Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


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Creating Space, Supporting Diversity

I listened with interest earlier this week to a Radio National Bush Telegraph discussion.

Cameron White interviewed Hugh Possingham, the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland about National Parks and Biodiversity.

The brief blog post about the program (with the podcast of the interview) notes that Hugh “argues that Australia’s conservation dollar is being spread to thinly. He believes we need to prioritise which national parks should be kept, and which ones can be sold off.”

In the interview Hugh drew attention to two fundamental issues:

  1. Do national parks support biodiversity?
  2. How do you manage 12% of Australia’s land mass with limited resources?

In addition to the interview some of Hugh’s thinking is shared in a University of Queensland press release. In that release Hugh observes that:

In the absence of major new sources of funds, we need to consider where the prospects of success are greatest and, indeed, what success in conservation actually consists of.

I found the combination of applied mathematics, decision science and economics in this discussion fascinating.

The Bush Telegraph interview prompted me to think about the spaces we create for high performance and the challenge to meet running costs. I thought too about all the conversations I have heard about a return on investment.

This has sent me off to ponder optimal training environments and how we might develop satiable and sustainable strategies for excellence. We have some lessons from biodiversity research to help focus our attention:

For all our present nationwide investment in conservation, we are still losing both species and ecosystem integrity. We clearly need better ways to decide what we can afford to save, because the current system plainly isn’t working as well as we’d hoped. The evidence indicates that Australian native species are still disappearing at a rate 100 to 1000 times faster than normal. Over the past 200 years, 22 mammal species have become extinct, over 100 are now on the threatened and endangered species list, and 6 more bird taxa were recently declared extinct.


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Hearing Voices

I heard two delightful radio items this week.

Both items exemplified for me the invitational nature of voice and the triggering of enquiry.

On 30 August Phillip Adams interviewed Ira Glass about This American Life (a weekly public radio show produced by Chicago Public Media and broadcast on more than 500 stations across America).

I liked the single comment on the Late Night Live page for the program “One of my favorite radio programs talking about another one of my favorite radio programs. This was great.”

From This American Life’s web page:

The radio show and TV show follow the same format. There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe. Probably the best way to understand the show is to start at our favorites page, though we do have longer guides to our radio show and our TV show. If you want to dive into the hundreds of episodes we’ve done over the years, there’s an archive of all our old radio shows and listings for all our TV episodes, too.

Ira’s conversation with Phillip explores story telling and narrative in a way that makes following up on the radio program a compelling opportunity.

Whilst mulling over this interview I had the good fortune to listen to a story about the Lajamanu Champions and their teacher Patrick. The Bush Telegraph trail for this story:

The world of internet podcasts has some unlikely new rising stars. They’re a bunch of kids from Lajamanu School, one of the most remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. With their teacher Adrian Trost, the students have started their own audio podcast. The kids choose what goes in it and that means jokes, stories about hunting and the canteen report. But student Margaret Johnson says her favourite part of the podcast is the segment when they speak in Warlpiri.

I really enjoyed the vitality of the Champions’ approach to using voice. I thought it was a great example of what a teacher with imagination and energy can do.


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Home is where the hut is

Background

Radio National’s Bush Telegraph had a great item yesterday (23 June) on Huts in the Wild.

Greg Muller interviewed Dianne Johnson about her new book on Huts.

Dianne has been interviewed by Radio National’s By Design program too.

In her Bush Telegraph interview, Dianne made some fascinating observations that helped me think further about my changing sense of space and place. She found a great ally in Greg in the interview. He too was passionate about huts.

Hutness

Amongst the points Dianne made in her interview were:

  • Being “struck dumb” by the beauty of the Waldheim Chalet on Cradle Mountain
  • Huts as liminal spaces  that mediate between the built landscape and nature
  • Huts are spare and sparse: they are not designed as stores (unlike sheds)
  • Huts offer enchantment and are imagined, mindful and slow spaces
  • Huts are creative spaces within which to think and reflect and on some occasions take on demons
  • You must not stay for a long time in huts and avoid Martin Heidegger’s experience of overstaying
  • You are the honoured guest in a hut. It is a place of respect and hospitality.
  • Huts are egalitarian, they are inclusive. Each has its own distinctive portal.
  • Each of us has a sense of our wild spaces and our hard country. These are places of wonderment that energise the spirit.
  • Huts tend to be built in magnificent places.
  • Huts are temporary and  raise issues about preservation. Part of the experience of a hut is its ephemerality … ‘hutness’ is about coming from from the earth and returning to earth.

