Men who don’t cook or do housework

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Cook lamb roast photo by Vicki flickr https://flic.kr/p/4u4Dtr

This topic would not have raised an eyelash in my Dad’s era, a generation of men who did not cook or do housework. Many men of my vintage grew up in households where duties were strictly demarcated along gender lines: Dad went to work and paid the bills; Mum stayed home and did all the housework and cooking; knitting, sewing, mending – shall I go on?

We kids had chores to do – washing up, drying, putting away, feeding the chooks, collecting the eggs and so on. Dad would come home on pay day and hand his pay packet to Mum. Later on she’d give Dad an ‘allowance’ for his smokes, haircuts and the like.

Mums from this era did more than cook and keep house; they managed to harvest a lot of the household food, swapping eggs for freshly-caught fish and turning a peach tree harvest into 20 jars of preserves, for example. There were always vegies in the garden (brussel sprouts, yum), and in the pantry multiple jars of homemade marmalade, jams, chutneys, pickled onions and so on. There’s no end to one woman’s ingenuity when making a working man’s pay last a family of five.

When we came home from school there was usually something in the oven – scones, bread, biscuits. The house smelled good and Mum was nearly always there. Dinner times were a bit regimented. Dad would get up about 5 (he worked nights so had an afternoon nap) and sit in his favourite chair reading the newspaper until dinner was served at 6. It wasn’t quite the pipe and slippers routine, but close to it.

Decades later, as a result of living alone or in share houses and with women who had at least read the Female Eunuch, I evolved into what is sometimes called a ‘SNAG’.

There are a lot of us around now – some do all the cooking, bake cakes and make preserves.

If you’ve been paying attention, She Who is Ambidextrous broke her right wrist six weeks ago and although she had the plaster off last week, she’s showing little inclination to oust me from my new-found kingdom.

Like the song says, I can’t do without my Kitchen Man,” she jested, while covertly supervising the preparation of the leg of lamb. (I used a slow cooker, first searing the joint to keep the flavours in, inserting a couple of cloves of garlic and later added potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato and onion).

This was my second attempt at a lamb roast. The first one was (we both agreed), a little dry. The recipe said cook on low for 10 hours so that’s what I did. I’m only now finding out, after six weeks of being chief cook and rice cooker washer, recipes are only meant to be a guide.

I’ll be the first to admit it takes a bit of gumption to invade the kitchen of a classy cook, although of late SWIA was showing signs of taking a break. I’m sure she did not mean that literally.

My contributions in the kitchen prior to the fracture included sausages and mash, home-made pizzas or pies and vegies for footie nights and the occasional spaghetti bolognaise.

I had precious few disasters during my tour as camp cook and one or two meals (chicken stir fry and a beef curry), drew compliments from the resident chef.

Readers will know I do other chores around the house: vacuuming, laundry, ironing and outside chores like pulling the wheelie bins up a 97m driveway or emptying the Bokashi bucket (don’t ask).

Men who do their share are usually visible (like the young hipster I saw with a baby strapped to his front and a toddler clutching his ankle, navigating a trolley down the organic foods aisle and carefully reading labels).

Such a sight could lull you into thinking 21st century men had moved on and now do their share of unpaid domestic work. Well, not really.

The invisible ones surfaced in 2016 Census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – one in four men who said they did no housework at all. The Census estimated that Australian women spend between five and 14 hours per week doing ‘household work’ while men on average spend five hours. This work is mainly defined as including cooking and housework. Many more hours (up to 30 per week), are spent on unpaid household tasks like laundry, child care and shopping.

Dr Leah Ruppanner, senior lecturer in Sociology at University of Melbourne, suggests women still spend twice as much time on housework as men.

Writing for The Conversation, Dr Ruppanner said Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed Australian working women spend on average 25 hours a week doing housework (in addition to the 36.4 hours spent in full-time employment.

