Friday, February 2, 2001
I'm bringing this back for just one last post to say thanks, Meg, Jack, Matt, Paul, and Ev. You gave us something special. I, like thousands of others, would not have poured nearly as much into my site in the past year without the benefit of your glittering creation. I'm sorry the revenue stream never quite came together; I was hoping it would, because I hoped that a sustainable and profitable Blogger would be a beacon showing the way forward for everyone who wants to turn the web into the medium it should be: not a place for banner-ads and mail-order catalogues, but a place for words and art and dreams.
That dream is still there, you know. This isn't the end. Bad times pass. The web won't.
Wednesday, January 31, 2001
And nowwww, the end is neaaarrrrrr...
You know, I was going to write some deep and meaningful thoughts over the past couple of days to send this weblog and its predecessors (Seven Weeks and WW1) out with a bang, but... I just can't be bothered.
I was going to transcribe the story of the Meat-Mobile from my Madagascar diaries and put it here as a final in my 'Madagasikara' series, but I can't be bothered doing that either.
Or to put up a series of Buddha photos from Thailand. Or to talk about geckos on the ceiling of The Worst Hotel in the World. Or to sprinkle a last random assortment of Madagascar and Thailand photos through the next few entries.
I've had enough. And you, hypothetical reader, one of five or six dozen who faithfully come here every few days, have probably had enough too. There's only so long I can drag the subject out. It all feels so Last Year.
And this year... well, I don't know what this year is going to be, and it's already one-twelfth over. Hopefully it'll be more than staring at the screen in a house in suburban Melbourne, which is all I've been doing lately. It looks like we'll be here a while longer, and I fear that if I try to commit my daily doings to this weblog the contrast with what came before will be too depressing.
I mean, come on. Do you really want to watch as I learn ColdFusion, finish teaching myself Illustrator, and finally come to terms with the intricacies of the DOM? Which is what I've been doing these past few weeks, and have tactfully kept out of sight here. There are hundreds of weblogs that deal with that sort of stuff, and the world doesn't really need another.
So, my first pass at telling the story of that amazing year is now over, and its fate now rests with the publishers. With any luck you can read more of it in a book one day. Until then, there's always the archives. Come back in a day or two and you'll find this page replaced by a handy index.
There will be another (less-)regular instalment of Roryness to come, but I'm taking a break for a week or two before launching it, so I'm afraid I can't give you a link to it here. Keep an eye on new at speedysnail to see it surface.
Thanks for reading.
Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Heh! A font based on Monica Lewinsky's handwriting (Mac/PC), courtesy of Lines and Splines [via Caterina]. This has launched me on my semiannual trawl through some favourite font sites, like Chankstore's Freefonts, Fontomas, UddiUddi, FontDiner and Rotodesign. Lots of great stuff in all of them.
Monday, January 29, 2001
I've been through a bit of a down patch today. Partly it's a disillusionment-with-blogging phase as I mentally prepare for the death of Walking West in a few days. Over the past couple of weeks I've felt it shift away from its long-standing purpose of documenting a personal journey towards a common-or-garden blogginess that doesn't quite fit with what went before. After I've posted a couple more things that I've been wanting to, it's history.
But that's not it really. I'm feeling homesick. Not for Canberra. For Tasmania.
This is the last thing I would have expected, now that Jane and I have made the break from Canberra and are on our way to something else, here or in London. After all, it's ten years (almost to the day) since I left Tassie for the bright lights of the Mainland and beyond, and those first six months of intense homesickness are long past. Yet here I am feeling it again.
It was Saturday that triggered it, picnicking out among those silver gums reaching straight up to the sky. Eucalypts in New South Wales and Canberra don't do that; their branches bend and spread. The only other place I know with gums that tall is my home state. Tasmania used to have the world's tallest trees, until the early foresters cut them down: taller than the redwoods of California. One was measured at 150 metres after it was felled.
And they're still cutting them down. Saturday's Age carried a story by Bob Ellis, noted writer, film-maker and litigant, about the continued destruction of Tasmania's natural heritage (and therefore my heritage), which brought out feelings of helplessness, frustration, anger and guilt—yes, guilt, because I am Tasmanian, and I left; I didn't stay there and do something about it, even if it sometimes seems there's little that can be done against such an ingrained culture of logging, damming, mining and undermining. I was part of an exodus that saw Tasmania head into negative population growth in the 1990s, the only state to do so, dropping from half a million down to who-knows-where. There's precious little work there, and for a few years after a madman took 35 people's lives in Port Arthur there was precious little hope, either. So Tasmania carries on as it best knows how: by selling its natural resources to the highest bidder.
Tasmania's forestry practices remind me of an old Disney comic strip where Mickey asks Goofy why he's painting a fence in such a hurry. Goofy replies that he's trying to get it finished before his can of paint runs out.
Our old-growth forests are being felled and woodchipped for the benefit of overseas markets that will disappear in a few years when huge plantations in China and elsewhere in the Third World come on-line. The state is selling its biggest asset for the shortest of short-term gains. Goofy.
