Activist, writer, sex-positive feminist, single mother, sandgroper, grumpy old woman.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

THE ROOKIE by Scott Sigler (Part review, part rambling. Mostly rambling)

Ok, let's get this out of the way up front... I hate Aussie Rules Football. HATE it. I have slightly less violent emotions about rugby, mostly because rugby boys have the bodies of gods and you don't need to like the game to enjoy the view. Then there's soccer with its swan-diving cry-babies, and cricket... is cricket even a sport? I've seen more exciting games of Duck-Duck-Goose. Put quite simply, I would rather gouge my own eyes out with a teaspoon than watch any form of sport.

THE ROOKIE focuses quite heavily on American Football. As you would expect, given my low tolerance for all things sports, my knowledge and understanding of American Football amounts to precisely zero. The fact that I'm Australian doesn't help. I have to be honest and admit that I struggled with this aspect of the book. The football jargon and slang went straight over my head, and it was impossible to summon an accurate mental image of the scenes playing out before me, because I had no concept of things like field markers, player positioning, or...you know...the rules.

So what possessed someone like me to pick up a book like this? Basically, I would travel cross-country to read graffiti on a toilet wall if it was written by Scott Sigler. That's all. If I wasn't such a fan, I would never have read this book. And that, my friends, would have been a crying shame.

Set 700 years in the future, the story follows Quentin Barnes, quarterback extraordinaire, on his quest to hit the big time as a Tier One starter in the Galactic Football League. There's a whole lot of football. We watch each game in detail (complete with stats charts and radio interviews) as every play he makes takes him closer to realising his dream. The games are fast and furious and written with such attention to detail that even I, with no real idea of what the hell was going on, could feel the tension and excitement and pain and elation. I may not have been picturing the game in the 'correct' way, but it was still highly entertaining.

There's also a whole lot of stuff going on off-field. During a brief stint of prohibition, organised crime moved into the GFL and they never moved out. Players are bought and sold by 'the mob' and team ownership includes privileges like smuggling and drug running with impunity. Depending on the mood of the boss, non-performing or misbehaving players may be sacked...or whacked. Corruption is rife.

Oh, and did I mention there’s aliens? Two of the big ticket issues addressed in this book are class and racism. You see, 700 years in the future, humans have settled on other planets and are trading with alien nations. Galactic Football League teams are made up of many different beings, each playing positions suited to their particular physiology (in one race the females are bigger and faster than the males, so the women play on the teams). The League itself serves as a tool to maintain race relations, giving beings from different planets a common interest and an opportunity to learn to work together.

Quentin Barnes comes from the Purist Nation, a human colony with hardcore religious foundations. The Church controls most aspects of daily life and a raft of things (including, it seems, freedom of thought) are condemned as sins and banned. Church members and their families have access to education and power, while the underclasses are condemned to a life of shame and destitution, with little chance of ever rising above their station. Quentin, an indentured mine worker, defied those odds when he was signed to the local football team, but his privileged team members never let him forget where he came from.

Fundamental to the Church's belief system is the conviction that the human race is superior to all others - people from the Purist Nation are instilled, from a young age, with an unadulterated hatred for all things alien. On top of that, they live with the constant military presence of an occupying alien force. Fear and disgust are the only feelings Quentin has ever had for non-humans...and now these monsters are his team mates.

Quentin's internal struggle with his racism and religious beliefs is central to this story. He finds out quickly that, far from being seen as blessed and perfect, his countrymen are despised and ridiculed by beings from other planets (including other human planets) for their treatment of alien races and their blind faith in their Church. As time goes on, he is forced to see things through a different lens and begin the process of re-assessing everything he's ever known to be true. It’s obvious from the start where Quentin’s soul-searching is going to take him, but the journey is beautifully described.

Aside from racism, one of the things that stood out for me was the deconstruction of religion. I’m not going to go on a church-bashing rampage, but the book exposes and examines what I believe to be the more sinister aspects of organised religion – social control, social exclusion, nepotism, guilt, bigotry, selective application of values and biased interpretations of history, to name just a few. Some of the observations are quite overt, other times they’re hidden in subtext. I don’t know if it was the author’s intention (and I apologise for this comment if it wasn’t) but the analysis, while remaining respectful of individual beliefs, raises a well-deserved middle finger to those institutions that thrive on perpetuating fear and hatred amongst their followers.

