Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What's in a name? A tidy profit on the cup!

I seldom punt on the Melbourne Cup, or any other race for that matter. It's a bit embarrassing when I have to ask my favourite barmaids how to place a bet.

Merry, on the other hand, thinks it's a patriotic obligation for Aussies to bet in the race that stops the nation. So she's checking the field, when she pounces. “Mourilyan,” she exlaims. “That's my name!”

Well, sort of. Although she prefers to be called Merry, my better half was given the name Merrilyn. Not sure why. Perhaps there was a popular film star of that name back in the 1940s.

At this point, Merry looks to be just another lucky mug punter.

But in fairness, she then went to the form guides, studied them, and liked what she saw. So did I.

The Melbourne Cup is probably the last place for a knowledgeable punter to invest his hard-earned. The favourites are too short-priced and win too seldom. As Rick Feneley explained on Fairfax Media on Cup morning, anyone who consistently backs the favourites has been left well out of pocket.

On the other hand, most of the outsiders in the betting are there for a very good reason. They've got almost no hope.

But usually there are some horses which are not favourites, but which have a reasonable chance of finishing near the front after a very gruelling distance race. They are the value bets.

And because of the name her parents bestowed on her, Merry went straight to a good one.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

When it's deadly, it's a top effort

"That's a blackfella word. It's the ultimate praise anyone can give you"
 – performer Leah Purcell.

We've just seen the Deadlies awarded at the Sydney Opera House. There's a Deadly surf carnival at Umina on the Woy Woy Peninsula. And our Central Coast Reconciliation Group has begun on-selling Deadly badges (pictured).

But I've yet to find someone who can tell me when Aboriginal people began to use deadly as a synonym for outstanding.

The most plausible explanation is that Aboriginal youth picked it up as their “in-word” in the same way young whitefellas used “awesome” or “sick”.

I'd love to hear from anyone who could cite early examples of the Aboriginal use of “deadly”.

This Sydney Morning Herald story reports the Deadlies award ceremony, and it's where I found the quote attributed to Leah Purcell. There's more information on the Deadlies here.

Meanwhile, I did pick up another word understood by young Aboriginal people – “gunjies”, for the police – from a brochure on offer at the Mingaletta centre in Umina, on the Woy Woy peninsula. The brochure sets out the rights and responsibilities of both the police and anyone they pull up and want to question, search, or arrest.

And I also know that as a whitefella, I'm a “gubba” to many Aboriginal people. The Macquarie dictionary says the word comes from an Aboriginal term meaning “white demon”.


Tuesday, 18 September 2007

A Grumpy Old Journo asks: Why make extra work for yourself?




Here's what I'd hoped for, as described in What, Me Grumpy? at the time I decided to stop posting to it:

This blog is an easy-to-use "contents page" for my existing Grumpy Old Journo blog, as well as the currently inactive Grumpy Old Tutor and, in due course, some other associated blogs I may launch.

Update (Sept 12): In July, this blog recorded that pioneering conservationist Vincent Serventy, 91, had gone into a nursing home. He passed away last Saturday. Read more, with a link to the SMH obit

Latest post (Sept 1): Expropriating Aboriginal land for five years, abolishing entry permits, closing the CDEP, seizing Aboriginal-owned business assets and renting them back at commercial rates – what's that got to do with stamping out child abuse? Read more

Previous post (Aug 20): Newspaperman Col Allan, now famed for getting Kevin Rudd legless and into a strip club, may be a larrikin, but to me he's a gentleman larrikin. Read more

Whatever (updated Sept 7) and Reaching Out (July 24): Just scroll down

Caricature of blog author Ian Skinner

Leading caricaturist Tony Rafty sketched me in 1982. Quarter of a century later, I no longer drink beer and wine at the same time – Ian Skinner

Have you read my other recent posts?

Our tribal memories of the Great Depression don't always mesh with careful historical studies. Read more

So Wesfarmers has sweetened its deal (Sept 5) to take over Coles. Wesfarmers may be betting the corporation on its ability to turn Coles around, but as this earlier post says, I'm risking my domestic harmony if I've called the play wrong. Read more

Whatever, life goes on

Gossip, snippets, boasts and rambling comments

Picture of Janet Albrechtsen
Like a trusted guard dog who turns killer in the chicken coop, Janet Albrechtsen (pictured) got back through the wire today (Sept 12)to send more feathers flying among the panicking Libs.