And the forests are beautiful. I used to live an hour or two's drive from Farmhouse Creek, scene of some of Australia's fiercest environmental battles of the 1980s. The southwest wilderness was my backyard; we used to visit its edge for picnics. I've seen twenty countries since then, and although many of them were beautiful, I've seen none more beautiful. It's one of the jewels of the world, and we're chipping it away.
Being in Melbourne has reminded me of all this because Melburnians have reminded me of it. Although I felt homesick at times in Canberra, not many Canberrans knew much about my home; they looked towards Sydney, and Sydney looks towards itself. But in Melbourne, when I meet new people and tell them I'm from 'Canberra but originally Tasmania', they'll inevitably say, 'Oh! We've been to Tasmania. It's beautiful.' And I'm forced to remember that it is.
Melbourne looks on Tasmania as its personal holiday island, when it's not making jokes about two-headed inbreds and pronouncing 'Launceston' incorrectly (it's LON-ces-tn, not LAWN-ces-tn). Which is amusing, because I look at Melbourne as the child of Tasmania.
Melbourne is the world city Tasmania never had. It was settled by 'Vandemonians' before Van Diemen's Land became Tasmania, and when gold was discovered in central Victoria it boomed. The city feels like a sequel to Hobart, with Victorian architecture in place of sandstone Georgian. Tasmania shares in enough Victorian culture (Aussie rules football, most notably) that a fraternal air definitely surrounds the two states. Melbourne is a great city, a modern city with an engaging past, forward-looking without being full of itself; I like it a lot. But Hobart is a great city too, even if most Australians don't know it. It's just not big enough to be considered important.
It's hard to know what to think about that. Some Tasmanian politicans would love to see the state double in population, but I don't know many Tasmanians who would. The state's low population is its curse and its blessing. A Tasmania that had grown at the same pace as the rest of federated Australia—which would have put it somewhere around 2 million by now—would not have had as well-preserved an environment as it does now. On the other hand, it may not have taken it so much for granted.
So where does that leave us? I can't help thinking that while Victoria got the gold in the 1850s, and used it to vault to national prominence, Tasmania has the gold now—and doesn't quite know what to do with it.
Sunday, January 28, 2001
On Saturday, Jane, Steve and I got up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. Jane and I are used to it because she's been getting up early for work, but Stephen needed a serious nudge. By 7.10 or so we had left the house and started driving out to Springvale Road, where we met Paul, Cathi and Jacques at a McDonald's carpark at 7.30.
We all drove in convoy out to Mount Dandenong, then uphill to a picnic ground in Sherbrooke Forest. It was still only 8.00, so we had the place all to ourselves, apart from a few joggers. The early morning sun lit up the tall straight eucalypts, and crimson rosellas pecked around the ground oblivious to our presence.
We shared a breakfast barbecue of bread and snags (sausages) with some of the rosellas, who had suddenly taken an intense interest in us. A couple flapped up to perch on Jane's shoulder and Jacques' bald head, to great amusement all round.
After packing up we decided to go for a walk. Jacques, though, didn't want to use up too many of his lifetime's allocated number of heartbeats, and wouldn't be convinced otherwise; he stayed behind and read instead.
The rest of us started at the picnic grounds and followed a sign pointing towards 'Sherbrooke Falls, 1200 metres – 1 hour walk'. 'That'll be one hour Grandma time,' Jane said, since national park signs usually cater for slow walkers. We figured it would take us thirty minutes at most.
The first hitch. We reached an intersection with no sign pointing to the Falls—just a couple naming the tracks and their approximate lengths. I suggested we go left. I lost the vote.
We followed the winding track through the bush, until...
We reached another intersection. I voted we go left. We went right, and soon hit...
Another intersection. The left path was blocked off, so we went right and...
Followed the track uphill, until it reached an intersection just below a road, which rather shattered the illusion of pristine bushland. We deliberated where to go. By now we had given up on the falls and just wanted to get back to the picnic grounds. I figured these were to the right. I was outvoted again.
We followed the road left until...
We came, finally, to another path leading back into the bush. I took it, before anyone could suggest otherwise.
The track wound down through the bush to another fork in the path. The left path was blocked, so we went right...
Over a creek to another intersection. By now signs were actually telling us that the falls were that-a-way, so we followed them left...
Along the path...
Left, then right...
And down, and right...
And looped around the falls, pausing briefly on a bridge over the river. The river above and below us was overgrown with thick bush, and the only falls we could see were less than the height of the shower in our bathroom. This wasn't a waterfall, this was a slightly sloping creek. Something of an anticlimax.
After a suitable pause, we looped back up and turned right.
We followed the track to another intersection. We were reasonably sure this was the one we had first seen, so we went right, to...
Another picnic ground; the wrong one. We could now see where ours was in the distance, but there was no path leading to it through the low scrub. We walked out to the road and followed it north...
Until a smaller road led off to the left, back to...
The picnic ground, where Jacques was patiently waiting. It was exactly two hours since we had left.
Here's our complete walk in all its glory. Note the careful avoidance of paths leading in the correct direction on the first few occasions. Note the cruelly-ignored voice of reason arguing that we should head in the other (correct) direction on those occasions. Note the use of first person singular in relation to cruelly-ignored voice of reason.
Note that it doesn't really matter, and that I'm just putting this here for a laugh. It was a good day.