My book The Victorian Planning System: Practice, Problems and Prospects is now available from Federation Press.
My book Movie Towns and Sitcom Suburbs is out now through Palgrave Macmillan.
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RCI Planning is my consultancy providing expert advice, VCAT advocacy and statutory planning services in the Victorian planning system.
Category Archives: Miscellany
It’s been a long time between posts, I know, but in my defense that’s been largely because I ended up writing two books, one on the heels of another.
My second book is both an introduction to, and a detailed study and critique of, the Victorian planning system. I have put a page up at www.sterow.com/vicplanningbook that gives much more of a detailed breakdown of what it covers. In short, though, I hope it is both a good introduction for those new to the system. and a thought provoking discussion for those familiar with it.
It is already available for pre-order at 12% off from Booktopia, here. It should be available by the end of the month or the first week of February at the latest.
While I’m posting, I will just brag that back in November my first book, Movie Towns and Sitcom Suburbs, was awarded the Cutting Edge Research Award at the Victorian Planning Awards. The following are extracts form the citation:
This work is an outstanding feat of scholarship… Movie Towns and Sitcom Suburbs offers a new perspective based on thorough research. It is a formidable academic work that is highly readable… The work is thought provoking about how community views are shaped, how planning seeks to influence day to day life, and how public opinion can be harnessed to guide and implement change.
You can see more detail about that book, including ordering links, at www.sterow.com/movietowns.
As you might have noticed things have been quiet around here, with this site serving mainly as a repository for the occasional things I’ve written for Planning News. However, I do have a couple of biggish bits of news to update with.
The first is that I am officially now at work on a book. This has been coming for a while now, but I actually have contracts and so on all lined up now. The exact title and production schedule are still TBA, but it will be with Palgrave Macmillan and I assume is likely to appear sometime late next year. It will be based on my PhD research, which blends film and urban planning topics together to look at the interactions that have occurred between how we picture cities and towns culturally, and how we build cities in real life. Obviously I’m super excited about this, if only because it gives me a decisive answer to those who complain I never write about film any more.
The other news relates to the life changes I am making to get this done. For the last year I have been working part time in local government and part time at RMIT. While I have enjoyed this dual balance, it hasn’t been terribly well suited to doing the writing I wanted to (whether on my book or other projects likes this site). So with considerable regret I have now left my old local government job, after fifteen years in state and local government planning.
I’ll be filling the gap with some consulting work under the banner of RCI Planning. In the initial phase at least (while I write my book) my main target will be local government VCAT advocacy though the website lays out some of the other intended areas of practice.
We’ll see how this goes, but the hope is it will give me a bit more flexibility to do the writing and other projects I want to pursue. Who knows, maybe I’ll even start writing on film here regularly again.
This vintage Melbourne travel map was passed on to me from the collection of a relative, and I thought Melbourne map buffs might find it interesting. Produced by the Victorian Railways in November 1939, it’s a small booklet that folds out into a double-sided map. This is the front cover when folded, showing the central city from the banks of the Yarra.
I just discovered that my great uncle, Fred Mitchell, is selling his photos as prints on RedBubble. Fred’s photos have been a source of admiration in my family for years, but it’s nice to see them readily available somewhere that a wider audience can view and order them.
While his collection is very wide and full of good stuff, it’s his photos of mid-twentieth century Melbourne that I keep going back to: in addition to their intrinsic attractiveness, they are fascinating for their portrait of daily life in 1950s Melbourne. (One of his products is a calendar collecting together many of the best).
The purchase of Instagram by Facebook the other week interested me, if only because I have been noodling around with the service myself in recent weeks. This fits my long-standing pattern of being just enough of an early adopter to leap on board something at the exact moment it becomes passé. At one level I can understand the incredulity about the price (a billion dollars is a lot to pay for a service thats only revenue plan seems to be “get purchased by facebook”) and about the merits of Instagram itself (Jon Stewart epitomised a widespread perspective when he described it as a “thing that kind of ruins your picture.”)
While its value to Facebook may seem dubious, I can see the merit of Instagram itself from a user’s perspective. It is true that at one level those filters are, at worst, ruining your picture as Jon Stewart says and, at best, just adding a cheap veneer of artiness. No doubt people will sneer at the Instagram aesthetic, driven as it is by gimmicks like the graininess, ersatz tilt shift, and old-timey colour filters in the image at the head of this article. Yet while the Instagram effects are in a sense cheap tricks, they are also doing something real, which is stripping the naturalism from the photo and making us see it with fresh eyes. I like that something so popular is making people look differently at their images, and stirring the realisation that even that naturalistic look from a good camera is not a neutral aesthetic choice.
In my continuing attempts to help my film readers who aren’t interested in my urban planning stuff, and vice-versa, I’ve also created separate mailing lists that cover just my film content and just my urban planning content. These are also in the right hand column, or alternatively here:
Hopefully these will be attractive options for those who have no interest in one or other of the major “streams” of my content. (You can also view the site at category specific URLs: www.sterow.com/film and www.sterow.com/urbanplanning).
Tim Minchin’s Christmas song White Wine in the Sun is now pretty well known in Australia I think – or at least no longer obscure enough to seem novel when posted on a website like this. But I want to post it anyway, and I figure it will be new at least to any overseas readers who haven’t been chased away by my articles about Victorian urban planning. What I like so much about it is that it so completely and comprehensively rejects two of the cores of traditional Christmas iconography – the religious underpinnings and the northern hemisphere winter imagery – but gets instead to the core of what Christmas is (or should be) all about.
While I’m posting Christmas clips from YouTube: another favourite of mine is this duet by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, recorded for television in 1977. It’s such a strange juxtaposition of talent, and very corny, and yet it works. There’s something about Bing Crosby’s voice, in particular, that evokes Christmas in a very profound Pavlovian way for me.
I occasionally feel self-conscious about the weird mix of content on this site, with film reviews sitting alongside detailed discussions of urban planning issues. While I think some of my planning stuff (like my essays about the town of Seaside, or the urban design and planning of Disneyland) might be of interest to a broader readership, some of my posts are pretty technical and I appreciate must be annoying to the readers that followed me over here from my old film-related site, Cinephobia.
For this reason, I’ve now made it slightly easier to skip to just the content you’re after by creating subdomains you can bookmark for each of the two main threads of content. The two new addresses, which should be self-explanatory, are:
This site has a page on facebook, which has for the past few months not been updating; it seems the import blog function simply doesn’t work (and nor does their bug-reporting system). However, with my post on Disney World this morning I have confirmed that my work-around (updating the page through Networked Blogs) is working. So if you find it convenient to receive page updates via facebook, you may want to give it another go.