Anyhoo...I could waffle on for hours about other topics touched on in this book, but I’ll spare you the torment. I have waffled enough! Suffice to say; to describe this book as a story about aliens playing football would be to severely underestimate its strength and depth.

THE ROOKIE is totally YA-friendly, with no bad language and only fleeting references to sex and drugs. Sigler’s alien worlds and the creatures that inhabit them are rich and vibrant; each with its own unique culture and language and history. The social and political commentary is obvious, but not preachy. People of all ages and genders can enjoy this book, but I would especially recommend it for teenage boys, as a fast-paced sports/alien adventure with really positive messages of equality, self-respect and ‘mateship’.

THE ROOKIE is the first book in a series. The second book, THE STARTER, went on sale just a few weeks ago and is available from www.scottsigler.com/thestarter . I’m looking forward to devouring my copy shortly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Collateral damage in the war against grog

Tonight's news featured a grinning WA Police Commissioner announcing, with great pride, that domestic violence rates have risen dramatically over the last 12 months.

Ok, so that's not exactly what he said. He was bragging that in the past year, our state has seen a significant drop in street violence and public displays of anti-social behaviour. Then the Premier joins in, praising the tireless work of the WA police. Then Attorney-General Christian Porter chimes in with what a raging success our over-zealous, Gestapo-style anti-violence legislation has been. All of them, proud as punch.

Halfway through the report, for just a few short seconds, a crime statistics graphic pops up on the screen, with all violent crimes showing a decrease...except the last one, which shows a significant rise. The voiceover says "Police don't know why there has been an increase in domestic violence". Then straight back to police and pollies congratulating themselves on their 'success'.

None of them were asked, on camera, about the domestic violence increase and the truth of the matter is that they couldn't care less. The Barnett Government is all about public perception. They rely on the sheep vote. They know that the idiots who vote for them only care about their own health, their own safety, their own lives. These NIMBYs don't care what happens to other people, so long as they don't have to witness it.

Which is why, when WAPOL gloated about the decrease in street violence, they may as well have been patting themselves on the back for the increase in domestic violence. They know they can't solve the problem of alcohol and drugs-related violence...the best they can hope for is to keep it out of the public eye. Sweeping crime off the streets and into family homes is a huge win for them. Women and children are just collateral damage.

In any other state, under any other Government, that news story would have focused on the increase in domestic violence. People would be asking why, in this day and age, women are being subjected to higher levels of violence in their homes. But, no... we can't do that either, because the state (and federal) legislation that they're so proud of, actually caused the increase.

You see, I have a theory. Actually, I came up with this theory a number of years ago and over the past two years, it's beginning to prove itself. It's not a very original or complex theory, but it's one that our Government will never come up with itself, because a) they're tee-totalling fundamentalists who don't understand the nature of addiction, b) they have absolutely NO IDEA what it's like to be poor, and c) they don't appear to have ever experienced domestic violence. Me and most of my friends, however...we have a very good grasp on all three.

It all started a few years ago, when the state Government banned smoking in pubs and clubs. We have a high number of smokers in my town and our pub wasn't prepared for the changes - the smokers, who constituted about three quarters of pub patrons, were forced to stand out in the carpark in the rain or heat; sans drinks because the carpark wasn't licensed. For a few people, it was uncomfortable enough to stop them going to the pub.

At around the same time, our local police decided to crack down on drink driving. Ok, so police have a job to do and drunk driving is against the law. I get it. But where I live, the pub is the only social outlet the area has to offer and people have to drive for miles to get there. We don't have buses or trains or taxis. For this reason, our local police have traditionally been pretty tolerant about people driving after a few beers (I don't mean pissed out of their brain. Just a few beers). Not so any more. Policing became less about saving lives and more about revenue raising, and police were given monthly targets to meet. All of a sudden, people from surrounding towns (including me) couldn't drive out of the pub without being stopped for an RBT. More people stopped going to the pub.