In all the political noise, many overlook that Ms Albrechtsen triggered the latest Liberal Party leadership crisis a week ago when she declared Prime Minister John Howard could not win the next election, and the Libs' only chance was to replace him with Peter Costello.

Today, the Australian's hard-right columnist says Howard deserves to be remembered as a political hero. But she draws an analogy with another Prime Minister she admires, Britain's Margaret Thatcher.

Her claim: That by forcing out the Iron Lady, her Conservative colleagues were able to win the next election under John Major and preserve the reforms of Thatcherism. If Thatcher had led the Tories to defeat, Thatcherism would have been destroyed.

By analogy, she argues that if Howard leads the Libs to annihilation – his word – our conservatives will face political oblivion for two or more terms. "The message is protecting and extending the ideas and reforms of the Howard Government," she writes.

[Grumpy Old Journo believes "ideas and reforms of the Howard Government" to be an oxymoron, but he'll let Janet have the floor.]

Janet's trouble must be that she doesn't mix with ordinary Australians. If she did, she'd know that out there in the 'burbs, Costello – once the great white hope for restoring liberalism to the Liberals – has shown himself to be weak and vaccillating. In the coming election, he'd probably be an ever lamer duck than the man he'd replace.

In NSW he must be totally unelectable, after showing his smirking pleasure at the financial plight of a state which has to hand much of its GST revenue over to other states.

Read [Sept 12]today's column, and the one a week ago , and perhaps also Christian Kerr's response on Crikey.


With friends like this . . . Until now, there's been a slight risk that John Howard would defeat the disastrous polling and win another term. But surely not even Houdini Howard could survive the endorsement of old friend George Dubya Bush.

Australians don't like Yanks telling them how to vote. any more than Americans liked Howard's comment last February: "If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for [Barack] Obama, but also for the Democrats."

Back in February, both Democrats and Republicans told Howard to butt out, as this CNN report shows.

Of course, many Americans think Australia is a Germanic nation in the middle of Europe, somewhere near Lower Slobbovia.

[Clipping from the Sydney Morning Herald lead story of September 6.]


Lower Slobbovia? I'd better explain to you young fellas. It was an invention of US cartoonist Al Capp in the Li'l Abner comic strip which ran from 1934 to 1977. This link will tell you about it, although it fails to mention Dogpatch's only Civil War hero, General Jubilation T. Cornpone, famed for Cornpone's Rout and Cornpone's Retreat.

Gee, that could start me off. Whatever happened to all those great comic strips of my schooldays?

Strips like Andy Capp from the UK. Well, it seems the drunken, pigeon-fancying, womanising, rent-collector-dodging Hartlepool layabout is still around, but in more politically correct times, he gave up smoking in the 1980s and now goes to marriage counselling with his long-suffering wife Flo – no more of those spectacular punch-ups which enlivened the earlier strips in the London Daily Mirror. Check it out here, and indulge in nostalgia here.


Alas, some of my friends still accuse me of anti-Howard rants. Can't think why. Bigoted and boring, they say. Oh dear, and here are some more:

Set against the micro-economic reforms of the Hawke and Keating Labor governments during the 1980s and '90s, the Howard reform legacy is thin. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating can claim credit for the floating of the Australian dollar, opening up the banking sector, reducing tariffs, introducing the wages accord and compulsory superannuation and ending centralised wage bargaining.

All were essential to modernising the Australian workplace and making Australian businesses internationally competitive . . .

Don't blame me, however. These words come from the [August 30] lead editorial in The Australian, that Murdoch newspaper so hated by the lefties. Read the editorial.


Perhaps you'd better treat the item which follows this one as apocryphal. I've spent some time contacting people who may have attended a Germaine Greer meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, but I've found none able to confirm or deny the contents dredged from those memory cells I still have functioning. (The photo, showing Ms Greer about that time, comes from Green Left Online's archives. It accompanied an assessment of The Female Eunuch 30 years after she wrote the vastly influential book.)

I'm grateful to Sandra Symons, a colleague some three and a half decades ago who is now a senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, who sent this material about Ms Greer's contact with the Media Women's Action Group:

Suzanne Baker and Sandy Symons were original members of the Media Women’s Action Group that was formed in Sydney in (late?) 1971. The first meeting was held at the Swiss Inn at a luncheon for Germaine Greer organised by Sandra Symons and attended by 15 or so women journalists.