Men working full-time spent 15 hours a week doing housework, on top of their 40 hour week. The data was drawn from a massive but infrequent ABS Time Use Study, last completed in 2006. That data showed women to be doing the greater share of cooking and cleaning up, laundry and clothes care, child care and shopping.

The one area where men prevailed was home maintenance, with time equally divided when it came to household management and grounds and animal care.

Dr Ruppanner said women shoulder the time-intensive and routine tasks such as cooking, laundry and dishes. They are more likely to do the less enjoyable tasks (cleaning toilets and showers). The men are most often found doing periodic tasks like washing the car, mowing the lawns or changing light bulbs.

She said the solution was to bring men into the process as equal housework sharers, not ‘helpers’.

“It also means not penalising men for ‘not doing it right’.

Cleaning the house is a skill men can learn one toilet bowl at a time.”

A 2015 OECD report on unpaid work showed that Australia was relatively high up the list of gender imbalance. The study interpreted unpaid work as including housework, shopping, child and adult care duties, volunteering and other unpaid work.

Australian women completed 5 hours and 11 minutes per day with men lagging behind (just under three hours), which put us in fourth position in a poll where you’d rather be at the bottom.

The pack was clearly led by Mexico, where women spent six hours and 23 minutes a day doing unpaid work. Mexican men put in just two hours and 17 minutes. The gender gap was closest in Sweden, with women and men sharing domestic duties on a more equitable basis (3.26/2.45 hours).

Japanese, Korean and Indian men devoted the least time to domestic work (under 1 hour per day), while at the other end of the scale Danish fellas put in three hours and six minutes.

Meanwhile in Australia, this Aussie househusband is off to make a Shepherd’s Pie from the remains of the lamb and left-over vegies. Sorry, no, you’re not invited.

(Post Shepherd’s pie – and quite satisfactory it was –  SWIA)

 

The value of inner city car parks

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Image of car parks Palma de Mallorca by Timmy L (flickr) https://flic.kr/p/TR4DFC

As you’d know, one little statistic can send me off on an investigation – like the number tucked away in a Guardian Weekly report that, globally, cars are in car parks 95% of the time.

The statistic emerged in a report about a pilot scheme in Amsterdam to reward residents with a free green space in front of their houses if they give up their parking permits. The car parks pilot scheme being trialled in six streets in an Amsterdam suburb is yet another Dutch idea designed to encourage people to give up cars and switch to carpooling, public transport or bicycles.

Residents’ cars will be stored for free in public car parks and in return something ‘green and pleasant’ can occupy the designated car space. The Guardian reports a fair degree of friction over this idea. Two early adopters (who have been heckled), have already put flower-filled tow carts in front of their houses (a cosy outdoor spot to sit in the sun and have a morning coffee and a plate of warm poffertjes).

This is not the first time Amsterdam’s Stadsbestuurders have tried to rend asunder the city’s love affair with the car. Amsterdam is widely known as the bicycle capital of the world because it is relatively compact and the narrow streets and canal bridges make driving more difficult than in other cities. When I spent time in Amsterdam (wishing I could forget what I can’t remember), the city was then trialling Sundays as a no-car day. I looked that up yesterday and find that it is 45 years since Car Free Sunday was introduced. As this blog explains, something changed in the Dutch mindset when the measure was introduced in 1973 (to dampen oil consumption amid the 1970s Oil Shock).  Since then cycling with or without clogs has clearly become a lifestyle/clean environment movement.

The Netherlands leads other European cities, with 27% of all trips attributed to cyclists, a figure that has been stable for a decade. How could it be anything less when Amsterdammers own 22.5 million bicycles (1.3 per resident). Evidently Mum, Dad and the kids are in on the trend. Denmark is a close second in Europe’s bicycle stakes (0.8 per resident).

Australians are fairly keen on bicycles too, with 3.6 million using one every week, The Australian Cyclists Party says the average Australian household has 1.5 bicycles in working order, although if you wanted to be pendantic, you couldn’t ride half a bike very far. You could of course turn it into a unicycle, learn to juggle, sing and play the ukulele at the same time and apply for a gig at the Woodford Music Festival.

