stonemasons are becoming things of the past

here we are back in adelaide for the xmas-new year period. as usual i get sucked in to local things, and so i just registered to adopt the street tree out the front of our place. it has not looked well for a few years, when all the other ironbarks in the street look quite healthy. i think it is dying of thirst. since there are water restrictions in force, i need approval or assistance to lay drip hoses out the front of our property.
next door, all the trees have gone. people moved in, cut down all the trees and bushes higher than head height, and now do not live there but come occasionally to do renovations.

it’s a peculiarly australian failing, what robin boyd (1960: The Australian Ugliness) called “aboraphobia”. or, as the old aussie motto (sardonically) says: “If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn’t, chop it down”. two doors up, we have a vacant lot. when we moved here in 2005,  there was an old stone double villa, built about 1870. after it was sold to notable local developers, there was consternation about the house being demolished and also the trees being cut down in the back yard. i have detailed the story of the trees elsewhere…

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blog affordances anyone?

1. Blog versus email list discussion

The affordances of the blog medium render discussions conducted there different, both in content and expression, from those previously conducted by the same people via a mailing list.
Reference to content and expression planes is meant to distinguish the meanings made possible by any text, and so we can say that while the expression plane refers to the materiality through which meanings are made (e.g. sound and articulation, movement, gestures, graphology and letters, etc), the content plane refers to meanings derived from the discourse made possible through these media.

In other words, BOTH the formal features of the posts and their responses  – what are labelled ‘comments’ in a blog environment –  are different in every respect when comparing the email-list versus the blog environment: formatting, colour, dispersion on the page, linking/nesting, inclusion of graphics AND  the content of the responses and posts are different. At the same time, what we say and how we say it are affected by our notions of ‘audience’ on the blog. The email list in the case of Netdynam was available by subscription and only subscribers are privy to the posts. The subscription list was small and the active posters became well known to each other. In the case of the blog on the other hand, it is not easily clear who is reading the posts since the web-log is public.

Audience potential appears to be the biggest difference affecting interaction on the blog – as contrasted with the experience of interacting on a mailing list. The technological contraints and enablements notwithstanding, the net effect of the extra appurtances is that blog-members now have open boundaries – or perhaps semi-permeable boundaries if the levels of administration and moderation are taken into account – and this does not make former members of a small list feel as ‘secure’ when faced with an open audience. For example, the projected audience affects how a writer addresses the content – this paper was originally written to fellow list-members and instead of third person referents, general nouns, and past tense, I used second person referents, and habitual or present (in the past) tense, i.e. whereas in the paragraph to follow I originally wrote “we have been spending many years defining boundaries…”, for general consumption, I now write something different…

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growing australian plants conference – geelong trip1

i just returned from a long drive to geelong to attend the association of societies for growing australian plants (ASGAP) biennial conference there. the drive itself takes about 10 hours or so straight, so i did it in 2 days, leaving about 11am each day and arriving for the evening about 4. the conference was held over 5 days, monday to friday, with 3 days of talks and presentations and 2 days of excursions to local reserves and gardens. on the way back i stopped in at seymour to visit my old school friend, and then we took a 2 day loll about to beechworth and rutherglen. victoria – the place to be!

anyway, of course i took some pics. the themes of plants and railways were prominent… in this post, a selection of plant-oriented fotos…

view west from trig point at royal botanic gardens cranbourne

view west from trig point at royal botanic gardens cranbourne

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italy trip, instalment4

I continue at last my account of our short trip to Italy earlier this year. All these observations were written quite soon after the days to which I refer, but now, when i re-read them, each seems impossibly remote, and one day is blurred into another in my memory. The entry takes up where i last left off – our overnight stay in the medieval town of Mantova. ….

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space for plants 2 – another country

those three weeks travelling about in my second home recently, got me noticing things i’d already known but hadn’t seen as a thread before that.

people often asked me how it felt to be back in japan after a ten-year gap, and it was hard to explain. it was not like what i was told was the rip van winkle experience of suddenly waking up in the same place and not remembering the time having passed… i was aware that many of my memories of place had been erased – and mainly because when i saw them again i remembered them anew… thus the time having passed was highlighted for me. but at the same time, i felt at home – at ease, not worried – i knew how to get about, how to get things done, everything seemed second nature to me. although i had often felt that i had forgotten how to speak japanese, as soon as i got out of the plane, japanese came out of my mouth unbidden. for me, amusing and very useful.

One thing that i began to notice differently was the presence of plantlife. the attitude or orientation towards plants is not the same as in the west. i do not know how to describe ‘from the inside’ what i feel is this peculiarly japanese orientation, but i did start to observe elements of the urban streetscape in japan, notice relative differences, and then started trying to account for them in my own mind – as maybe related to constraints on space in japan – or at least urban constraints of various kinds.

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space for plants 1

Back home a week now, and the new neighbours have done their worst with the old garden. It used to be a place where, when i got up on the ladder to pick some of the large yellow peaches that hung over our mutual fence on their tree from next door, i would look over that fence in envy, almost guiltily, admiring the layout, the trees, small lawn, well-placed bushes and the lovely old delapidated shed up the back – next to the chook yard where contented chooks clucked, made eggs and ate the weeds and snails i threw over for their delectation.

