melbourne pt. ugh.

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

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.

Things said incorrectly by Sydneysiders (A list).

still from the boxing kangaroo, 1896

There is a great divide across Australia. It causes minor squabbles and major fisticuffs. The fights have been extensively documented, as has the divide. And no where is this great division more more obvious than in the differences, linguistically, between Sydney and Melbourne.

Although often Melbunnies are incorrect, I can tell you with great certainty, being from Perth (the most distant capital city in the world), that Sydneysiders are incorrect like 99% of the time. The bridge goes to their heads (and at least our Arts Centre looks like an actual building instead of a deformed bird).

The rest of you: Pick a side, losers.

I can't find the ownership of this photo, let me know if you know it!

Things said incorrectly by Sydneysiders (A list) (AKA the great Aussie linguistic divide)

Juice boxes (also known, in this instance, correctly, as poppers).

Potato cakes (Melbourne, Perth) vs Potato scallop (Sydney) vs the completely incomprehensible Potato fritter (SA). (I really now want a deep fried potato slice)

Water fountain, incorrectly known as the bubbler (or the bubblr).

Queenslanders call suitcases ports, and they’re wrong.

Other things Queenslanders do: the eternal but. Versus the eternal Victorian tho.

Bathers; also known as swimmers and togs. I’ve heard cossie in Sydney so clearly it’s wrong (and also the name of a movie featuring Barry Otto (Miranda Otto’s dad), Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, and David Wenham, so obviously it can’t be a thing you wear in the water).

But Melbunnies are painfully tragic, and so there are some ways in which they’re imperfect. The following refusals to let go of their inferior and long distant past are prime examples:

The insistence on using ‘Safeway’ when the rest of the country has been Woolworths for eleven trillion years. Let go.

Southern Cross has been so named since 2005. Let go.

Say these words out loud: castle; dance. If it sounds like you’re saying ‘cattle’ and ‘farce’ then you’re totally wrong.

Zooper doopers. ZOOPER DOOPERS. NEITHER OF THOSE ARE REAL WORDS. They’re goddamn funny faces. (Liz disagrees; they’ve got a cool space theme and she’s gonna fight Steph to the death. But at least we can all agree that they’re superior to Sunny Boys (incidentally not called sunny boys in Perth – thanks to Amber for reminding me they’re called FREEZAS))

An audio history of Gough Whitlam

It’s Time

At least he asked permission, unlike some prime ministers.

Gough – The Whitlams

I’ve got a song about a man called Gough.

From Little Things Big Things Grow – Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly

The Native Title decision was due to the amazingness of Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill mob. But after decades of racism and genocide by the Australian Government, as evidenced by its disgusting behaviour, it was significant that Gough Whitlam, then Prime Minister, exchanged a handful of sand with Vincent Lingiari.

It’s Time from Keating

Not sung by Gough, but a demonstration of how Gough influenced those Labor prime ministers who followed him, and symbolic of his legacy. Under his government Australia gained Legal Aid, free university education, no-fault divorce and universal health care. His government abolished the death penalty for federal crimes, and conscription. He established the National Employment and Training Scheme, the Family Law Act, the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, and Environment.


The beginning is the end, also from Keating, feat. the ghost of Gough 

(thanks to DanniP for the reminder)

Please add your other reminders in the comments.

The NSW Parliament welcomes the Sydney Opera House seal; recommends a criminal lawyer, proving the NSW parliament doesn’t understand how migration works

Yesterday, Tuesday 14 October, the NSW Parliament took time out from being massively corrupt to welcome the Sydney Harbour Seal to Sydney Harbour.  And also to recommend a criminal lawyer in case it, too, is massively corrupt.



THE Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS [10.47 p.m.]: On behalf of the New South Wales Parliament I welcome welcome the Sydney Opera House seal to Sydney Harbour and look forward to its continued presence over many years to come. Should it ever need a criminal lawyer I strongly recommend Andrew Tiedt.

Question-That this House do now adjourn-put and resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

The House adjourned at 10.47 p.m. until 11.00 a.m. on Wednesday 15 October 2014]

nz fur seal

A three year old New Zealand fur seal has been hanging out on the steps of the Sydney Opera House for a few weeks. When it first arrived the New South Welsh police were called (because Sydney, I guess), but it was officially welcomed by the New South Wales Parliament yesterday and also recommended to a criminal lawyer.

