[On the way down to the cave]
Saturday, August 30, 2008
[On the way down to the cave]
Thursday, August 28, 2008
It was a little wet today which added to the atmosphere; it felt something like being in the Blue Mountains on a sharp April morning - with the mist rising out of the valleys - except here it was so intensely green, really greeny green, as if someone had gone to town with all the shades of green that are on offer in a pack of 72 Derwent colour pencils. Machynlleth itself was a little sleepy and we could rouse no one in the parliament building to open the door, despite the fact that someone must have put the advertising sandwich board out on the street to advertise that it was indeed open. At least we saved spending £1.50 each on what looked like a rather dodgy historical display.
We had more luck at the Centre for Alternative Technology which is a fascinating showcase of practical ecological solutions for everyday application. It's situated in a disused slate quarry and is reached via a water balanced cliff railway. The top car is filled with water - the bottom with people - and then gravity pulls the water-laden car down to the bottom, thereby lifting the people-laden car to the top! While the displays on home construction, energy conservation, waste disposal, composting and gardening were fascinating, the highlight for me was learning the Welsh term for microwave: 'Popty Ping'. I kid you not.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
He recently posted a blog entry on architecture, pondering the sort of building design that might enhance or facilitate creativity. (You can find it here.) It looks like this was sparked by the experience of having his university department move into a building that is rather bland and isolating, with rows of identical offices and featureless corridors.
I might stop here, for fear of incriminating myself ...
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I've been taking advantage of the launch of Google Street View in Australia on the 4th of August to re-visit places back home. This is, of course, a deliberately nostalgic undertaking. From across the other side of the world I can gaze upon my former house and 'walk' the streets of my old neighbourhood. It's all so familiar, and yet oddly disconcerting on at least two levels.
Firstly there is the strange disembodied mode of navigation; my body still holds the memory of walking these streets, of laboriously mowing the grass outside my house. I still retain a knowledge of which routes to take to get to other places, the various uneven patches of grass and pavement, and the peculiar smells encountered. But floating along on Google in fits and starts is so flat by comparison; the places depicted seem to have been dessicated. A mere photograph is static, and a video supplies its own movement, but Google Street View is a curious amalgam. The images are static but continuous and it is I who scroll through or along them. What do I get out of this, a dessicated partial-animation of a place once alive and lived?
The temporal dislocation is another disconcerting aspect. If I look at the image of my old house I can see that it was taken some time ago, when I was still living there. There are pot plants on the porch and I can see my filing cabinet through the front window. One of the windows is open. Maybe I was at home, inside, when the Google van recorded my street? But looking at the scene I can't get over the fact that this place no longer exists as it is depicted. Of course, this is like many of the photos I have with me of people and places, but these don't proport to the virtual timelessness that the Google images seem to offer. The Google images themselves are also dislocated because of the pasting of multiple static images into a continous image. The result is some disturbing representations of headless or malformed humans. Perhaps, as I scroll past, I could even recognise someone in the street who isn't alive any more.
How might a program like Google Street View change the way we relate to the places around us? Instead of seeing it as the loss of place, and a replacement for physical travel, I am reminded of Edward Casey's optimism that 'thinned out' or 'leveled out' places might intensify the desirability of actual places. "The more places are leveled down, the more - not the less - may selves be led to seek out thick places in which their own personal enrichment can flourish." (Between Geography and Philosophy: 685)