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.
Yearly Archives: 2010
Eighteen months ago I posted about Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, the latest opus from the folk at Asylum, the studio noted (until now) for basing its whole business model on getting people confused about which DVD they’re renting. Incredibly, it’s turned up here in Melbourne at the Nova.
What’s even more impressive, however, is now they’ve made a sequel: Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus. While there’s nothing in this trailer quite as hilarious as the final shot of the previous trailer, overall it actually looks a lot more fun.
At some point, quietly, VCAT have slipped out their “three year strategic plan,” which appears to be the final output of the review started by former President Justice Kevin Bell. It’s not immediately clear when they did so: it’s not dated, and has simply been posted as a news update on the VCAT website. If there was wider coverage of this release, I missed it. As I write, the page for the review itself (www.transformingvcat.com.au) still hasn’t been updated with the final report; there’s also an older, lonelier page for the review as it was started by Justice Bell at www.vcatreview.com.au that also currently fails to reflect any of the final outcomes. The latter page doesn’t even refer to the re-branded discussion paper released by Justice Iain Ross.
(For those having trouble keeping up, Justice Bell released a “consultation paper” called The Role of VCAT in a Changing World in March 2009, followed by a “President’s review” called One VCAT in February 2010; and then Justice Ross released a “discussion paper” called Transforming VCAT in May 2010, followed by this undated three year strategic plan with the same name).
It’s a shame the release of the document has been so lackadaisical, because it is generally a positive document that I think Victorian planners, as regular users of the system, should welcome. I wrote two editorials for Planning News covering the review process (here and here) and it should be obvious from those that I have some issues with the way VCAT currently operate. This review won’t magically resolve those issues, and one of the biggest issues facing currently facing the Tribunal and its users – the long wait times for hearings – is a resourcing issue that can only be resolved by the new government allocating funding appropriately. Yet there are some really good things in here that if followed through should definitely improve the operation of the Tribunal.
I was googling myself the other day – I know, I know – and stumbled across this page squirreled away on the Age website, where Jason Hill had blogged about my Planning News article on SimCity (which is reproduced in full here).
What made my day was this comment underneath by “RealityCheck:”
Stephen Rowley is quite obviously a drooling, mouth-breathing moron.
“OMGZ, no MS Flight Simulatorz, who willz flies all de planes!?” … retard.
On a sidenote, this article does explain the absolutely horrendous state of australia’s capital cities.
Love ya work Rowley.
Today saw the delivery of the last issue of Planning News for which I was co-editor, and my last post to the magazine’s facebook page. So I guess we really are done. I hope you can excuse a few self-indulgent thoughts.
It has been a privilege to work on the magazine. No other Australian state has a monthly planning magazine; Victoria is very lucky to have one, particularly since it also sustains the three-times a year VPELA newsletter as well. It is a tribute to the establishing editors of the magazine that they had not only the vision to see how important monthly publication was, but also the persistence to ensure that it happened. All the subsequent editors owe them a lot, as they proved the monthly turnaround could be done and established Planning News as the key channel for debate in the Victorian planning industry.
As an urban planner and a filmy watchy guy, I’m particularly fascinated by the way our ideas about cities and towns are shaped by the environments we see in film and television. You can get a giant size chunk of my research on this by reading the essay here, but as another little snippet, consider Hill Valley in Back to the Future.
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
Early in David Fincher’s Facebook origin story The Social Network, nerdy and socially inept Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is chatting to the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer). Zuckerberg has proven himself a programming whiz with a campus-blitzing piece of computer hacking; they’re a pair of old-money golden boys looking to recruit him to work on their start-up web business. Despite the modern trappings, the exchange is filtered through more traditional power dynamics, with the tall, good-looking, WASP Winklevosses deigning to let the thin, geeky, Jewish Zuckerberg into the entry hall of their exclusive campus fraternity. It’s at that moment that the analogy between David Fincher’s prestigious Oscar-favourite drama and a campus fraternity comedy such as Animal House snaps into focus.
Just a quick heads-up for Australian writers on film that AFCA’s film writing awards are on again. Submissions are invited until 31 December. Click the graphic below or here for more detail.
As I argued in more detail last year (here), when these were in their first year, I think this is a really important initiative in encouraging better writing on film.
Dreams Come True (ACMI, 18 November 2010 – Tuesday 26 April 2011)
When putting together a museum exhibition I guess one of the key questions is: “who is the audience here?” When reviewing an exhibition, that question might even be more critical.
I have written a previous grumpy review of an exhibition at ACMI (about their Setting the Scene exhibition) and at the time raised the issue that maybe part of the problem was that I wasn’t the intended audience. In that case, I was actually too interested in the subject matter: if an exhibition is pitched at a general audience, someone very caught up in the subject is perhaps inevitably going to judge the material harshly. ACMI’s latest, the Dreams Come True exhibition of fairy-tale themed Disney material, also covers material I’m particularly interested in. So, once again, I have to flag that perhaps I’m a little too close to this to give the exhibition a completely fair go.
Okay: as promised a couple of months ago on my old website – Cinephobia – I’ve completely redesigned, rethought, renamed and relaunched my website.
I didn’t expect to be surprised by Seaside. It was one of those places I’d read a great deal about: as ground zero for the New Urbanist movement, the Florida town’s merits have been hotly debated for nearly thirty years. It’s also one of the most visually familiar planned towns of the twentieth century, as a result both of widespread photographic coverage and its front-and-centre role in the film The Truman Show. From that remote reconnoitring I figured that I already knew its good points and bad points: it would be beautiful, quaint and impeccably planned; but at the same time artificial, overly controlled, and perhaps a little creepy. I was surprised, then, at just how profoundly impressed I was by it.
I think my preconceptions about Seaside reflect a certain blasé attitude towards New Urbanism in the planning profession as a whole. Perhaps planners (and architects, and developers) feel that they have cherry-picked the best ideas from New Urbanism and don’t need to give the movement much more thought: yep, got it, walkable communities, mix of uses, classic design principles… got it, got it, got it. The whiff of unfashionable idealism and nostalgia associated with the movement doesn’t help, and nor does the fact that so many New Urbanist developments – including Seaside – have been occupied almost entirely by the wealthy and white. Seaside’s use in The Truman Show gives it a particularly strong association with these critiques, since the film’s story of a false paradise in a totally artificial environment was the ultimate pop-cultural expression of the anti-New Urbanist position. Yet to see Seaside is to realise the danger of judging New Urbanism only from afar or from its watered-down imitations.