Greer, who was visiting Australia for the launch of the paperback edition of The Female Eunuch, suggested the women form a group – and that was the Media Women's Action Group.

Greer had been vocal in her criticism of the media (as failing to communicate issues of interest to women) and her support of women journalists who had been campaigning to achieve full membership of the Sydney Journalists’ Club . . .

With the host's agreement, [the MWAG] also took over Mike Willesee's evening current affairs program, A Current Affair, with Greer at the helm and an all-female news agenda and reporting staff. MWAG also provided an opportunity for media women to establish a professional network.

Members of MWAG included: Eva Cox, Julie Rigg, Liz Fell, Valerie Lawson, Glenys Bell, Anne Deveson, Elisabeth Wynhausen. During the period, Sandy Symons was the Women’s Editor of the Sunday Australian and Suzanne Baker was the Women’s Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.


Groping back through a fog of old brain cells, I seem to recall a night back when Sir Frank Packer owned the Daily Telegraph, and I chatted with a group of Tele and Women's Weekly women journalists who'd just returned from a lecture by Germaine Greer in the Sydney Town Hall.

They were upset. Ms Greer had announced to the crowded Town Hall audience that the best f--k she had on this trip to Australia was a certain media celebrity, and she named him.

Perhaps it wouldn't have mattered, in the jolly sexual libertarianism of the time, except that the media celebrity's wife was sitting among the group of women journalists.

The incident came to mind after I read that Ms Greer had told an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival that Princess Diana had been "a devious moron" who slept with married men and made nuisance calls when they tried to dump her. Here's one report.


The above items take me to more recollections. First, the fight to allow women full membership of the now-defunct Journalists" Club.

Back in the early seventies, I was one of the small group of mainly younger journos who fought from inside the club to secure membership for our female colleagues, and it certainly was a tough fight.

I think we all looked forward to more opportunities to chat up – or be chatted up by – stimulating and intelligent women.

Alas, when they won membership, many of them came in, took one look at the line of good ol' boys propping up the bar, and moved back into Sydney's far more lively pub scene.

And about Princess Diana – let's not forget she was emotionally scarred by her involvement in one of Britain's more dysfunctional families. They required her to prove her virginity before the royal wedding, yet she married into a family in which most of the men and some of the women displayed the sexual abandonment of randy mice.

Over the generations, for a man moving in court circles it was almost mandatory to lend your wife to the Prince of Wales. Perhaps it was an honour – "I suppose a baronetcy would be out of the question?"


newspaper cutting re correction

Serious newspapers in Australia take corrections and clarifications seriously. Seldom do they risk a touch of drollery, as in this mea culpa from the Sydney Morning Herald the other day.


You might like to join me in a little giggle at Janet Albrechtsen's horror when she found herself on the same platform as civil libertarians.

Ms Albrechtsen is a hard-right columnist in The Australian who writes superbly, able to construct a strong and rational argument as she progresses from an incorrect premise – such as all the happy workers delightedly drawing up their AWAs in individual negotiations with their employers – to reach an incorrect conclusion.

Anyhow, here's how Ms Albrechtsen began her July 25 column:

One need not venture anywhere near the intellectual wasteland of civil libertarians and their academic, legal and media boosters to believe that there is something dreadfully wrong with the unravelling case against detained terrorist suspect Mohamed Haneef. [That's paragraph one.]

. . . the lunatic libertarians [par 2]

. . . the hysterics of the libertarian lobby . . . usual band of irrelevant suspects succumbed to knee-jerk mania against laws necessary to fight Islamist terrorism [par 3]

. . .the civil libertarians who appear more concerned with the liberty of terrorists to go about their bomb-making business [par 4]

. . . for progressives, the “out of control” Government was “exercising a monstrous abuse of power and public faith” [par 8]

. . . the vacuous claims of libertarians who regard any act of an executive government concerning national security as an act of inherent evil [par 10]

. . . the schmaltzy media campaign that turned David Hicks into a martyr [par 12]

. . . the headline-hunting and opportunistic band of lawyers who peddle schlock horror stories about anti-terrorism laws [par 13]

. . . these hysterical critics [par 14]

For another view of Albrechtsen's piece, try this comment from


portrait of David Unaipon

An indigenous member of our reconciliation group has agreed to run a University of the Third Age class on the successes achieved by Aboriginal people – a welcome balance to the spate of negative material in recent weeks.

