Thursday, 24 July 2014 - 9:01pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 24/07/2014 - 9:01pm

I remember sitting against a pillar. Cold porcelain tiles on the floor, cold porcelain tiles against my back. Sweating profusely. Legs rushing all around me. Spinning. Convulsion and sick on the floor. Wynyard station concourse. 1989.

Places for community

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 18/07/2014 - 4:11pm

[This is a post from the "Understanding Community" sociology unit of my social science degree, pasted here after Blackboard mangled it.]

I'd like to make a few observations based on things I've been interested in for a while that chime with issues raised in topics 2 and 3. This TED talk from 10 years ago (!) is a blackly comical look at post-war urban planning in America (the situation is not that different in Australia). James Howard Kunstler is very good at articulate rage when it comes to urban design (oh, language warning on that TED talk, by the way), even if on some other subjects his gears are just spinning furiously, unconnected to anything.

It certainly seems to me that most of the urban design where I live (Sawtell/Coffs Harbour) is a major impediment to Gemeinschaft. To illustrate the difference between pre-war and post-war urban planning, let's say you feel like getting out of the house and hanging out somewhere where you might bump into a friend, and maybe enjoy a coffee or a beer. Would you rather go here:

Or do you find the prospect of a lazy afternoon here more appealing:

Take a wild guess at which of these two types of urban environment we're still enthusiastically constructing. Fortunately, just around the corner from here is the community centre where you can find help in managing your drug and alcohol problems, which in turn help you manage the problem of living here. This mini-mall was the nearest non-residential building to a house I lived in for about a year, nearly going mad in the process. It was just under an hour's walk through an open air prison of pre-fab bungalows, two to a pre-subdivided quarter acre, along wildly curving crescents and cul de sacs, provided you didn't mind jumping the odd fence or drainaige ditch. This is where the real "locals" get pushed to as the desirable places to live are gentrified for/by seachangers.

I didn't yet have my driver's license when we moved to Boambee East, "just minutes away", according to real estate agents, from the beach and cafes of Sawtell. By helicopter, presumably. One day I went so stir crazy that even this carpark seemed more appealing than another 24 hours staring at the walls. So I set out to enjoy a cup of coffee and a newspaper. When I arrived I found the bakery which served coffee was shut, as was the sub-newsagency and the chemists. It was Sunday afternoon. So, determined to keep up the pretence of civilisation, I bought a can of Coke from the supermarket. There was nowhere to sit with it. The only seats were stacked up behind the locked doors of the bakery. I sat in the gutter, taking in the view of a deserted carpark. I would have wept were it not for the passing gaggle of teenage girls, heads bowed in supplication over their phones, the only visible evidence that I wan't alone in a post-nuclear-holocaust world.

You don't have to tax your sociological imagination too much to predict what the result of a couple of generations of kids raised in such a sterile, unstimulating, alienating environment will be.

Against this dominant model of urban planning is the new urbanism movement, which makes crazy demands for things like like every neighbourhood having a centre within easy walking distance of most dwellings, streets in a walkable grid configuration (no jumping fences, trespassing, or wading through mud to get a reasonably direct route), laneways to keep cars, bins, etc. out of sight; basically planning and architecture of the kind considered normal when Sawtell was built. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

The Liberal/National Coalition eat their own young!

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 30/06/2014 - 6:25pm

Well done Luke! Putting the boot into the aspirational/battler Coalition heartland is a masterstroke! If you keep showing this kind of gumption, the evil fairy Pyne is sure to finally grant your wish to become a real boy! I bet chambers of commerce around the country never suspected you'd turn on your own parasitic kind. Fresh, young and pink business studies graduates will be scampering to Clive Palmer like startled piglets to a sow, dragging their deregulated student loans behind them. Austerity über alles!

Monday, 14 April 2014 - 8:43pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 14/04/2014 - 8:43pm in

I think it's outrageous that only the top-tier advertorial packages include a photo-op with the mayor! The Advocate has priced her out of the reach of local businesses. If she's going to do this at all, she should be available on fair and non-discriminatory terms to everyone from full page advertisers to the lost pets and in memoriams.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 - 8:24pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 12/03/2014 - 8:24pm

"Papers, please!" It's about time that somebody realised that children are the insidious enemy within. An important breakthrough in obedience and conformity that can't come too soon. Hopefully this initiative will soon expand to include all who are not performing their designated duties for the glorious economy. When everybody is a policeman, there will be no criminals or other undesirables, and we shall all shop happily within the law.