At the end of the interview Greg asked Dianne if she had a favourite hut. She mentioned Dixons Kingdom Hut.

Place and Space

I have been thinking a lot about space and place. My recent journey started whilst contemplating Everywhen. Developments around Commons spaces at the University of Canberra have accelerated my reflections.

Dianne and Greg have helped me travel further in my thinking. Given the essential characteristics of ‘hutness’ I wonder if I ought to stop thinking about research centres and units and work to develop huts for ideas and practice. It would be wonderful to develop a way of being that stimulated the imagination, enhanced sociability and celebrated liminality.

Such huts would not be places of permanent residence. They would be way stations that had varying configurations of people and ideas that were nourished by the place.

Photo Credits

Wallaces Hut

Davies Run (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)

Dixons Kingdom Hut (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)


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The Music in Us: Lake Boga Days

A few weeks ago Mrs Carey’s Concert opened in Australian Cinemas.

Another music film, Seriously Singing – a Cinderella Story, was premiered last week, launched by the Minister for School Education. Malcolm McKinnon made the film.

Malcolm works mainly in rural communities. “Over the past 15 years, his work has encompassed oral history, urban planning, public and community art projects, critical writing and exhibitions. His current practice is mainly focused around documentary filmmaking and social history, motivated by an appreciation of living memory and local vernacular.”

Malcolm describes the film as an interpretation of “the story of a small town choir achieving national acclaim from improbable beginnings.” I see the film as having immense synergies with As It Is In Heaven.

There are ABC Radio podcasts of interviews with Malcolm McKinnon on ABC Central Victoria and this item on Bush Telegraph. The program note for the Bush Telegraph podcast records that:

The small community of Lake Boga is serious about singing. The little hamlet, 16 km south of Swan Hill in Victoria’s mallee country, is in the limelight with the screening of a new documentary starring the town’s youngsters.

In 1951 the Lake Boga Primary School choir, led by singing teacher Jessie Arnold, took part in a choral competition to celebrate the Commonwealth Jubilee. The kids from the bush did so well that they were crowned Victoria’s best small primary school choir.

Sixty years later, Jessie Arnold, now known as Jessie Carmichael, returned to the same school to teach a new crop of kids how to sing.

There is an interesting Age article about Jessie Carmichael and the reunion of the 1951 choir. The Bush Telegraph podcast updates the story and underscores the role music does and could play in our lives.

I am struck by the didactic power of stories like Seriously Singing and their potential to share passionate teaching. I am draw to such performance stories as I think the resonate strongly with sport contexts.

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Photo Credit

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Mobility and Engagement

On my way home the other day I listened to a Radio National Artworks program.

The discussion was about the show en route  a the creation of a group One Step At A Time Like This.

The ideas discussed took me back to my days at Dartington College of Arts in the late 1980s and early 90s when I had access to some remarkable performance artists and installations. I remember one student examination piece in particular. It involved a journey of discovery around the Dartington Hall Gardens.

I was delighted to discover that Leigh Blackall had heard the program too and I enjoyed his blog post Situated art, situated learning. I noted in particular Leigh’s use of a William Hanks quote:

… learning is a way of being in the social world, not a way of coming to know about it. Learners, like observers more generally, are engaged both in the contexts of their learning and in the broader social world within which these contexts are produced. Without this engagement, there is no learning, and where the proper engagement is sustained, learning will occur.

As I was reflecting on these thoughts I happened to hear a great interview on another Radio National program, Bush Telegraph. Centrelink on the Road is a great example of a mobile service to the community. I was fascinated by Kath Sacks and Debra Inskip’s discussion of their work.

I found the juxtaposition of en route and Centrelink semi-trailers delightful and was charmed by the passion that drove both groups.