Digressions aside, Australians are as deeply committed to the combustion engine as the global leader (America). The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics motor vehicle census showed there were 18.8 million registered vehicles in Australia as of January 31, 2017, a 2% increase on 2016. The 2016 Australian Census showed there were 2.95 million one-vehicle households, 3.02 million households with two vehicles and another 1.50 million households with three or more. The same Census revealed that only 1.1% of Australians rode their bikes to work. The sole occupant car dominated work trips – from 65.6% in Sydney to 79.9% in Adelaide.

The notion that cars are parked 95% of the time is a figure largely calculated on public car parks which are utilised 85% to 95% of the time. Just dwell on that next time you are doing laps in one of Brisbane’s large shopping malls, waiting for a spot.

Last Saturday we went to a Queensland Ballet double bill (Carmen and The Firebird) which, I must say, we enjoyed more than the reviewer in The Australian did, apparently. There were three curtain calls.

Afterwards, we walked back to the multi-level car park where I realised (despite my disdain for automation), that I had no option but to pre-pay as there were no humans in the parking booths. The machine hungrily gobbled my $20 and dispensed the ticket. You should all know the routine by now – drive to boom gate 1, insert ticket and the boom (should) automatically rise to let you drive out.

Them were the good old days, mate

Not that I want to return to days of yore, but when we first started going to the ballet in 1988, you could quite often score a free car park somewhere in South Brisbane or West End. We’d leave home early and sometimes snag a space in Fish Lane. Ah, those were the days. Now we usually park in the Brisbane Entertainment and Convention Centre car park as it has 1,500 spaces, so is the place least likely to be full around South Brisbane’s entertainment and dining precinct. If I recall, when this complex first opened in 1996, parking 2-4 hours cost $8. That’s inflation for you.

A Colliers International white paper in 2015 predicted city parking would become more expensive in Australia, as no new multi-storey car parks were being approved. Some, in fact, have been demolished to make way for new apartment buildings. The other factor in parking becoming more expensive is that many cities now impose a congestion levy on property owners.

New technology is set to disrupt the parking business model though; one example being Divvy Parking, a digital start-up which hooks up motorists with under-utilised car parks within commercial office buildings. In late 2016, New South Wales car insurance company NRMA took a 40% stake in Divvy Parking.  An NRMA study found that 30% of urban traffic congestion was caused by people driving around looking for a car park. And, according to NRMA, a third of parking spots within centrally-located commercial buildings are under-used. NRMA Group chief executive Rohan Lund told the Australian Financial Review that smart technology would be as crucial to solving Australia’s mobility issues as bricks and mortar infrastructure.

All over the world, cities are introducing measures to thwart or discourage drivers from bringing their vehicles to the inner city. These range from London’s Congestion Charge to Madrid’s blanket ban on non-resident vehicles. Only locals, taxis, buses and zero-emission delivery vehicles are allowed within Madrid. This is not the first time the padres de la ciudad have tried to beat congestion and pollution within Madrid’s city centre. In 2005, a pedestrian-only zone was introduced in a densely-populated inner city neighbourhood.

Interestingly, there are no Australian cities named in Business Insider’s recent article on 13 cities planning to ban cars to one degree or another. Most of the cities are in Europe (Oslo, Berlin, Paris, Hamburg, Copenhagen) but also China, Mexico and South America. Many of the plans are based on making it easier to walk and cycle. Several cities are planning to build bicycle-only super-highways.

Ah well, next time I go to the ballet maybe I’ll take my half a bicycle and wobble on down to the train station. (She Who Broke a Bone Falling on the Stone Steps) “Don’t forget your helmet, dear.” More reading:

 

Little boxes – the genre-fication of music

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Old-school CD music collection by Mr Shiraz)

Yes I know it’s my fault, but early in the days of turning my music into online MP3s, I accidently chose Christian Rap as a genre for one of my songs. The song I incorrectly categorised is called 53 & Fragile, about a fellow taking stress leave to ponder his future. I guess you could rap to it, in a God-less sort of way. It only took three years to discover this error.