Some people started using drugs so they could have a good night out, without being nabbed for drink driving. This also coincided with the introduction of compulsory breath-tests at the local mine, where alcohol from the previous night would show up on the tests, but illicit drugs didn't. For passing the tests, and for staying awake after long hours at work, amphetamines became the drug of choice. Violence and anti-social behaviour, which had NEVER been a problem in my area, began to occur on a regular basis. Even more people stopped going to the pub.

Then came the massive federal tax increase on beer and spirits. Now, for the price of six beers in the pub, you could buy a whole carton in the bottle shop. For the price of three glasses of spirits, you could buy a whole bottle. Combined with the non-smoking venue, the violence and the increased police attention, almost everyone stopped going to the pub.

This is how it worked in my town and I believe it's also what happened across the rest of the state. Nobody goes out any more, so yeah, there is less public anti-social behaviour, less street violence, less drunk drivers...  But what police and Government don't seem to understand is that it didn't actually go away. It just moved premises.

In the 'good old days', people would go to the pub. They would automatically limit their alcohol consumption, because they had to drive home and/or because drinks over the bar cost a fortune. If they only had fifty dollars, for example, they might buy five or six drinks. If they had to drive home, they would have even less. They would go home to their families at the end of the night with the giggles and wake up with a slight headache in the morning.

Nowadays, they don't go to the pub. They drink at home. With their fifty bucks, they can buy a carton of 24 beers, six bottles of cheap wine, or a whole bottle of spirits. They don't have to drive home, they don't have to watch their wallet. They drink to get drunk. They're also missing out on vital social interaction, which (particularly in country towns) leads to feelings of isolation and depression. Domestic violence is just a natural progression. I've seen it. I've experienced it. This is real.

Our Governments, state and federal, are naive enough to to think that raising the cost of alcohol and over-policing our behaviour will stop us doing things that they consider to be 'bad' for us. Instead, they are bringing out the worst in us. They are oblivious to the nature of drug and alcohol addiction, which can't just be stopped because the price gets too high. They are oblivious to the financial pressure that this puts people under - the more our addictions cost, the more money we spend - the more money we spend, the more debt we accumulate - the more debt we accumulate, the more we rely on our addictions to help us cope with the stress. They are oblivious to the fact that their 'anti-alcohol' measures are actually doubling or tripling the amount that people drink.

My advice? Stop relying on police, publicans, alcohol manufacturers, etc to tell you how to deal with alcohol and drug-related violence. Ask the people who are experiencing it. Think about what your bandaid measures are doing to our communities. And stop brushing this shit under the carpet. 'Out of sight, out of mind' is NOT solving the problem.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Happy International Whores Day!

The history behind International Whores Day is one of my favourite stories in the whole wide world; demonstrating the determination and resilience of sex workers, the kindness of strangers, and the strength and solidarity of women.

On the 2nd of June in 1975, around 100 street-based sex workers decided they'd had a gutful of police being more interested in harassing and arresting them, than in solving murders and other crimes committed against them. They took over a church and staged a sit-in, in protest.

As the days wore on, the police became more and more impatient. Instead of attempting to negotiate with the sex workers and resolve their issues, the police just threatened them with increasingly harsh penalties. When the protesters still showed no sign of backing down after a full week in the church, the police announced that they were going to have the sex workers' children removed from their homes.

This cruel threat outraged the women of Lyon, who promptly walked into the church and joined the sex workers in solidarity. If you're going to remove the sex workers' children, the women said, then you're going to have to remove ALL our children - because how can you tell the difference between one mother and the next?

The police eventually stormed the church with batons and the protest ended in violence, but the sex workers' stony determination and the awesome display of solidarity from the women of Lyon empowered others to take a stand, sparking similar protests in Marseilles and Paris. In the end, many of Lyon's sex workers had their fines written off and, more importantly, full-scale police investigations into unsolved sex worker homicides were launched.

The protest in Lyon inspired sex workers around the globe to organise and become politically active, and the modern sex worker rights movement was born. In 2010, there are hundreds of sex worker organisations, networks, lobby groups and peer-based outreach services, all around the world. In places where sex work is illegal, sex workers rally for better laws and access to justice - where sex work is lawful, sex workers demand better work conditions and an end to discrimination. And across all sectors and in all nations, sex workers continue to fight for the right to have their murders investigated, to not be harassed by police, to not have their children removed, and to be accepted and supported by their community. The basic right to be treated with dignity and respect.

