HEADSCARVES have been feminine gear across ages and cultures, with and without wimples, and in Western as well as Eastern Europe until recently. We all wore them in the second world war. A headscarf is the royal Queen’s favorite hat, and worn by the English aristocracy in the field. Headscarves are useful, versatile, cheap, attractive and the best solution for a bad hair day, which for many of us is most days. Headscarves should always be top fashion statements regardless of religion. You can’t tell religion from a headscarf.
BURQUAS are not statements of Islam. They are Arabic. In the East, example in the biggest Islamic nation of Indonesia, no-one until recently wore a burqa and a headscrarf was worn only when you wanted one, and usually showed the hair.
17 March 2009 Encouraging Australian enterprise and resilience Newspapers have a future as a medium for developing solutions to problems. In times of unprecedented changes and challenges, it is encouraging to see so many who respond with ideas and innovations about what might be done, while others cringe or snipe. The 2020 summit report could have been pre-written, as it ignored the public’s good ideas as well as the ‘many stupid ideas floating around’ noted by Chris Berg. But even Edison had 99 useless ideas for every hundredth one that succeeded. And stupid and reckless actions of governments and financiers need countering by better solutions. Let us have more constructive discussion of ideas for action, not less. A weekly page in the Entertainment section? People could also have a go at improving ideas such as Chris Berg’s about the ‘proud history’ of buying rounds for mates, which has gone to excess. And solutions to complement his single one of more police on the beat to counter city violence, since so many drunks like making the policing unpleasant. And yes, support Chris’ querying $17.6 million spent annually on 30 civil compliance inspectors, if there has been no pilot trial. It is difficult for the public to contribute ideas and solutions except for ephemeral blogs and random letters. Yet encouragement to think innovatively could reduce widespread feelings of helplessness. (And even finding out what happens to all the stamped addressed envelopes sent with unanswered unsolicited contributions would be a worth-while investigation. Surely there could be a form email for rejection of emailed contributions, just as there is a form email acknowledging letters.
9 March 2006 Blaming politicians
What people may have done in the past concerns me far less than what they are doing or not doing now – about water, climate change, population, the foreign debt, profits at public expense, financial dealings, making literacy easier, cutting costs of elections, Parliament as a model for citizens’ behaviour, Australian industries, fair trade, fair taxation, avoiding the temptations of greed, helping the world’s poor, stopping the Bracks government getting carried away in spending millions on entertainments while the majority of farmers now need drought relief . . And wasting time.
20.11.2007. Letter on cultural lessons from the arts, and recommending Stone & Stone, the Abnormal personality thru literature.
12 November.2007 Flower Sharing.
30 November 2008 BABY LOVE. Why do people have babies if they do not like them? Babies are getting a terrible press these days. Articles about maternity leave are usually illustrated with unclad mum’s tums , not images of the live babies to be cared for. Articles published on baby care are mainly by desperate and martyred young mums, not by more experienced people with clues on coping happily. News items tell about avalanches of unwanted children left at American hospitals, child protection notifications increasing higher than the birth rate, and 30,000 Australian children needing foster care.
Photographs of parents holding babies show the infants clutched like soft toys or bags from the supermarket, often held through the crotch, rather than cuddling in. Sleep clinics teach babies the hard way to put up with being alone. Andrew Weldon illustrates a norm for what people feel about screaming babies in his cartoon of a self-pitying, helpless Dad with his yelling and obviously unhappy baby lying uncomforted across his knees. Why pay a baby bonus to people who don’t want, care nor cannot tolerate extra offspring after they have had a trial of two? We are paying for extra trouble.
28 November 2008. ‘Reading multiplies life’ (November 7) and ‘the book is a tool that allows us to exercise the imagination,’ Peter Conrad tells us. Bernhard Schlink’s novel, ‘The Reader’, imagined a war crimes conviction that resulted from a life of evasions by someone who could not read. There are two million adults in UK alone who cannot read, and get by on stratagems. They miss out on all that print can give. ‘Our imagination can be useful.’ English has higher rates of dyslexia than other alphabetic writing systems. Imagine we stopped just arguing about spelling, and tested whether failing learners and beginners could be helped if English spelling kept to its rules. The appearance of print need hardly change, but learners and spellers could be immensely relieved, if the major English spelling rules could be set out on one page, plus keeping less than forty of the most common irregular words that appear all the time. The Académie Française has recently (2009) made a significant French spelling reform by allowing 6000 easier spellings in the Petit Robert dictionary, in order to improve national literacy. What failure of nerve holds back the Anglos from at least experimenting in improving the task that so many fail?
14 November 2008. Designs for the future. What could ‘inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers’ more than a future-wasting 1,000mph car, and at the cost of less than £19million? (October 31, p 31.) The example of Ron Rivera with simple water filters (p45), increasing dissatisfaction with modern design that disregards function, the state of our parlous environment, and our need for exercise all call for ‘simple technology’ – the design and improvement of complements for our power-guzzling appliances that at present are used automatically whether appropriate or not.