An enterprising blogger (Glenn McDonald) compiled a list of 1,264 micro-genres; they include goa trance, aggrotech, gabba, yellow mellow, happyhardcore, terrorcore, ghost step and Nordic house.

There are many reasons why the recorded music business is in a state of flux but I continue to believe (and I’m not alone), that the industry’s insistence on streaming music into little boxes called genres has robbed many a musician of potential fans.

As Sydney Morning Herald reviewer Bernard Zuel said of a Luke O’Shea album it is put into a box labelled Country and as a result, a great many people will never open that box. This is likely to be the case, despite someone with Zuel’s acumen identifying all manner of pop, rock and hip hop influences in O’Shea’s music.

When we released our CD, The Last Waterhole, in 2015, it was our first real engagement with online music. After labouring through the online applications (and printing out paper copies), our music was magically turned into MP3s (compressed audio files), and made available for download on CD Baby and subsequently ITunes, Amazon Music, Google Music and more.

We sold the expected number of CDs, but three years later our album has drifted out to sea as thousands of new releases come in with every second wave. Online sales are about as sporadic as our public appearances.

The indie market is cluttered with home-made CDs recorded on a laptop and flogged at markets for $10. Those with loftier ambitions engage a producer and typically spend $6,000 to $10,000, which is all very well if you can sell 500 copies at $20 each. At the high end of the game, production companies spend up to $100,000 on a CD that will jump out of the radio like a rabbit on steroids. But over a long span of time, I suspect, the listening public’s ears are getting tired of it all. There’s way too much of it, no quality control and the harsh, metallic attack of compressed digital music has taken the edge off the listening pleasure.

And, as our producer predicted, the day is coming when people won’t need to own CDs anymore – all they‘ll need is a Bluetooth speaker.

“OK, Google, play The Goodwills.”

“OK, here’s the YouTube channel for the DJ Goodwill.”

The science is imperfect, but it seems to be enough for an alarmingly large group of people, who can buy an OK-quality music-streaming speaker for a few hundred dollars. The latest research estimates the value of the global portable Bluetooth speaker market at over US$4 billion, expected to double by the end of 2025.

A few years back the grand dame of folk and blues Margret RoadKnight posted an article on Facebook from Digital Music News with the droll comment “Why I’m up for House/’Salon’ concerts!!”

The article outlined the industry’s 99 (main) problems, the key one being that musicians and artists are finding it harder to “monetize” what they do, whether performing or selling merchandise.

People have got used to free stuff and now they won’t pay unless they are very drunk and you’re giving away a t-shirt or stubby holder as well.

I asked a 20-something lad why he thought nothing of shelling out $20 for a pizza but he was reluctant to pay $20 for an album.

“Yeh, but I know what a meat lovers’ pizza is like, right? And I get garlic bread.”

“But you only get to eat the pizza once,” I reasoned. “You can play a CD over and over. A pizza won’t make you think about social issues.”

“Meh,” he said.

The Digital Music News article by Paul Resnikoff identifies issues with the method of delivering music. Streaming (subscription services which offer consumers a wide variety of music to listen to in-house but not download), continues to explode, but not enough to compensate for declines in physical CD sales and paid downloads.

We chose not to take up the offer to have our music on Spotify, a subscription streaming service, which in hindsight seems to have been a counter-productive decision. A musician friend Sarah Calderwood recently asked if we were on Spotify as she was compiling a playlist of Australian indie folk music which she planned to put on ‘repeat’.

If you have a Spotify account you can listen to Sarah’s playlist, which includes acts like Gone Molly, The Barleyshakes, Michael Fix, Women in Docs and Mark Cryle.

The independent musician, defined as a musician without financial backing, has to constantly find fresh ways of reaching new ears.