To sex workers the world over...Happy International Whores Day! May your fight one day be won.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bogan Bashing (Fuck the Poor)

Back in the 80s, bogans were characterised by their black stretch jeans, black DBs, black AC/DC (or Metallica, or Motley Crue, or Gunners) t-shirt, flanno overshirt and mullet. They listened to hard rock, drank copious amounts of beer, drove banged-up utes with big V8s, and...well, that's about it. They were just your average Aussie yobbos. In the area where I grew up, just about everyone could be considered a bogan. The clothes, the utes, the booze, the classic Aussie rock; all standard fare in Western Australian outback towns.

Today, the word 'bogan' has come to mean something else entirely. It's a little bit yobbo (clothes, booze, music), a little bit trailer trash (domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, uneducated, poor), a little bit dole bludger (unemployed, lazy, "having kids for the welfare") and a little bit redneck (politically conservative, white supremacist, xenophobic, sexist). Everything we hate about humanity, all wrapped up in one neat little flanno-clad package. How convenient.

But I wouldn't be so worked up about this if it was just a simple issue of semantics. Take a quick look around at the comments on news sites, blogger opinions, etc and you'll see it's so much more than that. This is real hatred. Take a comment I read today, for example (the catalyst for this angry rant):

"We should sterilise them. Seriously. Generation after generation of bogan filth, milking the welfare system and filling our prisons. It might sound over the top, but if these stupid sluts can't keep their legs closed, it's the only way to end the cycle. We have to stop them breeding".

Someone followed up that post with...

"Sterilisation? If a racehorse gets hurt and can't earn its owner money, they put it down. We're pouring millions into welfare and what do these bogan cunts give us in return? Nothing. Sterilisation's too good for them. We should be putting the bastards out of their misery".

Oh lordy, where do I start? I could remind people that forced sterilisation is a suggestion once made to solve the 'problem' of Aboriginal people and, later, the 'problem' of people with disabilities. I could point out that in these days of political correctness, there are very few minority groups that people would dare talk about in that way. But what I really want to draw your attention to is the central premise of both those posts....money. These people hate these so-called 'bogans' because they're POOR.

When the hell did we become the sort of society that bashes people for living in poverty?

Australians have always been on the side of the battler. In fact, we're so obsessed with backing the underdog that cutting down Aussies who get too big for their boots is practically a national sport. As a nation, we don't like people who put themselves on a pedestal. We don't allow our politicians, our celebrities, our millionaires, or anyone else to lord it over us. A person may be richer, more powerful, more famous, or more beautiful than you, but they are never 'better' than you.

So, if our Prime Minister doesn't have the right to think he's better than the rest of us, what gives blue collar workers and housewives the right to think they're better than the average 'bogan'? When did it become ok for everyday folks to crap all over our nation's most vulnerable? When did it become ok to hate someone because they're destitute? If there was ever an example of 'un-Australian'...this is it. It goes against everything we've always claimed to believe in.

Interestingly, this hatred doesn't dissipate when the poor, lazy "filth" get off their butts and start earning the big bucks. 'Cashed up bogans', the media dubbed them - unskilled, uneducated, flanno-wearing men (and women) who work on the mines, often clearing over $120,000 a year. We hate them when they're poor, but we hate them just as much when they're rich. This time we apparently hate them because they don't deserve it. But I think it's more than that. I think we hate them because they dared to rise above their station. We don't want them sponging off the taxpayers, but we also don't want them having more money or power than 'respectable' folk. We want them to contribute, but they need to remember their place.

Sadly, due to the aforementioned cultural similarities between 'bogans' and rural West Aussies, country folk are also finding themselves the targets of anti-bogan abuse. A recent news story about the mass closure of Year 11&12 district high school programs across the state (another rant for another time), elicited reader comments that taxpayer funds were "wasted" on educating country people, that they didn't need high school qualifications to get work in the bush, that they might have to reconsider "popping out all those kids", and that they would just have to move to the city "but then they would have to actually get off their arses and get a job". Sound familiar?