This is clearly a misleading recommendation as, if anything, the seal will require a migration agent. However given the current state of Australia’s immigration climate, the recommendation of a criminal lawyer may not be completely remiss.

Further complicating matters, and in long-standing tradition, Australia has already claimed the New Zealand seal for itself, naming it the Sydney Opera House Seal despite it clearly being a Kiwi. We expect the seal will be lounging around and claiming the dole shortly.

linkspam of the night

Hilarious article about media bias and journalism over at Junkee: The Australian’s Media Editor Goes To Uni “Undercover”; Is Outraged That Media Degrees Are Teaching Media Students About The Media

Disclaimer: No Award is a ridiculously leftist website. In case you hadn’t noticed.  Also, Liz did, like, six months of a Bachelor of Journalism before she realised she hated talking to people.  That was back when NewsCorp was more or less respectable, and it still provided 95% of examples of terrible media bias.

Stephanie adores Leigh Sales, and she interviews Annabel Crabb re: the Wife Drought and allows me to love her even more (and Annabel is also good). Annabel Crabb explores the Wife Drought.

Stephanie super loves art, and she especially loves south east asian art, and being mean to European art, so this article at The Toast, Literally All of Europe Can Suck It, about the new discoveries in Indonesia, fills her with glee and delight. (Here is an article in Nat Geo if you didn’t know about it yet)

Frozen, Legend of Korra, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the Narrative Right to Trauma

Trauma in modern American media is a tricky thing. On one hand, the backstories of nearly everyone, heroes and villains alike are full of it. On the other, trauma is heavily shamed, and leaves characters open to accusations of weakness, or of being whiny. This means that while we want characters who go through traumatic experiences, we are extremely uncomfortable with expressions of trauma. Also, we are much more comfortable with some expressions of trauma than with others. Only certain kinds of traumatic expression are allowed, and like so much about culture, who and what a character is determines what kind of traumatic expression we as a society will allow them to have. Straight white men are given the most freedom to be traumatized, and stereotypically masculine trauma is the most widely viewed as legitimate within fandom in my experience.

Don’t Look Up: a Guide to not Being Completely Gullible and Making an Idiot of Yourself by Reblogging False Information on Tumblr

One of Liz’s pet peeves is the way Tumblr culture encourages rumour, misinformation and outright falsehood.  It’s partially a problem with the platform’s limitations in general, but it’s more complex.

Anyway, this post gives some useful, practical tips on finding sources and confirming facts, and generally applying critical thinking.  (One of the advantages in growing up in a super right wing household, as Liz did, is that her parents taught her how to critique the left, and then she discovered the same skills could be applied to anything.)

In amazingness, British backpacker Daniela Liverani had leech up her nose for weeks.

This weekend unexpectedly split Australia as we saw the great potato CAKE debate of 2014. Important Australian stuff. Stephanie stopped off on her way home for a potato cake.  PS TEAM POTATO CAKE.

Talking about chronic illness, as a reader and as a writer.

On Chinese Horror: Part 1 at Snow Pavilion

No Award around the place: Steph forgot to mention, but a couple of weeks ago she put up her long essay on feminist monsters of Asia! It’s 8500 words originally published by The Lifted Brow, now available for download. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Feminist Ghosts and Monstrous Women of Asia. The monstrous women of Asia, feminism, and colonialism.

book review: chinese whispers

In Chinese Whispers, Ben Chu “examines the myths that have come to dominate our view of the world’s most populous nation, forcing us to question everything we thought we knew about it. The result is a penetrating, surprising and provocative insight into China today.” It’s provocative and surprising because it’s so poorly referenced and researched, with significant weighting given to personal anecdata, a significant lack of actual referencing, and an over reliance on stereotypes whilst promising to debunk them.

The task Chu assigns himself is not insignificant; nor is it a wrong task to undertake. There are stereotypes of Chinese people, and they can wear a person down. But the way he goes about it is just as lacking in scientific rigour as the stereotypes he promises to debunk, and in the end the book changes nothing and offers no real insights into anything other than more prejudice and stereotypes.

In ‘Whisper Five: The Chinese Live to Work,’ Chu examines the stereotype of the Chinese work ethic, the myth that Chinese people are industrious, more hard working than westerners, willing to pull 20 hour days because of an innate desire to do so. In this chapter he describes the perceived docility of Chinese men working on railways in the USA, the tales of missionaries in the 1800s of peasants out in the fields from dawn till dusk, and Orwell’s 1984, in which the inhabitants of Eastasia can’t be conquered because of their industriousness and fecundity. Chu also looks at domestic and Chinese cultural elements of this stereotype, such as the chengyu 吃苦耐劳, to eat bitterness and endure labour, and how Mao played on this traditional stereotype in implementing workers villages.