There’s a lot of indie musos around, competing with each other for gigs and CD sales. Increasingly they busk, or play for nothing at ‘walk-up’ venues which ask people to put their name on a blackboard and sing two or three songs. The artist might sell one or two CDs (if he or she is really good at making an impact and the song is up to the task). The alternative is a paid gig playing in a bar or restaurant where people go to eat, drink and talk.

Resnikoff writes that the key issue is that most consumers attribute very little value to the recording itself. They already heard the song on Spotify Soundcloud, Reverbnation, Bandcamp or YouTube.

The fractions of cents paid for streaming plays might add up to dollars eventually, but you need to keep selling ‘merch’ across all platforms.

From a financial point of view, it matters little to me that there are boxes of CDs in the hall cupboard, even if the ego grapples with the notion of relevancy.

It is a different story for people in their 20s and 30s who have decided to make music a full-time career. This involves constant touring, online management of their business and profile and (the thing nobody talks about), singing the same 10 or 12 songs every night, over and over. If you’re going for it, you have to keep churning out new material (thus consigning your older material to the remainder bin).

As one musician told me, “You have to keep putting new stuff out, even when you know it won’t pay for itself, otherwise you get forgotten about.”

House concerts, and we are long-term supporters, are a sure-fire way of giving musicians a listening audience. Even if only 20 people show up, it’s a better result financially and aesthetically than a rowdy Friday night pub gig. Audiences love the intimacy and the musical and lyrical nuances that are often lost in noisy, amplified venues. We’re hosting our 110th house concert on June 10: check it out at

And the homemade afternoon tea on offer is guaranteed to be yummier than a meat lovers’ pizza and garlic bread.

Further reading: How Music Got Free, by Stephen Witt.

 

An eye for an eye – sports injuries and brawls

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Eye chart image courtesy of Community Eye Health, CC https://flic.kr/p/cenNDu

The news photo of rugby league player Dylan Walker’s fractured eye socket made me feel anxious, like I get when I have an eye infection or it’s time for the annual glaucoma test. If I cover my left eye with my hand, I can navigate my way around the house, but that’s about it. No reading, watching TV or movies; definitely no writing, although I know vision-impaired people who have found ways around reading and writing.

What the auld aunties called a ‘gleyed ee’ or lazy eye was diagnosed in the late 1940s. I don’t remember wearing an eye patch when I was two, but I’ve seen the photos. It didn’t work. I say this only as an explanation if you passed me in the street and I did not say hello, it is possible you passed by on my right side.

Yes, so a serious injury to my left eye would probably see me lining up for the blind pension, although as I understand it, the aged pension replaces the (non-means tested) blind pension when the recipient reaches retirement age. An essay for another day, perhaps.

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Flinders University produced a report on eye injuries in Australia. The report shows 51,778 people were hospitalised due to eye injuries in the five-year period, 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2015. Two thirds of these were males. Falls (35%) and assaults (23%) were the most common causes of eye injuries. The most common type of eye injury was an open wound of the eyelid and periocular area (27%).

However, the report also showed that 86,602 people presented to an emergency department with an eye injury in the two-year period, 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2015. Only 1% of these cases (866) were admitted to hospital.

Sports-related eye injuries were seemingly uncommon by comparison, with just 3,291 males and 595 females reporting that the injury was sustained while participating in a sporting activity. However, information on what activity resulted in the injury was not reported for 69% of cases, so this is likely to be an under-estimation.

Of the known causes, more than one-third (37%) of males were participating in a form of football when they sustained an eye injury. Trail or general horseback riding (12%) was the most common sport-related activity resulting in eye injury reported by females. Over half (55%) of the sports-related cases resulted in an orbital bone fracture.