Complements include – improved manual lawnmowers for small suburban lawns; two-seater transport for commuting; flexible twin-tub washing-machines for small laundry needs; solar-reflector cooking for sunny days; pedal-power for TV-watching, pumping, mulching, whatever; local uses and recycling for most waste, from garden rubbish and paper to human liquid sewage; appliances repairable rather than replaced; housing simpler to renovate; regional currency circulating for self-employment in depressed areas; organized ways for everyone to contribute and spark up ideas – including through newspapers and/or online. Not gung-ho enough? Guardian Weekly could invite more ideas to inspire young scientists and engineers, and even the Science Minister.
Adults with Asperger’s,. November 2008 Asperger’s in social context Self-diagnosed Aspergers’ reports are varied but ‘Social Learning Difficulties’ are problems in common, hindering their happiness and competence. Treatment should take account of whether underlying causes are inadequate sensitivity to other people (Wilkinson, 2008), or too much (Szalavitz, 2008). Lee Wilkinson describes therapy strategies to teach recognising how others feel, in order to respond less gauchely and apparently blind to social cues. But if the cause is hypersensitivity, people with Asperger’s may be over-aware of others’ emotions, but do not know how to respond, although relieved by therapists’ friendship. Compare a poor driver who can see the risks but lacks the driving skills to avoid them. Parents and others can give intensive training about how to behave – but in the next social situation, it flies out of their heads or they behave stiffly trying to follow instructions. They sense how people react to them, anxiety rises and behaviour worsens. Many comedians – possibly Aspergers– raise laughs about such gaffes. Why, for example, avoid eye-contact? Perhaps too much sensitivity, and fear of what may be seen by meeting eyes that reveal more than any assumed kindliness of voice or gesture. Helpful therapy might be to enable watching, privately, video of clients’ own public behaviour, so they can see where they go wrong, and see why it repels others. Such undirected viewing in a non-threatening situation can also enable more alertness watching how others get it right. The video experiments that I had opportunity to do with children found parents remarking on how their child had suddenly become more likable. Society itself needs ‘therapy’ – to value sociodiversity like biodiversity. So much waste of people when seeking to ‘normalise’ everyone. Rather, recognise that oddity may have potential for independent thinking and discovery, as in lists being compiled of ‘probable’ Aspergers, from Newton to Mark Twain and Henry Ford. ‘People they laughed at’ could be a text for all schools and libraries. Accept an etiquette of how to tell people pleasantly when they bore or irritate, and how people so advised can respond with thanks and not offence – instead of the present unexplained rejections and cruel remarks offstage. (Make a TV comedy showing how. Kindly humour is the lubricant.) Essential also to help Asperger outcasts are the redeemers, those brilliant and generous people with the social blindness to see the potential rather than the ‘over-the-top’ dismal social bloomers.
Mothers of odd children can be helped to appreciate their strange child as precious china, with a possibly beautiful future. Parents can learn how to love their child without requiring to be loved first, as some expect. (A role for psychologists in pre-parent training.) All children can learn to enjoy the variety amongst them, as they love the variety of the rest of nature. They can be co-teachers, because it is from other children who accept them that there is most chance for young Aspergers to absorb the social skills training they need – isolated, their problems worsen. References Szalavitz, M. (2008). Welcome to my world: Could autism be explained by a brain in overdrive? New Scientist, 20 September. pp 34-37. Wilkinson, L A. (2008). A childhood disorder grows up. The Psychologist, 21.9. 768-771
26/10/2008 Saving Melbourne’s Gardens.
Melbourne is ill-equipped and even ill-advised to cope with future water shortages. Radical initiatives for its sewerage system and homes would save more water than mild recommendations for teeth-cleaning, showers, washing machines, etc. Plans (October 19, p 13) bear harder on the poorer than the better off when water bills charge equally highly for ‘service’, but low use saves little. Stage 4 water restrictions may ban filling spas and pools ‘of any size’ but all private spas and pools are for the better off. Water will cost more for all, as private desalination must make a profit, but supplementary tanks get little encouragement though vital for emergencies.
Authorities are not tough enough on private use of ground-water, possibly non-renewable. However, Melbourne’s gardens benefit everyone, as the city’s lungs, beauty and trade-mark. They supply fresh food, healthy exercise, and delightful bird-life. Australian lawns can survive brown without watering, but permanent trees and plants once dead are dead. Spas and pools can wait. People still have many garden-watering habits needing changing, so that mains-watering, maximum once weekly, is economical and effective Schools and everybody with a garden should invest in water tanks, roof-water diverters and a set of buckets. Gravity tanks and DIY diverters are pretty cheap. Nature-strips can be No-Mow – no lawns, instead, tough, decorative, no-care-needed plants. Drought resistant trees and shrubs include exotics like roses and camellias, not just natives. Gardens are Melbourne’s historic and best Grand Prix events. We must take lasting steps to keep them.