He attempts to debunk this stereotype by highlighting how Mao’s model villages were secretly manufactured; and goes on with further evidence of the youth of today, how the 八零后, those born since the 80s, are lazy little emperors, thereby defeating the myth of Chinese innate industriousness. Chu also mentions an interview in which a Chinese labourer in Italy remains, though he has earned sufficient to go home, because he wants to pay for his son’s education, raising the question: why is one of the myths debunked in this book not the Chinese love of money?

This is the point at which I elected not to finish the book. After five whispers (of seven), frustration at the roundabout construction of the chapters and the lack of referencing and consistency (

And it remains today. We hear complaints that Chinese labour teams sent to Africa by their government to work on infrastructure construction projects…do not patronise local shops, but instead shut themselves off in their fortress-like compounds until their work is done and they can return to China.

Do we? I don’t know, because he doesn’t provide any evidence!), and the clear way the book was written for a white audience with an us versus them dynamic (“Why do we assume China’s culture is immutable?” and the vague implication of racism against white people), I finished the chapter (to see if he took the lazy young people analogy anywhere), and gently closed out of the book.

As a Chinese person, this book does nothing for me. In the context of Australia in the Asian Century, and the constant ebb and flow of Australia working within a Chinese business context, this book does nothing for us. As a non-Chinese person looking to learn more about Chinese traditions and, I suppose, Chinese ways of thinking, this book does nothing for you. Do not read this book. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this terrible copy.


Further notes:

  • Whisper Three, on politics, is called “The Chinese don’t want freedom”, a loaded title.
  • “‘Who has more power, businessmen or politicians?’ I once asked my aunt. ‘Politicians, by far,’ was her unambiguous reply” – offered in chapter 3 with no further discussion, as if this is evidence and not an autobiographical note.
  • Whisper Four, on education, is called “China has the world’s finest education system.”
  • “The episode attracted a million hits on the day it was released,” offered (again, with no references), as evidence of the popularity of satire against the government. In a population of 1.37 billion people, can this truly be called evidence?
  • “One constantly hears that representative democracy would lead to violent chaos.” Oh, does one? One wouldn’t know, because Chu doesn’t deign to offer references!
  • “Indeed, the fact that the forms of constitutional government were kept on, even when they were empty, represented a tacit acknowledgement of their legitimacy, just as hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” What does this even mean?
  • There is so much more, just ask me, I’ve got pages and pages of notes of my disappointment and dislike.

Workplace etiquette for baby boomers

Every now and then there are rumblings about how young folk in the workplace don’t know how to behave, and need the wisdom of baby boomers to survive professionally.

It’s a cliche, of course, but Team No Award, plus our fellow millennials Ash, Zoe and Weaves (the latter two being Fatberg Inc) had our own thoughts on the matter.  Here are our tips for baby boomers — all, alas, taken from real life.