I suggested she spark discussion by handing around a $50 note, asking why it had an image of David Unaipon.

There are many stories of indigenous Australians who have achieved great things for themselves and for their people, but the life of Unaipon – a full member of the Narinyerri, born in in 1872 in a wurley at the old Point McLeay mission on the south-eastern shore of Lake Alexandrina in south Australia – stands out.

He became a prominent scholar, preacher, writer, musician and inventor as well as a spokesman for Aboriginal causes.


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Reaching out to the world

For fun or profit, check out these links

[Sorry, I've left this stuff unchanged for a while as I sorted some other ideas. Will try to freshen it up soon - Ian Skinner]

It would be reckless to call the Federal election result at this stage, despite headline polls pointing to disaster for the Howard government. To win majority government Labor needs an additional 16 seats. This website analyses the polls, with detailed graphs including bookmakers' odds – perhaps the most reliable forecasting tool.

There are many thousands of cooking blogs out there, but this by New York gal Mercedes stands out as lucid, informal, informative and somehow quite charming. Great for Middle Eastern food, a lot of it appealing to vegetarians.

Google has fired up a philanthropy blog. Content is very American, but it may offer opportunities to the not-for-profit sector Down Under.

Links we've posted previously:

What's a slam poet? In this YouTube video, it's Taylor Mali combining the skills of a stand-up comedian with a passion for teaching. (For the benefit of a couple of my new readers I know to be computer tyros, the line on the RH side of the screen, beginning "High school teacher and slam poet . . ." will expand to tell you all about it if you click on "more".)

Put together by friend Suzanne Fleming, this site displays the achievements of her students in Digital Movie Making:

If you want to try it at home, these tutorials explain how to use Windows Movie Maker in conjunction with YouTube:

It's 40 years since Australians voted overwhelmingly to change the Constitution to allow Aborigines to be counted in the Census, and to allow the Federal Government to make special laws regarding Aborigines. Today, the reconciliation movement may be looking for new impetus and perhaps new directions:

Women enlivening the blogosphere. Here's a selection of Aussies : , ,

And an LA law professor . And an international directory: as well as

Searching for secondhand books, Advanced Book Exchange is a good place to start, listing the stock of 13,500 booksellers around the world, and covering new, used rare, and out-of-print books. A good representation of Australian booksellers and Aussie books, and its website is easy to use.

If you want to shop around, this simple-to-use site compares prices on ABE and four other book-search sites.

Don't forget these bookselling sites:

Monitoring retail book sales:

Just as a real-life surfer sometimes enjoys a succession of top waves, so the web surfer can ride high too with one rewarding link leading to another, and then another. Let's start where I finished, with “Australia's e-journal of social and political debate”.

I got there through the blogs of one of Australia's foremost writers, Kerryn Goldsworthy. Her “multifunction blog”: Her literary blog: Her advice for writers blog: Literature, media, culture from an Australian point of view (a shared blog):

In turn, I got to Dr Goldsworthy's blogs via an excellent blogsite by Melbourne film writer David Tiley:

You may love Four Candles. You'll find a number of versions out there, with different people claiming copyright, but this will do.

A friend emailed to say she admired the ingenuity of SMS texting and would use it in future emails. I emailed back, “The Newspeak of the 21st Century, a language designed to remove subtlety and precision from human communication.” She sent me a list of texting and chatroom abbreviations. You may find it useful, but don 't use it to me. You'll make me grumpy.

Peter Black, an associate lecturer in law at the Queensland University of Technology, offers And Queensland sociologist Mark Bahnisch, has set up Larvatus Prodeo (LP), an Australian group blog which discusses politics, sociology, culture, life, religion and science from a left-of-centre perspective. Descartes inspired the name.

Philosophy, aesthetics, literature, criticism, history, music – every day this site lists dozens of items from around the world under the headings, “Articles of Note”, “New Books” and “Essays and Opinion”, and provides links to each.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Copyright, ethics and fairness

I remain a member, albeit honorary, of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which combines the roles of industrial union and professional association, and I accept its Code of Ethics for journalists.

Remember, however, that this is a blog. It's opinionated, but I also try to keep it fair and accurate. Bear in mind the words of John Reith, first director-general of the BBC: "When people feel deeply, impartiality is bias."

© 2007. Most of the material on this site has been written by Ian Skinner, and is copyright. It may be reproduced freely, but acknowledgement and a link back to this site would be appreciated.