I don't know what started this bogan-bashing trend and I really can't make sense of it. All I know is that the stigma and insults are making disadvantaged people's lives even harder than they already are.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

REVIEW: Scott Sigler - Infected

Horror/SF/Thriller

From the blurb on the back cover:
“They dropped from the atmosphere like microscopic snow. Billions of seeds, smaller than specks of dust, spiralling down from the heavens. A few survived, and began to grow...”

When the bad guy is a vampire, an axe murderer, or some other external entity, you at least have a chance to run and hide. When the evil is growing inside you, spreading through your body like a sentient cancer, there is no escape. While this book is chock-full of blood, gore and all manner of violent amputations, it was the idea of being trapped and betrayed by your own body that unsettled me the most.

“Now three people face a race against time. Dew Phillips, an agent with a classified unit of the CIA, and Margaret Montoya, a government biologist, must try to stop a modern plague that drives its victims to insanity, murder and suicide.

And Perry Dawsey, an ex-footballer in a dead-end job, must race to find a cure for the rash that has appeared on his arm. And his back. And his neck. And which is getting bigger.

And then the voices start...”

Perry Dawsey wasn’t a particularly pleasant person before the infection. Abused by his wife-bashing father as a child, his pro football dreams dashed by a knee injury at the height of his career, the Perry we meet at the beginning of the book is already a bitter and twisted loser with an anger management problem. And it only gets worse from there. By the end of the book, as we watch the demise of a female ‘infectee’ through Perry’s eyes, his callous disregard for her suffering is nothing short of brutal.

And yet...I still liked him. I still wanted him to win. No matter how sick his thoughts or actions, you can’t help but recognise the hopelessness of his situation and understand that he has no ‘good’ options available to him – only varying levels of bad and much, much worse. Kudos to Mr Sigler for crafting such a complex and likeable ‘monster’.

A number of reviewers have compared Scott Sigler's work to that of Stephen King, but I'd be more inclined to liken him to Clive Barker. Sigler's character development is far superior to King's, with even the least significant players, right down to the dead and dying, being treated to their very own backstory and individual personalities. I liked that I could feel the pain of disposable victims, cheer on nameless soldiers, and genuinely mourn the loss of people who had only appeared two pages earlier.

Scott Sigler is charismatic, smart, charming, mischievous, eloquent and intense – and all of those qualities are reflected in his writing style. The story is fast-paced, the gore is plentiful but not gratuitous, and the underlying paranoia and psychological torment left me feeling unnerved for days.

Infected is book one of a trilogy. The second book, Contagious, is glaring at me from my bookshelf, gnawing at my insides, demanding to be read immediately. The final book, Pandemic, is yet to be released.

If you can't find his books in store, Infected, Contagious and countless other novels and short stories are available in the form of podcasts and audiobooks - FOR FREE! - at http://www.scottsigler.com/

Scott Sigler's fans call themselves 'Junkies' and I can see why. I'm hooked.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pinch me...

Omigod. It's been four days since Swancon ended and I'm *still* bouncing around like a ten-year-old on a Fanta binge.

Swancon is WA's annual science fiction convention. Five days of writer/reader/Torchwood tragic/gamer wet dreams. Geekgasm after geekgasm after geekgasm. I'm left feeling like you should always feel after amazing sex...exhausted and satiated, but still wanting more.

I still can't believe I got the opportunity to meet the likes of Stephen Dedman, Narrelle M Harris, Dave Luckett (aka L.S. Lawrence) ...chat to the prolific (and totally adorable) Richard Harland ...have a beer with the super-famous and uber-talented Ian Irvine...and, score of all scores, chat/hang/get blind drunk with Swancon international guest of honour, Scott Sigler.

*sigh* Scott was amazing. FUCKING AMAZING. I will admit up front, as I did when he introduced himself to me, that I had never read any of his work. I'd never even heard of him, which is UTTERLY shameful considering my love for all things horror. I promised that I would buy some of his books - which I did, immediately, (review of 'Infected' coming soon) - and bought him a beer, in the desperate hope that he would forgive and forget my transgression. What followed was an awesome couple of days of conversation with a master of horror/thriller/SF fiction.

