Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Snippets - a blogging meander

Cityscape Whitfield I do not really feel like serious writing this morning. Instead, I have taken the opportunity just to roam, catching up on blogs (and other things) that I like.

This photo from Neil's modest photo blog shows the Sydney CBD looming up on a hot day over the terrace houses and parks. The area that Neil photographs so often with its older multi-coloured terrace houses lies just to the south and south east of the CBD. Neil, I think, generally faces back to the city - most of his photos run in a semi-circle in that direction.

If you take a 343 bus from the city, you will pass through the area that Neil mainly photos. Then if you stay on the bus, five minutes later you come to Rosebery. Neil sometimes ventures further inland. This view from his Rosebery series shows the view from the balcony of his frieRoseberynd Sirdan's new apartment looking back to the loom of the city. The bus in the photo is the 343 that you joined in the city.

Continue on the bus for a few minutes and you will pass our present front door. Now you are in a different world. I discussed some of this in one of my Saturday muses: Saturday Morning Musings - everchanging Sydney.

Still on Neil, his post Behind the news: Rosemeadow NSW used census maps pretty effectively to scope a social problem area. For the benefit of international readers, this is a heavily public housing area marked by social dysfunction. The trigger for the story was a riot that was heavily featured by Sydney's two dailies.

I didn't comment at the time, although I was obviously interested given that I did some work with Housing NSW.

The comments on Neil's post draw out some of the issues. From my perspective, Rosemeadow is the outcome of failed public policies over very many years.

The original decision to concentrate social housing in estates on the far outskirts of the city with limited transport and access to work was always problematic. However, problems became much worse because of the need to heavily prioritise applicants for social housing.

Originally, Housing Commission Homes contained a mix of people. You had to be a low income earner to qualify, but once you had a Housing Commission house you essentially had if for life. There were also opportunities to buy. All this meant that social housing area contained a considerable mix of people.

Funding constraints in recent years forced a priorities policy. Income limits for eligibility fell in real terms. Life tenure was abolished. Increasingly, allocations were limited to highest priority cases, those with special needs.

While a priorities policy may seem a sensible thing, who could argue with targeting a scarce public resource to those with greatest needs?, the social outcomes have not been good.

This is meant to be a conversations post, so I will leave it there for the present. For those interested in finding out how to create maps like those Neil used, I covered this in How to find and use Australian census data 2 - Creating maps and other nice things.

Thomas's friend Mr Rabbit had some fun parodying Newcastle headlines under the title Newcastle News, 6 January 2008, adding for “Newcastle”, you could substitute any of our fine regional centres or larger country towns. I had to laugh; it's true that my column is a little different, Neil.

But just to even things up a little, here are some actual headlines selected with somewhat malicious intent from the Sydney Morning Herald of January 9. This is Sydney's high quality daily.

  • Stole in one: golf buggy heist charges - a few teenagers run amok with some golf buggies
  • Work stress blamed for caesarean rise - subtitled a pregnant pause!
  • Council staff fear assault over alcohol laws - the added dangers of being a council ranger after new alcohol restrictions
  • More arrests as anger flares again at Rosemeadow - more trouble on the estate
  • Death comes too soon for Bondi girl with sparkles in her eyes - car crash victim
  • So very modern, once upon a time - about a house
  • Take a good look - naked women in art galleries

The SIT - Stay in Touch Page - is often an especially good guide to the things considered important in today's Sydney, although outsiders may find it strangely arcane. Among the important pieces of information I discovered on Friday in the three questions section is that the one thing that Alison White wanted as a child but did not get was blonde hair and a tan!

So that I am being fair, a few headlines from Wednesday's Armidale Express, Armidale's SMH equivalent:

  • Prawn trip goes awry - Armidale man involved in Newcastle drowning scare
  • Club with no beer - Armidale's YCW Leagues Club closes: 3 stories
  • House extensively damaged in blaze - as the headline says
  • Kernaghan to headline free country music gig - charity concert in Tamworth
  • Stinking hot and there's more to come - the local weather
  • Man belted in New Year's Day Attack - Armidale man bashed in Coffs Harbour
  • Thumbs up for motorists - subtitled "But heavy footed rookies slow learners " - Christmas holidays traffic report
  • Expanded Peter Allen Festival a case of 'The More I See You" - about one of Armidale's local festivals

What do we conclude from all this? Nothing really, beyond the fact that we all concerned with the human and local.

This sideline has proved a much longer diversion than planned. Still in 20081230-10-56-15-west-kunderang-macleay-crossing parochial mood, however, I thought that I should balance Neil's Sydney photos with a New England one! This photo from Gordon Smith shows the crossing of the Macleay River at West Kunderang.

Thomas's post 2008 - IV was something of a tour de force. The detail provided on the economic events of October 2008 is quite remarkable. The post draws out clearly the growing sense of fear as the chaos of the financial collapse spread around the world, with all governments struggling to respond.

Marcellous has been taking a short break from posting. However, I really enjoyed his last post A machine for living. I, too, thought that Victor's comment was quite acute.

Michael Pettis on China Financial Markets continues to write some interesting stuff. His most recent post, As deficit countries contract, can surplus countries be far behind?, contained some interesting observations on the readjusting trade patterns associated with the global economic downturn.

In his latest conversations with Jim, no not me, Winton Bates has turned to ways of improving public policy. The link will take you through to the entire series. There is some interesting material there. The reference here is really a bookmark to myself to go back and look again.

This one is really for international bloggers who may not read the Australian media.

Operating under the name Sharon Gould, an Australian free lance writer and former blogger by the name of Katherine Wilson prepared a hoax article and submitted it to a Quadrant, a magazine edited by Keith Windschuttle, one of the main participants in what are known as Australia's history wars. The intent was to see if he could be fooled, and indeed he was. The hoax was then revealed. Ms Wilson's name was not.

Parts of the Australian blogosphere went wild and in multiple comment chains quickly tracked her identity down through things that she had written before. Sort of a multiple collaborative literary detective work. Ms Wilson's identity was then confirmed.

If you want to follow the story though, start with this SMH article, The blogs of war: how Quadrant hoaxer was outed. Then go to Who Killed “Sharon Gould”? where Crikey's Margaret Simons reviews the relative roles of bloggers and mainstream media in outing Ms Wilson. Then go to this piece by scepticlawyer (Helen Dale) Quadrant Demidenkoed. That is all. This provides a picture of the evolving events, including links through to some of the content sections.

Australia has a long tradition of literary hoaxes. I knew Helen wrote well, but I must be one of the few people in the Australian blogosphere who did not know that she was also Helen Demidenko, the name under which she wrote The Hand That Signed the Paper. I just never thought about it.


Anonymous said...

The area that Neil photographs so often with its older multi-coloured terrace houses lies just to the west of the CBD.

South and south-east actually. ;) You must be thinking of Ultimo and Glebe. Haven't started on them yet.

Thanks for all the references. Needless to say I like the pics too.

Jim Belshaw said...

I do get my compass points confused, don't I. Correction made!