Saturday, January 27, 2007

Put a Bloody Sock In It for Gawd's Sake!

I’m with Tony the Teacher: Straya Day gets on my tits.

For one thing it’s turned into bloody Straya Week, if not Straya Fortnight. Sometime around mid-January, it seems that someone at The Age at least, woke up from the national stupor known as the “silly season” – the time of the year when every paper in the country prints nothing but fluff because all the journoes want their Christmas break and if they’re not interested in writing real news stories over the annual holidays then obviously no-one’s going to be interested in reading real news stories either. Hey, Australia Day’s coming up, this hack thought, why don’t we run a series on Aussie values.

So we got a whole bloody week of navel-gazing on the Strayan tradition of the Fair Go, what it is to be Strayan, what Strayan values are and how are we going to get the lint out of the national belly-button? With the national digit would be the obvious answer, if this government hadn’t shoved the national digit firmly into the national anus with a clear intention to keep it there.

I was looking forward to getting up this morning with the whole thing over and out of the bloody way. Obviously I’m not getting enough lamb in my diet. But no – instead the paper was filled with pages of bloody Straya Day post-mortems on who did and said what, where, to celebrate the fact that Straya has a really gorgeous innie, thanks to the deft scissor work of the Founding Obstetricians.

One celebration of Australia Day that was notable by its absence – a welcome non-event - was the Great Australian Bikini-March, originally scheduled for early November last year. This was the absurd protest organised by Christine Hawkins, a “Melbourne grandmother” against the sexist remarks of Sheikh al-Hilali. Ms Hawkins brilliant idea was that Melbourne women would send al-Hilali a message by parading their exposed innies and outies outside a mosque in Brunswick.

Well, when you’re a middle-of-the-road Australian who wants to send a message to the Muslim fundamentalists in our midst, I suppose one mosque will do as well as another – and it’s certainly easier for a “Melbourne grandmother” who lives somewhere in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne to get to Brunswick than Lakemba – it’s just a couple of hours on the train at a cost of a few dollars for the round-trip, much cheaper than an air-fare to Sydney and a taxi to Lakemba, with the added complications of check-in times and getting through airport security. As for the residents of Brunswick who might take exception to the idea of their streets being used for a provocative protest with an obvious potential to get nasty, who gives a shit? Those latte-swilling elitists should have got rid of the enemy in their midst years ago.

John Howard’s Straya – don’t you love it? Maybe next year, I’ll make more of an effort and slip down to the nearest halal butcher to get some halal sausages to toss on the barbie on Straya day. Apparently, halal sausages are quite delicious.

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Form 1, Function 0

Good design is supposed to be about making utilitarian objects that also manage to look good – at least that’s what I read in an article on good design in The Saturday Age so long ago that I’ve forgotten when it was. Or perhaps it was in one of their pieces on architecture. Whatever.

Yesterday, in the print edition, Suzy Freeman-Greene took a look at design in Melbourne with the help of The Melbourne Design Guide* and finds that good design is flourishing in Melbourne. The Age even has the photos to prove it, including a picture of a footbridge over the Craigieburn Bypass on the Hume Highway.

The bypass is the product of a collaboration between artist Robert Owen and a firm of landscape architects – Taylor Cullity Lethlean. It’s a big piece of iconic impressive architecture, like the Denton Corker Marshall “Gateway to Melbourne” (aka the Cheesestick) on the road formerly known as the Tullamarine Freeway.

The Cheesestick has no known function whatever – it just provides a bit of visual spectacle for taxi drivers and their passengers on the way to the CBD from Tullamarine Airport. In contrast, the big horseshoe thing on the Craigieburn Bypass also serves as a footbridge. So you get a big, iconic landmark for the interstate truckies, and a bit of community infrastructure in the same package. Only a complete philistine would bag it as a piece of totally crap design.

So I’m a philistine. Over the past few hours, I’ve tried to see this Objet d’Artitecture as an aesthetically pleasing combination of form and function, somehow magnificent in the way that the sweeping curve of the bridge over the roadway manages to combine the utilitarian function of lifting the pedestrians over the tops of the B-doubles with visual excitement. All I’ve managed to see is a plug-ugly attempt to tart up an underlying failure of urban planning – the existence of the freeway in the first place.

I guess that’s why I’m not cut out to be a designer – my thinking is far too pedestrian.

* - to view the Melbourne Design Guide on-line, you will need a Flash player. This is not good web-site design.