  • no one cares that you’ve accrued enough superannuation to retire
  • 50 Shades of Grey is not the kind of material you should be passing around the office
  • put your damn phone on silent
  • you don’t need to make a remark every time someone has Asian food for lunch
  • vegans: they exist … and they might be sitting at the desk next to you
  • renters: they exist … and they might be sitting at the desk next to you
  • gay people: they exist … and they might be sitting at the desk next to you
  • Asians: they … oh, come on, how did you miss that?
  • the appropriate term is “transgender”.
  • no one cares about your investment properties
  • but have you considered multitasking?
  • keep your hands to yourself
  • an Excel spreadsheet is not a good place to put your 10,000 word verbose descriptions of things.
  • playing opera loudly is just as annoying as playing any other kind of music loudly. Even if you’re the boss.
  • turn your goddamn mobile phone down or off, Jesus Christ.  Your phone doesn’t need the typing sound. Truly, it doesn’t.
  • nobody has sympathy for your difficulty in pressing buttons on the printer. nobody.
  • “No, I’m not looking at buying real estate any time soon, thanks” is not an invitation to lecturing on the merits of owning real estate.
  • – qualifications in medicine, law, or literally any other thing do not make a young person able to fix your phone/computer/television based on your description over the phone.
  • your helplessness in the face of clear instructions regarding something technological is not cute and in fact is not even acceptable workplace behaviour
  • it is appropriate to attempt to gauge interest in such subjects as the state of your rosebushes and then modify the amount of time you spend talking about them according to your audience.
  • nobody cares about the state of your colon.
  • stop asking people if they’re planning to get pregnant
  • or married
  • especially if the people you’re speaking to might be anything other than heterosexual
  • try not to use the phrase ‘Not Like Us’ unless you’re prepared to see some eyebrows rise
  • the appropriate response to the attempted suicide of a colleague’s teenaged son is almost anything other than “Kids just don’t seem to have sticking power these days, do they?”
  • stop touching me
  • the printers are not in fact conspiring against you personally.  (Being printers, they conspire against all humans.)
  • having time to binge watch TV on the weekend isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment
  • having interests outside of work, period, is not a sign of a lack of committment
    dedicating 60+ hours a week doesn’t actually make you the most amazing person ever
  • no one is impressed that you eat two meals a day at your desk
  • in fact no one is impressed by your denial of joy, happiness, or excitement, period.
  • yes, you got me.  I totally made up those food intolerances for attention.  Yup.
  • yes.  I am racist against white people…
  • …and sexist against men.  Those are totally things.
  • stop touching me
  • no, I will not share the story behind my tattoo
  • yes, we really do want to be remunerated for our work.  Shocking, I know.
  • that check-out chick you were whinging about probably has a law degree
  • yes, I am motivated by money.  That HECS debt’s not gonna pay itself off, you know.
  • take a tip from the digitally literate: don’t use your work email, which everyone can see, to communicate with recruiters.
  • when sending co-workers porn, keep in mind that your work emails will be reviewed when your company either sues someone or is sued by someone
  • 17:27 is a terrible time to call a secretary in to revise a letter
  • “Can you just…” at 17.27 pm is FUN FOR NOBODY
  • people who don’t have kids or spouses are not inherently less deserving when it comes to picking holiday dates or going home on time
  • the average price of a house now is about fifty years of our life, so it’s great that you paid your mortgage off by working a second job in the 60s, but that shit doesn’t fly any more
  • groceries for a week = half my rent. please ask me again why I don’t own my own house
  • yes, I’m 30 and not married, just like I was last week and the week before, but PLEASE stop trying to set me up with your son, I’m actually quite happy the way I am

Suffice to say, we’ve all been in the workforce for a long time, and have maybe accumulated a tiny bit of resentment.  Just, you know, a bit.

I’ll be good to you, linkspam

A few hours after Stephanie’s linkspam went up on Monday, I was emailing her with more things to post.  So!

Remember that time we shared some lessons from Australian ’90s music?  Vass linked us in her own linkspam, and then she linked this:

The Complete Girlfriend Story: Nothing is Impossible

In which Paul Keating’s pro-Asian policies merge with manufactured pop to create … a really depressing series of failures.

During one of Girlfriends early interviews, a cynical musical journalist asked the girls outright what made them any different from New Kids On The Block. Loau answered “we’ve got tits”, at which point the girls management went into damage control. Loau was gently at first, then much more firmly, reminded of Girlfriends rules. According to Loau, she was reminded not to say tits, bum or any words that indicated Loau knew what sex was, and she was to live in a world of perpetual joy and innocence. It was a reminder to all the girls that Girlfriends image was not to deviate from the squeaky clean, that they were to act as if they didn’t even know what a boyfriend was.

Also from Vass:

The 3 Types of Australian Accents

I actually disagree with this post, mostly because it argues that Julia Gillard has a “general” accent.  If this was true, she wouldn’t have received so much classist abuse for it.  (Note to self: find time to write the massive post about Doctor Who‘s Tegan Jovanka and Julia Gillard and the silencing of women who sound working class.)

But also, I disagree with the premise that Australia doesn’t have regional variations.  There is absolutely a Queensland accent, and even an Ipswich accent.  Not to mention the famously posh stereotypical accents of Adelaide and also Melbourne’s suburbs like Brighton.

And there are also variations for people with non-English speaking backgrounds.  I once worked with a woman who could tell whether a speaker’s family was Greek or Macedonian based on their inflections.

Decolonisation and Dinosaurs — or, the woman who stopped the theft of Mongolia’s fossils.

