Sunday, August 31, 2008

The sad story of Encounter Bay

Once upon a time, there was a scenic little jetty beside a boat ramp on a picturesque and peaceful South Australian bay.
Children played on the little sandy beach beside the little wooden jetty. Pelicans sat on their favourite rocks, seven to thirteen of them, preening and snoozing and waiting for fishermen to cast away bait fish or fishtails. Elderly couples sat on the shore watching the birds and the sea, the islands, the sky, the timeless and serene view.
Even by night, the little jetty was a joy-bringing beauty - particularly in summer when the sea lay dead calm and the stars twinkled not only from above but from the water's inky mirror around the little jetty.

When a Council has something this exquisite within its bailiwick, there is really onlyone thing it can do.
Destroy it.
Who wants picture postcards in a resort town on the sea?

What we want is industrial views.

Little hobby fishing boats are not revenue for a Council. They may be pretty and pleasurable, but they don't compete with big boats.
So what we really need is a really big boat ramp for really big boats.
And we need facilities for those big boats. Carparks and parking meters and lighting.

And so it has come to pass that the City of Victor Harbor in South Australia has descided to destroy the prettiest picture in its album.

At the same time that it has erected signs warning people of the delicate ecology of the ancient reef in Encounter Bay, it has vandalised the bay in the name of - well, I am not sure what.

As the moves develop to respect the fragile nature of the intertidal marine ecology, and the fears about over-fishing lead to increased moves for marine parks, this Council has invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe a million, into providing access to huge, polluting motor boats.

Here in the bay where the mother whales bring their young in the winter.
Where, most mornings, I can see a seal rolling and playing and fishing along the reef line...this reef, described as a "nursery" for fish.

What the bay needs is diesel slick and bigger boats.

Well, it is what it will get.
And what it needs is less beach and more cars.

To that end, they have just bulldozed earth onto the beach - pushing the carpark out to sea.
Who owns the beach? I thought beach was common land and no one in this country had a right to destroy it, let alone impede people's access along it. The law has changed? I was wrong? It is Council land which may be infilled and used for other purposes at whim?

The pelicans which have been such a joy to all (and the subject of my photo website) and who have long lived on the round rocks of the shallows, have gone. Of course.

So have quite a few of the rocks themselves.

The excavations just get deeper and deeper and the boat ramp is looking as if it has been designed to accommodate oil tankers. Huge groins encircle a vast cavity whence towering black metal piers reach for the sky. These may be anchors for the industrial metal pontoons which the Council, with its high sense of aesthetic, has chosen to replace the wooden jetty.

We shall wait and see how it all looks when finished.
Perhaps we shall have to look to the art of Jeff Smart to see beauty in the industrial impact on this once-pretty bay.

Perhaps, however, we shall just have to avert our gaze and ponder sadly why any Council should wish to be remembered for such travesty.
Then again, people have short memories.
Perhaps, in a few years, only the pelicans will miss the old jetty.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Visuacy? Visuacy? Idiotuacy, I say.

Where do teachers get off, making up words?
They'd mark students down for making up a word and yet here they are, introducing "visuacy" not only as a word, but as a whole educational concept.
It's a travesty, or should I say "travestuacy".

The teachers are reported in The Australian to be creating this word to encompass a broadening span of education in the arts. It opens students to further possibilities in visual arts education - the possibility that they should see fashion models as art. This, of course, may extend to seeing Paris Hilton as art, for she is her own work of art, as we all know. Next students will be able to do PhD theses on Paris Hilton as an art object. Why not?
Already they study Buffy, the Vampire Slayer as part of the university English curriculum.
She, apparently, is preferable to the onerous erudition of those hideous "dead white men" responsible for that vast body of English literature.

So, we have the dumbed-down contempory teachers adapting education to what interests them, what they are able to deal with without the requirements of too much education of their own.

Students can forgo art galleries and dead classic artists for the joy of gossip magazines and young celebrity adornments. I daresay the fashion accessory puppy-carrier will be provided extensive source of study.

