Sunday, October 27, 2013

trees, trees, glorious trees

image from:
Up early for a very worthwhile cause on Friday. I was asked if I would like to attend a tree planting initiative coordinated by the local not-for-profit Tree Fredericksburg, in conjunction with local volunteers from Dominion Power and Cox Communication. The event was made possible with a grant provided by Dominion.

The planting took place on two sites in Fredericksburg. The first included 58 street trees within the newer Villas of Snowden residential subdivision, which was largely devoid of trees. The trees included several species and home owners were able to have some input into species selection for planting in front of their homes. The second site included 38 trees planted around the Old Walker Grant School and the Boys and Girls Club of Fredericksburg

All volunteers were fitted out with safety vests, goggles and gloves. We were given a safety instruction, did a quick warm-up and were then given a tree planting demonstration. Breaking into groups of three to four people, each group was issued with shovels, stake tampers, pliers, tree guards and plastic sheet/tarp to empty tree and soil onto. Each tree had had it's hole pre-dug - so this made it easier to remove soil. Prior to the tree plant, trees had had roots washed, been delivered to site and stakes and a bag of mulch supplied to each tree location. 

Working on many large design projects during my life as a Landscape Architect, meant that I was not involved in a great deal of site work: more along the lines of inspection than supervision. This plant was a great insight into in situ tree planting - and application of the bare rooted planting technique developed by Bonnie Lee Appleton from Virginia Tech. 

The morning was cold, but we soon warmed up with some physical work. It was fun working with a bunch of Dominion line and office workers, many who exhibited the bravado to try and 'out-plant' each other - thus making the atmosphere somewhat lighthearted. I had a great time and came away with that feeling of virtue obtained by doing something worthwhile. Paul commented upon how I 'glowed' with enthusiasm on my return. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013


We are very proud of Luc. He has now been awarded a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. Many nights and weekends of classes and practice over the last few years... and he has done it!  It was not easy and Luc really had to work towards his goal. 
Two Black Belts in the family... we now eagerly await the opportunity for Nic to obtain his. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

miley - have an art!
Miley Cyrus has achieved all she wanted. Notoriety. Publicity. Attention. Her recent incarnations, video releases, VMA performance and social media utterances have everybody talking, seething and commentating. 

I have been offended by her recent behavior. In a way that I wasn't by the 'outrageous' antics of Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga, et al. Why? Is it because I now have a daughter of my own? Has my moral compass realigned and my focus been narrowed? I spoke with Paul about this. He had similar feelings of unease. 

Paul and I were discussing why we had both been offended. Yes. Undoubtedly because we were now the parents of a daughter. We concluded that the 'art' has been lost, and replaced with a debased sexual overtone - no innuendo at all - a complete lack of class. Madonna and Lady Gaga have been involved in some extreme antics over the years. Yes they got attention. Yes, they were also master artists, songwriters and performers. Their antics seemed to be part of a larger story - a bigger picture - with story-telling and character creation central to this. David Bowie was a master of this. His punk, androgyny, and fantasy periods well-crafted and contrived. Yes, they too shocked people at the time. With all of these, there are somewhat fond recollections, an appreciation of boundaries being pushed and expanded, of times-a-changing. And art. 

Art has shocked people for millennia. Art should. Art should get people talking. It's raison d'être is to get attention and focus. Miley may be a talented singer and performer, but her art is 'off'. Being a doyenne of the young female artist, to use a childhood imagery of teddy bears in her performance seemed, well... wrong! Very apparent to me, was her coated tongue (I have always understood this to be a sign of sickness - definitely nothing to show off!) Perhaps the shock of art in this digital age is supposed to spontaneous... and then forgotten in an instant?

If Miley wanted so badly to get attention, and break away from her wholesome Disney persona, then why not put her efforts into pushing a worthwhile cause at the same time. Find a cause célèbre. Couldn't she stand up against the exploitation of females - rather than promote it? Given her following of young children - promote literacy and numeracy? Being a young female - encourage healthy body image and good nutrition? Miley has supported a number of charities and foundations that cater specifically to youth in the past. Perhaps a nod to these instead of trying to shock might gain more respectability and give greater attention to worthwhile causes at the same time. 

Lady Gaga has spoken out against suicide, promoted youth empowerment through her Born this Way foundation and promoted social responsibility in many ways. Bono, lead singer of U2, is a master of social activism. Dozens of in-the-spotlight celebrities have managed to gain attention for worthwhile causes in the process of promoting their image and product. 

Alas, Miley is not alone in the debasement of women. It is an ongoing dilemma that seems to have been pushed to extreme limits of late. To fly in the face of empowerment - it is young women who are often the perpetrators. Where 'sexy and powerful' has been replaced by 'sexy and powerless' - where young girls objectify themselves, seemingly oblivious to potential danger and detriment. Perhaps these girls are just too far removed from the feminists who fought for the right to keep a job when married, receive equal pay or even own a bank account?

We don't watch music videos in our house and find that it is sometimes a challenge to remove 'explicit' songs from our Spotify stream (why this isn't an automatic option we do not know!?) Many songs with questionable lyrics do not actually qualify for the 'explicit' warning - lucky for us the words are often intelligible or enough innuendo is used so that our children do not pick up the message. I was recently recommended a video of some girls from Auckland University Law Revue who parodied Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines lyrics and video. At first I was shocked by the parody... until I took the time to read the song lyrics and watch the original uncut video... and then it seemed somewhat tame!

Friday, October 11, 2013

miniature melbourne

The boys have been having some fun playing with iStopMotion - an animation package for the iPad. They have also been interested in watching some of the information/training videos created by the awesome brothers on Animation Chefs. Hence, there have been a few animated videos being viewed around our house of late. 
I was struck by this time-lapse video created by Nathan Kaso. The title is Miniature Melbourne. Of course, I have a soft-spot for anything from my home town Melbourne. This video, with its vignette blurred focus effect, bright colors and stop-motion look to people and moving objects, gives a surreal look - not unlike a classic stop-motion using miniature cars and figurines. Apparently this is achieved with a miniature or 'tilt-frame' effect applied during the editing process.