Into the Trees

For a middle-aged expat Tasmanian who learned to drive on a winding country road behind endless log trucks headed for Triabunna, this article on the destruction of the Triabunna mill and the fall of Tasmania’s woodchip industry was electrifying reading.

I’d missed the news about the mill being bought by wealthy environmentalists—a brilliant tactical stroke. And I’d missed the news that Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott were angling to open it again, but it didn’t surprise me. I expected the story to continue in depressing detail about how they’d pulled it off and got the log trucks rolling again, so the section on Alec Marr’s monkey-wrenching read like something out of a thriller. I’m averse to vandalism, but when the choice is between letting loggers loose again on Southern old-growth forests, or dismantling a disused mill to prevent that from happening, I know what I’d choose.

A lot of Tasmanians would gnash their teeth and talk about lost jobs, but industrial forestry hasn’t been a jobs bonanza for decades. A century ago teams of loggers used to go into those forests and haul out one giant tree at a time for sawmilling. By the 1980s, a few men with heavy machinery could knock over whole hillsides of ancient trees in one hit, and ninety percent of it, ninety percent of it, ended up as woodchips to be turned into newspaper. Or, as Abetz puts it in this article, “the woodchips are made from the leftovers”. What kind of person thinks of ninety percent of any living thing as “the leftovers”? Poachers killing rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks? Poachers need jobs too, but where is it written that they have to be those jobs?

Read More · 30 July 2014

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the Floating World

My recent forays into 35mm scanning have been taking me back to one of the major trips of my youth, starting with eight days our family spent in Japan at the end of 1985. I’ve actually written about that trip here already, when I wrote at length about my second visit in 2006. While getting a collection of these older pictures together for yet another photo gallery, I thought about adding some extended passages from my diary of the trip to complement that later account. But the diary entries are a whole different animal, full of the wide-eyed innocence of an almost-adult in a very foreign land, interspersed with accounts of sibling squabbles and teenage concerns. So a few extracts will suffice.

Read More · 8 July 2014

Tasmania ’82

After cleaning up their dust specks and scratches in Photoshop, I’ve now added a gallery of my earliest black-and-white photos to Detail. Camping trips on the coast, day walks in the bush, ferries out to islands, and our quiet country town: this was my world at age fourteen.

Read More · 24 June 2014

The Worst Little Pub on the Coast

After years of meaning to, I’ve finally bought a scanner that can handle slides and film, and have started scanning my 35mm negatives. The earliest are from 1982, when Dad gave me his father’s old Yashica for my fourteenth birthday. Those first rolls were black and white, and developed in his darkroom. We only printed a few frames from each, if that; the rest have gone unseen, except as contact prints of the negatives, since I took them. Seeing them now is an uncanny experience; they’re older than most of the prints in my photo albums, but the images are effectively new to me, not worn down by over-familiarity. There’s my brother at age 11, looking as early-’80s as a Radiators video. There’s my mother the same age my wife is now.

Most of the photos were from camping trips and weekends away, with some of the same sorts of landscape shots I still take a lifetime later. But the clothes, the cars, and all the other aspects of the built environment turn them into time travel. Here’s one that’s particularly Tasmanian, and particularly 1982. Nowadays these signs would be a few laser-printed pages, and not nearly as good.

The Worst Little Pub on the Coast

Blow Fly Sponge $1.50, Leeches & Cream 5¢. Hold the Kangaroo Tits.

10 June 2014

Memory in 2012