An academic called Mr Strong (dare I laugh that his name sounds as if it came straight out of that high literature, the Mr Men books)
has "called for the visual arts to form the basis of the national curriculum alongside English, maths and science, arguing that it had more of a right to be among the first curriculum to be developed than history".

Ditch history for visuacy?

Yes, siree. It's now and tomorrow, the great dumbed-down tomorrow shimmering with its indifference to the achievements and enlightenments of the past. The brave new world in which knowledge is excused by the fullstop statement "that was before my time".

Today's educationalists suggest that students should be able to look at Picasso's work alongside the pure and glorious art of lingerie ads like this one on WikiBuy. "Viewers can respond in different ways to each image in still enjoy both," says an arts professor, potentially relegating the great galleries of the world to dust-coated tombs.

As one commentator put it, this is like equating a ship's foghorn to a Beethoven symphony on the basis that they are both made of sound.

And who knows, "sounduacy" may indeed follow "visuacy" as the world steps backwards into a sea of trite - and idiotuacy becomes the outcome of an ever-declining education system.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Seven sins

Like so many people, I'd really been looking forward to the Olympics.
Only once in every four years do I find myself glue with abid fascination to marathon cycle races, gymnastics, judo, swimming and equestrian events. That once is always an addictive joy. I defer other activities for Olympics-watching.

But here we are in Australia witgh Channel 7 providing coverage of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. And it is just dire. It is the most lacklustre and crass coverage I have experienced.
The disappointment is immense.

Where are Roy and H.G.?
They were always the element which gave us a truly Aussie sense of involvement.
We were, I think, the only country in the world to be taking the mickey out of the Olympics and ourselves - with those well-informed and intelligent comics. We went without sleep in previous Olympics just to tune in to Roy and H.G.

This Olympics they are absent.

Channel 7 has made an executive decision - and has said that it has provided an alternative Olympics diversion, a morning panel show.
My god. How moronic do they think we are?
That lowbrow lineup of tedious egos is sheer insult.

The disappointments go on.

I needn't go in to the chopping and changing of the event coverage which leaves one never quite knowing outcomes unless we learn, retrospectively, that we won something.

Then there are the ads. They broke into the Opening Ceremony to place ads! How rude.

As for their talking heads, the Opening Ceremony commentators....oh deary me.

Shame, Seven. Shame.

Gold at the Olympics you are NOT.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Street View dilemmas

Google Maps have released Street View and caused quite a flurry in the world of citizen's rights and privacy. As we all leapt online to look at our homes and see just how well the Google camera cars performed, a general kerfuffle of anxiety erupted.
There is a lot of concern among some people about vulnerability to crooks "casing" their joints from afar, checking entrances and exits. Indeed, if one adds the satellite imagery to the street view, one does get a pretty comprehensive look at properties. A boon for the real estate trade. A boon for people trying to sell roofing, too, perhaps. But the general paranoia is a bit much, I think. The photos are old. They are not live. Car number plates and people's faces have been cleverly blurred. This is not spying. It is not Big Brother.
It is, however, a comprehensive mapping of the world. And it is a joy for squizzy people - for those who think they can tell a lot about a person by the house in which they live. I, as you can see, am decidedly secretive and inscrutable.

Things which fascinated me about this development were, firstly, the revelation (which somehow I have missed these last years) that Google Maps were in fact developed in Australia by Google's Sydney team.

Secondly, despite my unfortunate brush with Google guards when I went to pay homage to its home in Silicon Valley, my experience here in making contact with the media office to find out about Street View was unbelievably prompt and friendly and helpful.

I was a bit peeved, I have to say, when responses sought to the new facility were met with legal caution, criticisms of Australian privacy laws and of Google - and the call for reform of said privacy laws. It sort of took the wind out of my own sails - and demonstrates howone's own opinions so often end up buried under the informational process known as news-gathering.