It's almost two years since I moved from Sydville to the Deep South, and still it's The Sydney Morning Herald, not The Age, that I read on-line. It's partly the superiority of the SMH crosswords. It's partly that Sydney's water supply levels fill me with an oceanic calm, whereas Melbourne's make me feel I should be bottling my urine. And it's partly that New South Wales state politics have all the gore and glory of a Renaissance revenge tragedy, while Victorian parliament - despite its Bay dregding controversies and the excellent surnames of its cabinet ministers (Brumby, Helper, Lenders, Batchelor, Wynne) - is as dramatic as genetically unmodified beancurd.
Not that I'd know. I don't read The Age.
Meanwhile, the SMH, in my day a stately investigative broadsheet, is now, online, Cheap Titillation Central. If there isn't a lead story about a man giving birth to twin wombats, you're probably looking at the wrong newspaper. The site is, on the one hand, giving its readers what its readers want (photos of a naked Jennifer Aniston, apparently), but on the other it's educating the reader in a definition of newsworthiness, creating a demand which it has to continue to satisfy with equally (or increasingly) salacious reportage. I worry that (via an exchange I can't actually see and certainly can't speak of with any authority) this is leading real people to supply in real life the sorts of cruelties and illegalities which the SMH and similar media require. At the very least I can say that the SMH is making money out of this and this (two of the five lead stories on the site this afternoon) and in that sense it has a vested interest in more of the same occurring.
And now, as I'm steering my way around the site looking for news, this: Ladeez, vote for Australia's Hottest Tradie. That tradies are not always men and not always heterosexual (sometimes neither male nor heterosexual all at once, quel horreur) seems to have passed the authorities by. If I weren't too busy choking down my indignation, I'd pause to reflect not just on the way this is confirming relationships between gender and different kinds of work, but on the way it's constructing an erotics of handiwork. Those of you game enough to peruse the innards of the link up there will find that you can "send" your favourite tradie to a friend, along with a choice of five jerry-built double entendres. "Do you think his ladder's extendable?" Etc. And what of this? What does it mean to imply that all plumbers will want to check out your plumbing, that sparks are gonna fly with this sparky, that Bob the Builder will get you knocked up any day of the week? It means that we're permitted to suppose that men of a particular class have a particular sexuality: not just a heterosexuality, but a heterosexuality that's effortlessly up for it, ready and waiting, at your service, ma'am.
Equally it's telling Bob that the ladeez aren't interested in his scrabble prowess and don't want him to be interested in theirs.