Monday, 3 March 2014 - 8:52pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 03/03/2014 - 8:52pm

Well, this is user-friendly. You would think that an entirely foreseeable and ludicrously simple technical problem would have an automatic technical solution. Nope. Here's the remote, grandad. Good luck.

Hi, we're the free market! Relax; we're not here to sell you anything you don't already have. We're just here to make your life more unnecessarily frustrating. No need to thank us. We're already hard at work devising new ways to turn existing services which you took for granted into "plans" that you will never understand in a million years. Pick one. Freely. NOW!

Sunday, 12 January 2014 - 1:19pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 12/01/2014 - 1:19pm

Devolution of government is a boon for business. Even a Woolworths would struggle getting the regulatory outcome they want from a state goverment, if it's obviously against the public interest, but corrupting a "supercouncil" would be well within the reach of any company the size of (to pick a name totally at random) Gowings, or even smaller.

Sunday, 5 January 2014 - 12:06am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 05/01/2014 - 12:06am

Sadly, occurrances continue to happen throughout Coffs Harbour on a daily basis. I'm often in close proximity to them, and it's only because I'm vigilant that I witness how suspicious they are. Everything is being recorded on CCTV. You won't believe how many people act like I'm crazy when I tell them that there are men, women, businesses, machines, sometimes shirtless, threatening to harm us, so we're forced to use tasers. It's no use questioning them. These people aggressively cause occurances. We must subdue them. Only then can we live nearby, in close proximity, with no ongoing occurrences.

Police Bare Arms for a Pointless but Uncontroversial Cause.

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 03/01/2014 - 9:41pm

Whether you choose to do it "tits-high" or "groin-low", folding your arms is nearly as old as Coffs Harbour itself. That's why members of the Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command have chosen to spend January in a sponsored self-embrace to raise awareness of intimate dermatalogical chafing.

"Particularly in these more humid months, many people suffer in silence. Apart from a bit of grunting," says Detective Chief Inspector Ron Vertigo. "The money we raise will be used to purchase anti-perspirants and talcolm powder for the needlessly grimacing in our community, as well as to fund workshops on exo-dermal dehydration which will keep young people from falling into the 'sweat/swagger spiral'."

The concept was the brainchild of CCLAC Community Relations Officer Lucy Embouchure. "So much of our job is 'move them on, lock them up, release them, then move them on, lock them up…' — it never ends. Then suddenly one day when I was feeling quite sticky, I thought 'Here's a way we can broaden our outreach beyond the local indigenous and economically disadvantaged communities and finally make a difference.' The message we are now sending to the wider audience of normal people in our area is that although it's all very nice living in a hot and humid climate, you should treat your pits and nether regions with respect. After all, disgusting as they may be, they're the only bodily recesses you have."

"It felt a bit strange at first," Constable Jarvis Jarvis sheepishly admits from behind a pair of forearms more used to gripping the steering wheel of a paddy wagon than each other, "but it's good to know you're helping local kids develop the skills they'll need in managing the friction caused by excess bodily fat later in life."

You can "like" the "CCLAC Sweat Band" on Facebook, and you can sign up to sponsor a "Coffs Top Slop-Blotting Cop" at any business that bears the secret insignia of the Coffs Coast Key Stakeholders Society.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014 - 11:29am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 01/01/2014 - 11:29am

What better way to celebrate the centenary of rail in Coffs than to revive Rodney Degens' idea for a mid north coast commuter rail service?

On the day of the 2011 census only 220 people from the Coffs Local Government Area travelled to work by public transport; 0.8% of the working population, opposed to 13.8% for the state of NSW as a whole. This is an absurd figure for a growing and increasingly (sub)urbanised population, but there is a very good reason for it. Commuting full fare from Sawtell/Toormina/Boambee East to the Coffs CBD by bus will cost you over $100 per week, compared to $34 for a weekly rail ticket from Strathfield to the Sydney CBD (a comparable distance). Coffs Harbour does not have a public transport system; it has a safety net transport system, affordable only to pensioners and schoolchildren through public subsidy.

Look at a map: we have a rail line that passes either through or quite near Nambucca, Valla, Urunga, Raleigh, Repton, Bonville, Sawtell, Coffs Airport, the Jetty, the North Coffs retail precinct, Karangi, Coramba, Nana Glen, then on to Grafton. What would it do to the regional economy if people could easily and affordably move between these centres? What would it do to the household budgets of those who would no longer require one car per-driving-age-resident? What would it do to traffic congestion, drunk-driving and motor vehicle fatality/casualty statistics? How is this anything but a no-brainer?