Scott commands an audience wherever he goes and his American - and, dare I say, sexy as hell - accent dominated every Swancon conversation. Whenever he spoke, women swooned and men drooled. (Unless he was telling his infamous tapeworm joke, at which point most people would spit their beer and groan. Don't ask!) His fans call him the 'FDO' - Future Dark Overlord - and in public settings it was easy to see why. He is possibly the most charismatic person since The F├╝hrer himself.

But behind closed doors, I discovered the FDO also has a patient and supportive side...a side which, after talking to him for a couple of hours, left me feeling like I could do ANYTHING (as a writer).

Scott Sigler's writing is a wonder to behold. Scott Sigler, in the flesh, is the most fun a gal can have with her pants on. And Scott Sigler will go down as one of the most inspirational and influential people I have EVER had the good fortune to come across.

Swancon...you rock. I'll definitely be back next year! (Although I think certain prominent people want to kill me, but that's a whole other story). And Scott...I can't thank you enough. X

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wake up call

I'm not quite sure whether this is trumpet blowing or a cry for help, but I had to say *something* after Shane Jiraiya Cummings added me to a list of 'Women in (Aussie) Horror' on his blog, last night. http://jiraiyanews.blogspot.com/2010/02/women-in-aussie-horror.html  Me. A complete nobody. On a list that included some of the most amazing female writing talent this country has ever produced, including the most fabulous of ALL fabulous Australian authors, Kim Wilkins.

As someone who is utterly terrified of seeing her name in print (handy phobia for a wannabe author, I know), my first reaction was abject horror. The second was overwhelming embarrassment - what if people do as Shane suggests and try to Google me? They ain't gonna find anything! And I will be exposed for the talentless fraud that I am!

My boyfriend turned up about five minutes later and, adrenaline still coursing through my body, I launched into the ultimate brag session slash pity party...."Omigod, I'm so freakin' excited! I got mentioned in a list alongside my all-time favourite author! What the fuck was he thinking? Now I look like a pathetic wannabe! How am I ever gonna live this down? Omigod, I'm soooo freakin' excited!" (If this is what it feels like to have a novel published, I'm not entirely sure I ever want to go there).

My long-suffering boyfriend listened patiently while I rambled, occasionally attempting to interrupt with words of encouragement, but after fifteen minutes of me bleating on about being an unpublished nobody, he eventually lost patience and snapped "Well... get off your fuckin' arse and publish something then, you twit!"

And there you have it. In a nutshell. If I'm not an established author, I only have myself to blame.

Thank you, Shane (and my tactless but honest boyfriend!) for having faith in me. I shall get my lazy arse into gear, forthwith. x

My son, the emu

My 13 year old son is an emo. The average emo is an awkward teenager with black shirt, skin-tight black jeans, vacant stare and a death wish. My friends and I refer to them as ‘emus’. An emu is a black, awkward-looking bird with gangly legs, that stares blankly into your headlights before launching itself headfirst into your roo-bar.

Now don't get me wrong. My boy doesn't cop any flak from me about being an emu. One day I heard myself saying to him "Oh my Gawd...what are you wearing?" and the voice was my mother's and a horrifying image of a teenage me in oversized Mickey Mouse shirt, ripped stonewash jeans and red Converse Allstars; complete with frizzy hair, huge plastic hoop earrings and fingerless lace gloves; flashed before my eyes. I never criticised his clothes again.

I suppose I should admire him for finding one clique and sticking with it. I flitted from one to the next when I was a teenager, usually according to which bloke I was interested in at the time. When I was in highschool, the choices were pretty limited - you were either a skeg (surfer), a skatehead (sk8er) or a bogan. I tried the skeg thing at one point, but as I'm not blonde, can't surf and hate getting beach sand in my undies, that didn't last long. And if my surfing was bad, my skateboarding was even worse, so I had to give the skateheads a miss as well.

Which is how I became a bogan. The only prerequisites for boganhood were black clothes, a decent collection of Aussie Rock cassettes and an exceedingly high tolerance for alcohol. (As a girl, I managed to sidestep the mullet requirement). We spent most of our days sitting in the back of utes, drinking copious amounts of warm beer and listening to Acca Dacca. My boyfriend, the leader of our illustrious gang, gave me gifts of stolen cheap-shit jewellery and beat up anyone who looked at him sideways. My foray into boganism ended when I started copping the same treatment.