Sure, it wasnt a native garden with the stone fruit trees, the lemon, the ornamental grapevine whose leaves covered their back pergola in a ruby red in autumn, and the small rose bush plot, but it was an eden-ish place, green, with dappled light filtering down. and there were one or two native plants, including a rather tall callistemon against the far fence – a red bottlebrush much favoured by the local lorikeets when it was in flower.

A new temporary owner (we knew this as s/he had “tidied” the place up – by cutting down the stone fruit trees, severing the thick-as-your-arm bole of the grapevine, and removing the cascading tree that grew over the front brick fence into our yard providing excellent screening of our front door from the street) had begun the process the year before last. And now, new owners had moved in. E had told us while we were in Finland that they had come and asked whether they could cut down the jasmine that grew in a small packet of ground between our houses – indeed it had climbed up onto their roof, and needed to be cut from their side. we arrived home to find that it had been cut off their house and the rest pushed onto our side – a new job for me to deal with. As well, the bottlebrush tree in the back garden had gone, as well as the remaining rose bushes nearby.

But last week, the sound of chainsaw bade me look outside – to witness a team of men cutting down every remaining tree and bush in their front garden. A long tall narrow palm tree next to their front fence i’d often admired, wishing i could have one in my garden – it would have needed at least 50 years to grow that tall – i’m hoping they uprooted it and sold it to someone – a madagascan grass tree, also tall and a favourite lurking place for birds in the evening, it often dropped its old leaves into our front yard, and three other small trees whose identity i can no longer remember. what is left is bare brick wall, which we can easily see now from our front yard, and over that into the street and the other houses beyond.

P has an idea of leaving a note in their mailbox. it would read something like, “we notice that vandals have come and cut down all the trees and plants in your yard and we are sorry that you have had such a welcome to our street where we pride ourselves on our gardens and street trees. we have decided to conduct a lamington drive in order to raise money to purchase some replacement plants for you.”.

as for me, i wanted to light a candle in their front yard, to help with my mourning for the loss of my neighbourhood friends, the graceful trees next door.

next door's front brick wall in 2007 after the first owner had tidied up their garden...

next door’s front brick wall from our front door, taken in 2007 after the first owner had tidied up their garden…

the same view from our front door today...

the same view from our front door today…

It was too much when they also cut down the lemon tree – still hanging over our fence behind the house – who, after having survived those ten days of over 45 degree heat last summer, and so little water for the past three years, was just then putting out new purple sprouts…when they fed its body into the mulcher in the front street, i could smell the citrus in the air as i stood at the back door… i couldnt help it – i burst into tears.

It may be a factor that people do not value the space for plants that they have in a country with so much open space, and traditionally having houses with a backyard. It may be a fear that they cannot control nature in a country so alien from that of Europe. When they look over our fence into our backyard, they probably think we are mad…. but of course, from my point of view….

mad architecture

although i have lots of observations about japan from this trip, they’re  all mostly scribbled in a notebook this time, because internet connectivity was very random, and because i was doing so much moving around – not much time to computer-ise my life at all while here.

my _intention_ is to write them up at some point, better sooner than later i guess, because the feeling, the texture, of the event fades if you let it lie too long in memory…

and indeed, i still have some episodes from our italy trip to post – even though i wrote them long ago and in the heat of the moment.

but one thing that always strikes me about japan is its mad architecture.

planning laws? what planning laws?

oh, yeah the individual buildings are sturdy, japanese builders have learnt much from the effects of earthquakes, and so you wont find a better contructed building. but then of course, they are only designed to last 20  to 30 years… which is why we go to temples and shrines which have ostenisbly been standing there for hundreds of years, but are actually re-constructed every 30 – 50 years or so… when they get word i am coming to visit that is.

but where they put the buildings, and in what relationship to other buildings and environmental features is not at legislated for.. or, if it is, this is nowhere obvious at all. town planning is an add-on affair, ad-hockery of the highest order, the glory of the higgeldy-piggeldy. domestic architecture can be quite ugly and based on the extremes of practicality and price. or, it can be rather satisfyingly complex and be based on an aesthetic which has been developing for hundreds of years. and, each of these approaches to the concerns of domestic housing can be located exactly next door to each other.

and then there are public or commercial buildings, ones where price is no barrier to appearance and design, and indeed a statement is what is required. buildings that might not be acceptable in the west, especially right -there-, do not get interfered with here in japan. build it and they will come!

anyway, i was treated to one utterly fantastic example yesterday. as i rounded the corner and this building came into view, i actually let out a yelp of surprise followed by rather immoderate laughter.

only in japan! you gotta love this place….

apparently it is meant to represent froth on beer…?

buildings by the river at asakusa

buildings by the river at asakusa

another view from the bridge at asakusa, tokyo

another view from the bridge at asakusa, tokyo

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