Such was the case during the Melbourne Storm-Manly rugby league game when a melee turned into a serious scrap between Manly’s Dylan Walker and the Storm’s Curtis Scott, with Scott throwing several punches, one of which broke Walker’s eye socket. Scott was sent off – red-carded as they say in soccer. Walker was given 10 minutes in the sin bin (for throwing a punch) and then had to be assessed for a head injury. Manly player Apisai Koroisau was also sent off for 10 minutes for running in and throwing a punch at Scott.

The National Rugby League (NRL) has been cracking down on such behaviour – Scott was the first person to be sent off for punching since 2015. All rugby league players know if they throw a punch they will at least be sent to the sin bin; angry flare-ups in recent years have tended to be of the push and shove variety.

But whether you follow rugby league or not, it was a bad look, for the sport and for all sports. Imagine the conversations over breakfast.

“Right, that’s it,” says Mum, whose son Billy (8) has been pestering her to play footie. “If you want to play sport you have two choices – soccer or table tennis. Those league blokes are thugs.”

Discussing the Manly/Storm fracas on the Sunday Footie Show, former Jillaroo Allana Ferguson commented: “If they did that in King’s Cross on Saturday at midnight and someone was injured they’d be off to jail.”

She makes a valid point.

A study last year by Dr Alan Pierce from La Trobe University found that repeated concussions in rugby league players have a long-term effect. He compared 25 former league players in their 50s with a control group of a similar age. The men carried out cognitive tests to measure memory and attention spans and dexterity tests to assess motor skills.

“What I’ve found is that the responses of retired rugby league players were significantly different to the healthy controls with no history of head injury,” Dr Pierce told the ABC.

The NRL took steps in 2015 to introduce mandatory head injury assessments (HIA), where players who have suffered a head knock have to leave the field for 15 minutes and be assessed by a doctor. If found to be concussed, they are not allowed to return to the field that match. An NRL injury surveillance report by Dr Donna O’Connor found that head injury assessments increased from 210 in 2015 to 276 in 2016, largely due to strengthened concussion guidelines. Sixty-six per cent of these cases were cleared to continue playing in 2016, compared to 54% in 2015.

If you have seen the excellent Will Smith movie Concussion (about brain injuries in American football), you may well ask why it took the NRL so long to act.

Cheek and eye socket fractures are common injuries in rugby league. They come about through (accidental) contact in tackles, as big bodies collide. Sometimes it happens through ‘friendly fire’ collisions with teammates.

Such was the case with Broncos forward Josh McGuire, whose injury in 2011 required surgery and he is now effectively blind in one eye.

Sports Medicine Australia says the incidence of sports-related eye injuries is low, but severity is usually quite high, as injuries to the eye can result in permanent eye damage and loss of eyesight.

“Research has shown that 30% of sports-related eye injuries in children have the potential for permanent loss of eyesight.

“A blow to the eye from sporting equipment, fingers or balls can lead to injuries ranging from lid haemorrhages or lacerations, corneal abrasions, retinal detachments and hyphaema (bleeding inside the eye) to permanent loss.”

Rugby league is rated a ‘moderate’ risk sport (in relation to sustaining eye injuries) compared to high-risk categories including baseball/softball, basketball, cricket and racquet sports. Any sport that involves small projectiles moving at speed is considered high-risk.

Our family GP once told me most serious eye injuries he had encountered were caused by squash balls and champagne corks.

If you lose an eye, the alternatives are an ocular prosthesis (a glass eye) or an eye patch, the latter having a bad press courtesy of movie bad guys. Think John Wayne’s bullying Rooster Cockburn in True Grit, Adolfo Celi’s menacing Emilio Largo in Thunderball, or John Goodman’s itinerant bible salesman Big Dan Teague (O Brother Where Art Thou).

If it came down to it, I’d opt for a good quality prosthesis, although the price (from $2,500), makes a $10 eye patch look like a bargain.

I’d make it a different colour just because I love that line in the Paul Kelly song about falling for a girl with different coloured eyes.

In the meantime, I will keep wearing Australian Standard safety glasses when I mow the lawns or use the brush cutter. You should too.