Places

Unforeseen Unforeseen Circumstances: The Fall of Kevin Rudd

For a White House in need of a few moment’s levity, recent events in Australian politics might have provided an opportunity for a bit of fun. A meeting was planned between the Australian prime minister and President Obama after the G20 meeting in Canada next week. A supreme prank could have been devised whereby the president’s aides agreed not to mention Australia and somehow deprived their boss of any news thereof, surely not too difficult with more pressing business at hand. On the day of the meeting, the Oval Office door would have opened and instead of his good mate Kevin Rudd, in would walk a smiling redhead, Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard. Alas this prank will never come to pass. Obama thankfully seeks out his own news, and in any case after this week of extraordinary upheaval in Australian politics, the newly sworn in Prime Minister Gillard is far too busy to travel overseas.

Barangaroo Revisited: ‘And Here’s a City I Prepared Earlier…’

Barangaroo developer Lend Lease has released a revised plan for the site. The fact that it is an improvement on their previous proposal is like saying Burger King is better than McDonalds, perhaps true, but surely there are better hamburgers in the world. Sydney city councilor John McInerney is probably right to suggest that Lend Lease has pulled an inverted bait-and-switch of the ‘propose something outrageous and the less outrageous thing you planned all along will seem reasonable’ variety. Ironically, by improving some of the original design’s worst excesses — for example, the “exclamation mark” hotel has been reduced in height and does not project as far into the harbour — its fundamental flaws are more glaring than ever.

Maximum Stupid: Sydney’s Big Barangaroo Blowup

“The Master Plan suggests an architecture that, despite its scale, will not overshadow any of the spaces that are, in and of themselves, naturally beautiful. The exception to this is the library and hotel pier. A reference to tall ships that once docked at the harbour’s edge and the hotel and library are expressions of the magnificent ability for a building to almost walk on water. This architecture will provide necessary markers in their own right.” -from the Barangaroo Public Display, March 2010

Tarquinia’s Medieval and Renaissance Ceramics Museum (Museo della Ceramica D’Uso a Corneto)

Tarquinia’s situation, on a high hill back from the Tyrrhenian sea, is splendid. It is a luminous place, the stone walls and buildings are limestone, locally called “macco,” a creamy colored stone. Light bounces off the sea and the surrounding grain fields make it all the more light. If you walk to the top of the town, away from the water sea, looking over those walls, you are struck by the immense sea of grain.

The Best French Movie in Decades – The 2008 Tour de France

It was a childhood case of chicken pox which first introduced me to the Tour de France. The year was 1989, fortunately a very choice vintage indeed, in which Minnesota’s Greg Lemond clawed back 58 seconds between Versailles and Paris to defeat the hapless Parisian ex-dental student Laurent Fignon. I remember my confusion, a common response among those new to the Tour, as to which of the two was actually the Frenchman.

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