The Secrets of Star Wars: it’s very important that you know about Star Wars’ almost Australian canon:

After a dinner of “thanta sauce” and “bum-bum extract,” Luke embarks on a long-winded, jargon-filled explanation to his younger brothers about the Force of Others. Originally discovered by a holy man called the Skywalker, the Force is divided into the good half, “Ashla,” and the “paraforce,” called the Bogan. To prevent people with “less strength” from discovering the Bogan, the Skywalker only taught it to his children, who passed it on to theirs.

Passed it on via an old Monaro, we can only assume.

How the Shinkansen bullet train made Tokyo into the monster it is today.

In more Melbunny transport news: Melbourne Bike Cabs; the failure of myki fines; and some stuff about the East West Link (please note that No Award’s official position on the East West Link is yeah nah mate). And also the sad truth about Melbourne’s transport future (spoilers: there won’t be any rail link to Tulla).

More for infrastructure nerds: photographs from the construction of Melbourne’s City Loop.  The official opening in 1981 featured pretty girls in T-shirts and bikini bottoms, because if there’s one thing that needs to be sexy, it’s a rail network.

Are Muslim Women Right To Be Afraid Of Australian Schoolchildren?  First Dog on the Moon is No Award’s favourite cartoonist, although we’re mildly concerned that Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin violates Stephanie’s copyright on her life (eg this old cartoon about the east west link).  But the Dog nails it, as usual.

Normally No Award and MamaMia prefer to politely ignore each other — which is to say that we pointedly ignore MM and they are unaware of our existence — but they ran Jo Qualmann’s piece on being asexual, and we think that’s pretty great.  It’s good to see marginalised voices in the mainstream!  Also, Jo is good friends with Liz’s brother, and we are more than happy to bask in her success.

Do you obsess over the BoM’s reports? As cyclists, No Award does, and so it’s important to understand the changes to how weather will be reported. (It’s not hard)

Also (you can tell Stephanie is currently reading the news sites), evidence (in case you needed it) that Australia’s Commissioner for Human Rights is a dingbat:

Mr Wilson said he does not support banning burkas, but questioned why some women wear it.

“I do find people walking around with full-length or burkas or hijabs or… I always get the different ones confused… confronting, because it is not something that we are used to seeing in Australia,” he told 612 ABC Brisbane.

“I always wonder and question whether people do it voluntarily.”

He said people were “well within their rights” to wear burkas, but “it doesn’t mean I don’t find it confronting”.

Liz notes: by all means, let’s concern troll about the hijab and its variations, while closing down women’s shelters.  That link is from a few months back; I signed a current petition relating to a St Kilda shelter on the weekend, but have managed to forget the link.

(Liz also notes: I am not Muslim, but my stepmother is.  She chooses not to wear a hijab for feminist reasons.  Her sisters choose to wear it … also for feminist reasons. It’s complicated, and we at No Award aren’t interested in playing at being white saviours.)

Finally!  Interesting women of history!  The Empress Dowager Ci’an!

Now, Liz is an educated and historically literate woman, and she grew up in a family with a very strong interest in Asian history.  Yet it was only last week that she discovered that, for twenty years in the nineteenth century, China was ruled by two dowager empresses — Cixi and Ci’an.  It’s the little-known Bitches Get Shit Done Era.

…but seriously, I had never heard of Ci’an until I started reading Jung Chang’s biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi.  Which is great, by the way — not just because it’s interesting, but because Chang is a big old Cixi fangirl, and at least once a chapter she starts ranting about traditional historians erasing Cixi or minimising her achievements, or perpetuating myths about how she and Ci’an hated each other, when in fact they were BFFs.

I paraphrase.  Slightly.

As a general rule I’m wary of revisionist histories (especially when a lot of the primary sources are in a language I can’t read), but Chang’s work here feels solid.  She’s very much writing for a general (and western) audience, but her facts seem reliable.  I expect we’ll hear from Stephanie if she’s made any egregious errors.

Anyway, Cixi is brilliant and clever and vastly under-appreciated by history.  I have some quibbles with the way Chang writes for people who are entirely ignorant of Chinese culture, and substitutes western concepts for actual translations — like “Praetorian Guard” for what I presume are the imperial guards — but I expect Stephanie will be able to speak at more length on that topic when she eventually reads it.  She’s currently, um, “enjoying” some amazingly racist travel writing, so you should send some good thoughts her way, and also vegan cupcakes.  She needs them.