE ONCE EVERYONE’S ON BOARD
  • teaching visitors how to myki
  • sitting on a train between north melbourne and southern cross
  • sitting on a train between flinders street and richmond
  • “the train will be departing shortly” OH WILL IT

book review: the songlines, by bruce chatwin


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Here is 1800 words about a book that Stephanie hated! The only thing that saved it being thrown across the train in disgust was that it was a library book, and she has her lines. (Plus Liz would probably tell her off)

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1987.

The Songlines is a book about discovery. It’s a travelogue and an adventure and an exploration. It’s fiction. It’s autobiography.

It’s a pretentious pile of racist drivel.

It’s beautifully written. There are some excellent turns of phrase, and it’s got a lovely style, but ultimately it’s about an English man, who believes we’re all nomads, coming to Australia and insisting on creating analogies for literally every element of the lives of the indigenous Australians that he meets. ‘It’d be like America and Russia agreeing to swap their own internal politics-’ he says, of a kin exchange between two different countries.

In chapter 2 he compares Indigenous Australians to Coyotito (a coyote) from Ernest Thompson Seton’s Lives of the Hunted.

Yet Coyotito grew up smart and, one morning, after shamming dead, she bolted for the wild: there to teach a new generation of coyotes the art of avoiding men.

I cannot now pierce together the train of associations that led me to connect Coyotito’s bid for freedom with the Australian Aboriginals’ ‘Walkabout.’ Yet somehow I picked up an image of those ‘tame’ Blackfellows who, one day, would be working happily on a cattle-station: the next, without a word of warning and for no good reason, would up sticks and vanish into the blue.

Bruce keeps comparing Indigenous Australians to fauna. Chapter 12, Flynn (an Indigenous man whose country is never stated, but who is a part of the Boongaree Council) describes allegiances and ‘totemic clans.’ “What this boils down to,” Bruce says:

hesitantly, ‘is something quite similar to birdsong. Birds also sing their territorial boundaries.’

Arkady, who had been listening with his forehead on his kneecaps, looked up and shot me a glance, ‘I was wondering when you’d rumble to that one.’

Here Arkady, a non-Indigenous Australian of Russian descent from Adelaide, who has lived for some time in and around the Northern Territory and serves as Bruce’s guide on this particular exploration, practically gives Bruce permission to describe Indigenous Australian songlines in this fashion, as if Indigenous Australians weren’t legally categorised as fauna until 1967.

Chapter 14, he writes “I was not drunk – yet – but had not been nearly so drunk in ages. I got out a yellow pad and began to write.” The audience is left with most of a blank page and upon turning finds


“In the beginning the Earth was an infinite and murky plain, separated from the sky and from the grey salt sea and smothered in shadowy twilight.” This page contains Old Man Kangaroo and Sky-dwellers and Ancestor and Cockatoo Man and Witchetty Grub Man and Bandicoot Man.

Here, drunk on the liquor condescendingly denied to indigenous people in the town and on his own privilege, Bruce begins to construct what he sees as his own story, coherent within a Dreaming (any Dreaming), as if this is a thing he has permission to do.

He writes the exchange of work between Old Stan Tjakamarra, a Pintupi elder who paints, Enid Lacey, a patronising older White Australian, and two American tourists. And he writes it like a con, coy and roundabout and in jokes and a triumphant ‘rrumpff’ of an Eftpos machine as Arkady comments ‘some nerve,’ without commenting if he talks about Stan, Mrs Lacey, or the demanding tourists. He tells of stopping off in Katherine, where an area was a designated National Park but a ‘loophole’ found by lawyers meant that the land was being claimed ‘back for the blacks,’ causing ‘ill-feeling’ in the town. In the men’s room of a pub in Katherine, a ‘black whore’ offers herself to Bruce, and in the time it takes for him to piss after rejecting her, she’s “attached herself to a stringy little man on a bar-stool.”

The 2012 edition begins with an introduction by Rory Stewart; perhaps a poor beginning, with Stewart mentioning that Bruce never portrays ‘Aborigines’ (in 2012!) as either ‘tragic victims or noble savages,’ but goes on to say that ‘he portrays them as almost unknowable;’ as if by saying that he avoids categorising and stereotyping Indigenous Australians means he doesn’t stereotype them.

Aborigines are often reluctant to trust outsiders, their secret songs are in archaic forms of obscure languages, and the traditional belief systems that underlie them are hard to grasp, categorize, or convey…It is difficult to know what exactly one is talking about here. But Bruce is confident that he does.

This view, both a reiteration of the audience (not Indigenous) and that Bruce is able to talk about it, remains unchallenged through the introduction.

Bruce is not just disrespectful and racist towards Indigenous Australians. Oh, no, quokkas. This beautifully written tome, interwoven with his adventures in other places and other times, with the lessons he’s learnt, is speckled with the disrespect he’s shown other people, too.