When I left school, I decided to be a Goth. I shared their fascination with ancient architecture, horror stories and the supernatural, and thought the eye makeup, flowing dresses and boots they wore were dead sexy. However, I didn't know any other Goths, I wasn't really into the music and I have a mortal fear of sharp things, so I ended up just being an angry chick who wrote depressing poetry and dressed like Elvira.

Eventually it became apparent to me that I just didn't fit well into any box. If these groups were rebelling against conformity by conforming to their group norms, then I was just going to have to rebel against their non-conforming conformity. (Try saying that after your fifth beer). I started hanging out with other social misfits and wore whatever I damn well pleased.

Twenty years later, I’m still hanging out with misfits and my wardrobe consists of one pair of trusty jeans, a handful of singlets and an op shop jacket. My passions, tastes and hobbies are diverse enough to grant me ‘honourary membership’ to a number of different groups, but too diverse to allow me to truly belong to any of them. And that’s just the way I like it.

I’m sure my emu son will one day work out who he is and find his place in society. For now, I'm just happy I don't have to be seen in public with my child wearing a fringed jacket, big hair, flouro leg-warmers and a bandanna tied around his thigh …like my poor mother did.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Keep the Greenough murderer behind bars!

One night in 1993, William Mitchell once again tried to sleaze onto (his friend) Karen MacKenzie and once again, she knocked him back. So, later that night, he drove out to her home in Greenough Hamlet and hacked her and her three children to death with an axe. He also raped Karen, both before and after he killed her, and sexually assaulted her 7-year-old daughter Amara. We don't know too much about Amara's assault, or exact details of the deaths of the three children (aged 16, 7 and 5), because the evidence was deemed 'too horrific' to be released to the public and, to this day, remains withheld.

After dropping some of the 'minor' charges, as they do, Mitchell was charged with four counts of rape and four counts of murder. In Western Australia, the maximum penalty for raping an adult is 14 years. The maximum penalty for raping a child is (from memory) 20 years. The maximum penalty for murder is also 20 years. Police, judges and the general community consider this crime amongst 'the worst' in Western Australian history. To my mind, one of 'the worst' crimes in history should attract maximum penalties, which in this case should mean a grand total of 148 years behind bars.

William Mitchell got 20 YEARS. That's 5 years in prison for each lost life, and when you take into account the rapes of Karen and Amara, their lives are worth even less.

Mitchell becomes eligible for parole in 2013. He was recently downgraded as a maximum-security prisoner and moved to a medium-security regional prison - a move that generally indicates the person is nearing release. He will only be in his early 40s on release, so he still has plenty of time to start a new life and live happily ever after. Or plenty of time to kill again, as the case may be. Neither outcome is acceptable, as far as I'm concerned.

I am not a supporter of the death penalty under ANY circumstances and, in many cases, I support rehabilitation over long-term imprisonment...but NOT in this case. He drove 25kms to get to her house, stayed for a couple of hours raping and murdering them, washed the murder weapon at the house, then dumped it on the way home, miles from the murder scene. That sounds pretty damn premeditated to me! He then had five weeks to feel guilty and give himself up, but instead filled that time trying to set *others* up for the crime. This piece of excrement should remain behind bars FOR THE TERM OF HIS NATURAL LIFE.

I didn't know Karen, but we had a number of mutual friends. During the five weeks between the murders and when Mitchell was captured, he stayed at one of my mates' houses for a week, got drunk with another of my mates and calmly discussed the killings (not admitting any part in them, of course!), then stayed for a few days (and committed a bizarre and scary act) in the town where I live. For those five weeks, the entire Midwest was living in fear - people who normally don't even lock their doors at night were too scared to walk home from the pub, sleep in the house alone, or let their kids walk themselves to school. It shattered our 'innocence' as a country community and made us fearful of each other. To this day, local people still use the Greenough murders as an example of why we shouldn't be complacent and automatically trust our neighbours... and for that, I will never forgive him. A woman and her children were slaughtered and our way of life was killed in the process. Let the f*cking bastard rot, I say.