The picture I pieced together – true or false I can’t begin to say – was of a ‘scientific’ experiment at which an Aboriginal had sung his Dreaming, a Catholic monk had sung the Gregorian Chant, a Tibetan lama had sung his mantras, and an African had sung whatever.

Not even a fauna comparison for the African person earlier described only as “a black one, a fat one;” they sing a ‘whatever’.

In his series of self-reflective, pretentious notebook scribblings, Bruce notes of a Quashgai woman, perched upon a black horse: “She was also suckling a baby. Her breasts were festooned with necklaces, of gold coins and amulets. Like most nomad women, she wore her wealth. What, then, are a nomad baby’s first impressions of this world? A swaying nipple and a shower of gold.”

[Note that here, he probably means Qashqai, a peoples living across regions in Iran]

‘Alone and amid the nations’, masters of the raid, avid for increase yet disgusted by possessions, driven by the fantasy of all travellers to pine for a stable home – no people but the Jews have ever felt more keenly the moral ambiguities of settlement. Their God is a projection of their perplexity.

He witnesses a Bororo ceremony, described in mystical terms and describing an inexplicable event. Two boys fight, and paint, and wear womens’ clothes, and then return to the palace holding hands, with banknotes pressed onto their painted faces. Some of them are more ‘chic’ than others. Then there are drums, and jewellery glows like phosphorescence.

Bruce has an audience, and it is clear who that audience is. “He wanted to show how every aspect of Aboriginal song had its counterpart in Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Old Norse or Old English: the literatures we acknowledge as our own.” Here in chapter 14, it is clear that the audience is defined as Europeans and Anglo-saxons, with a shared history and linguistic tradition. This book, this exploration, then, is written for men like Bruce.

He uses the term frontier to describe Australia, as if it’s applicable and there was never terra nullis. Arkady uses his ‘reverberative Russian voice he usually reserved for women, to calm them,” because women need calming.

Like many travelogue writers, Bruce wants to know himself and the world around him. “The Pharaohs had vanished: Mahmoud and his people had lasted. I felt I had to know the secret of their timeless and irreverent vitality.”

Like many a western author before and after him, Bruce feels it is his right to demand answers of a people.

He folded his arms. ‘I want to. Yes,’ he replied with inconceivable insolence. ‘But not in a school run by racists.’

She gasped, wanted to block her ears, but he went on, mercilessly. The education programme, he said, was systematically trying to destroy Aboriginal culture and to rope them into the market system. What Aboriginals needed was land, land and more land – where no unauthorised European would ever set foot.

He ranted on. She felt her answer rising in her throat. She knew she shouldn’t say the words, but the words came bursting out, ‘In South Africa they’ve a name for that! Apartheid!’

Lydia, the she here, is the one with whom Bruce gives sympathy; Graham, the white man teaching Indigenous locals, leaves the house and her, and is constructed as the one who is wrong throughout his participation in Bruce’s story.

There are concepts he writes and shares beautifully but, due to what comes before and after, I don’t know if I can believe them.

‘All our words for ‘country,’’ [Flynn] said, ‘are the same as the words for ‘line.’’

For this there was one simple explanation. Most of Outback Australia was arid scrub or desert where rainfall was always patchy and where one year of plenty might be followed by seven years of lean. To move in such landscape was survival: to stay in the same place suicide. The definition of a man’s ‘own country’ was ‘the place in which I do not have to ask.’ Yet to feel ‘at home’ in that country depended on being able to leave it. Everyone hoped to have at least four ‘ways out’, along which he could travel in a crisis. Every tribe – like it or not – had to cultivate relations with its neighbour.

One could believe that; and it’s fun to read. But this narrator is untrustworthy; and more importantly, Bruce Chatwin is intentionally untrustworthy. It is an essential part of his schtick.

Later, on further reflection, having discovered the cause of our misfortunes, he wished to understand the reason for them, he found one very good reason: namely, the natural unhappiness of our weak mortal condition; so unhappy that when we gave to it all our attention, nothing could console us.

And then it ends, trite and all wrapped up and presented so neatly.

One was strong enough to lift an arm, another to say something. When they heard who Limpy was, all three smiled, spontaneously, the same toothless grin.

Arkady folded his arms, and watched.

‘Aren’t’ they wonderful?’ Marian whispered, putting her hand in mine and giving it a squeeze.

Yes. They were all right. They knew where they were going, smiling at death in the shade of a ghost-gum.

Isn’t that beautiful and evocative and absolutely terrible? And it is there that we leave Bruce and his adventure, his autobiography; the way he tears up everything and gives it back to you in a way you’re not sure you want, and completely misses the point.

Further reading: I found this essay by Robert Clarke, Star traveller: celebrity, Aboriginality and Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, very interesting.

will linkspam ever see your face again

A tumblr thread discusses how all work that is feminised becomes devalued, and it’s a good discussion about the evolution of various fields such as chemical engineering, biology and teaching, and how they became undervalued as more women moved into the fields and they became known as ‘female’ fields. It makes Steph think about her own work in sustainability and climate change mitigation, and the professional workshop she attended last week where of 19 attendees, all sustainability professionals and experts, only 3 of those attendees were men. And sustainability and climate change are controversial, soft topics, and how much does that have to do with how many women are in the field?

(Liz notes that Lois McMaster Bujold has written about this for a long time — her novels are often dismissed as “soft” sci-fi, or not “real sci-fi” at all, because the primary technological innovations she writes about are biological — uterine replicators, social implications of genetic engineering, adaptive surgeries for people with disabilities.  You know, lady science.)

Not Australian, but as Terrible Young People, No Award is especially interested in this article at Treehugger: More proof that millennials are ditching the car. Please note that 100% of No Award contributors do not own a car (50% of contributors have current drivers licenses valid in Australia).

(Liz wishes to point out that her learner’s permit is current and valid in the state of Victoria, and she can totally go, um, forwards and around corners.  SO THERE.)

Following on from the Great Potato Cake War (aka the Potato Scallop Police Action aka WHY AM I NOT EATING POTATO RIGHT NOW), The Guardian looks at regional variations in Australianisms.  Liz, having moved from NSW to Queensland during primary school, prides herself on never having used the terms togs” or “port rack” except in conversations where she expresses pride in never having used these terms.  Internalised Queenslandophobia?  Ponder that while we wonder why Far North Queensland and the delightful regional language of Katter Country was excluded from this study.

New Matilda reveals that English professor/curriculum reviewer Professor Barry Spurr is a deeply unpleasant man who yearns for a time when — we quote — “Abos, Chinky-poos, Mussies, graffiti, piercings, jeans, tattoos, obese fatsoes or darkies formed no part of the Australian landscape.  In addition to the ugly, racist language, the link above includes misogyny, transphobia, victim blaming, the violation of a disabled student’s privacy, and also he’s bigoted against Methodists, which is small cheese compared to the rest, yet somehow impressive.

Liz notes, however, that as much as she sympathises with the people who’d prefer to see him summarily dismissed from society in general and the University of Sydney in particular, there’s a lot to be said for organisations taking their time to follow procedures and conduct investigations.  Mostly because, if that doesn’t happen, they tend to get sued, and Liz would rather that Professor Spurr doesn’t ultimately walk away with a taxpayer funded windfall.

In any case, next time someone says something about ignorance and lack of education being the cause of racism, we can trot out Spurr as proof that education is no help if one is determined to be a dipstick.

‘Am I Being Catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic.  Or, Kathleen Hale is a terrible person who demonstrates exactly why people use pseudonyms online, even for something as innocuous as book reviewing.  Since the reviewer wasn’t threatening Hale with violence or saying she should be raped and/or murdered, there’s no reason at all to link her online identity with her real life.

Smart responses to Hale:

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books – The choices of Kathleen Hale

An Open Letter to Kathleen Hale & Guardian Books: Stalking is not okay

A response to the support received by Kathleen Hale after she stalked a book blogger

Liz adds here: I have a lot of sympathy for authors who feel that their books are being misrepresented or misinterpreted by reviewers.  Not that I’m a published author, but I’ve kicked around fandom long enough to be declared The Worst Person In Doctor Who Fandom by an anon meme.  It’s hard to resist the urge to explain yourself, or at least ask for clarification.

(Once I posted a fic which, although it was rough due to a deadline, basically said what I wanted it to say, though not as well as I’d have liked.  One reviewer described it as nihilistic and politically regressive.  I was going for realism and bittersweet hope mixed with angst!  Which other reviewers said I achieved!  But it’s always the awful reviews that stick in your head, right?)

But I think most of my author friends know that the appropriate response is to vent in email or in person, or in a forum where the public can’t see.  And maybe basing a future villain on your reviewer.  (Liz, uhhhh, may have inspired a villain in a popular author’s contemporary mysteries.  She regrets nothing.)  Stalking: not the answer.  Did we really have to say that?  Seriously?

In important shark news: a 13 year old surfer dropped in on a wobbegong shark while surfing at Avoca, and then facebooked about how it wasn’t the shark’s fault. THIS IS CORRECT. She dropped in on the shark, as it was minding its own business and she was gadding about on a giant fucking board, and the shark just did what it had to do! Killing sharks for being in their own environment is never the answer.

Sidenote from Liz: this girl is EXCELLENT, and is welcome to come and catsit any time.  House o’Squid: over a year since our last cat mauling!

BookThingo, linked above, is an Australian book blog that mostly covers romance.  We here at No Award don’t read much romance, not out of any disdain for the genre, but it’s not our cup of tea.  Here, blogger Kat highlights the link between a publisher’s lawsuit against a blog that discussed its shady business practices, and Australia’s ongoing refusal to protect whistleblowers.

At the Guardian, Top 10 Female Power Dressers. Steph notes: If I had the time I would compose a post to Miss Parker (from the Pretender), who is the Power Dresser Hero of my youth. Also she would include Dowager Empress Cixi, and Fan Bingbing.


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