Photo Credit

Dartington Hall 05


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Engaging Readers

This week I have been introduced to two delightful writers. I met their work through Radio National programs. I have been thinking about writing a great deal recently in my role as supervisor of a number of student theses and research projects at the University of Canberra. I have been thinking about engaging implied readers too. Ironically this is a post about writing stimulated by being a listener.

On Tuesday Richard Stirzaker was a guest on Bush Telegraph and was interviewed by Michael Mackenzie. The interview celebrated Richard’s ability to explain scientific principles to a lay audience. The interview centred on Richard’s book Out of a Scientist’s Garden. A trail for a book launch noted that:

Out of the Scientist’s Garden is written for anyone who wants to understand food and water a little better – for those growing vegetables in a garden, food in a subsistence plot or crops on vast irrigated plains. It is also for anyone who has never grown anything before but has wondered how we will feed a growing population in a world of shrinking resources. Although a practising scientist in the field of water and agriculture, the author has written, in story form accessible to a wide audience, about the drama of how the world feeds itself. The book starts in his own fruit and vegetable garden, exploring the ‘how and why’ questions about the way things grow, before moving on to stories about soil, rivers, aquifers and irrigation. The book closes with a brief history of agriculture, how the world feeds itself today and how to think through some of the big conundrums of modern food production.

This the YouTube presentation by Richard.

On Wednesday Phillip Adams interviewed Jonathan Gold. This is the trail for the interview:

In the US, food critic Jonathan Gold has a cult following, not just because he is the first food writer to win a Pulitzer prize, and not just because he won it while working for a free, alternative newspaper, LA Weekly, but because his reviews embrace both high end cuisine and low rent neighbourhood joints. His reviews are equally riffs on food, music, politics and art; his tastes are bold and adventurous. Just don’t ask him to eat a scrambled egg.

The interview led me to Jonathan Gold’s writings in the LA Weekly and a real desire to find out more about the riffs that so captivated Phillip Adams. I liked  The Gorbals: Stomp, the Restaurant as an introduction to his writing. This is the opening paragraph:

The Gorbals, perhaps, is a restaurant that should not be seen by the light of day, when the boxy tables look like a shop-class project, the artfully scuffed floors look worn, and the back-room speakeasy vibe is overtaken by the thought that the dim space may have once served as an industrial laundry room. The music is still good, various Iggyisms and post-Iggyisms and proto-Iggyisms, but you get the feeling that the chefs would rather be sitting on a couch smoking cigarettes rather than flipping matzoh brei, and although the $5 Bloody Marys with fresh horseradish are of a strength that you may not have experienced since sophomore year in the dorms, on a Sunday morning the staff may be as hungover as you. As crisp as the blintzes are, as rich as the latke-studded pork belly hash can be, the Gorbals is not a fluffy, happy place to brunch.

Jonathan Gold’s book Counter Intelligence (Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles) was written in 2000 and is a collection of  “over 200 of Gold’s best restaurant discoveries–from inexpensive lunch counters you won’t find on your own to the perfect undiscovered dish at a beaten-path establishment”. It is available as an e-book. This blog post (from if it’s hip, it’s here) celebrates Jonathan’s Pulitzer Prize and links to a Washington Post article that is a delightful account of his work. This is the set of works that was considered by the Pulitzer Prize judges and this some biographical material about Jonathan Gold.

Richard and Jonathan have distinctive approaches to writing and sharing experience. As a supervisor of student work I am keen to share different forms of writing as a way of stimulating voice in writing. My hope is that by providing a diversity of forms each student’s voice can be enriched by access to writers such as Richard and Jonathan who offer thick description of the worlds they experience.

Photo Credits

Listening

Jonathan Gold

Road to Heaven


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Spotting

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I am attending the National Elite Sports Council (NESC)’s Forum in Canberra next week. In addition to the Forum web site there is a Ning site for the Forum. A link to the conference program can be found here.

I have the opportunity to present on Day Two of the Forum and I have been thinking for a while about what to say. After my first draft I started again and late this week had my thoughts focused by Charles Leadbeater’s work. I have posted the draft and the presentation on SlideShare.

This is the presentation I hope to use as the framework for my talk.

I am using more Creative Commons images from Flickr in my presentations. Just searching for the images is transforming how I think. I have been thinking about presentation style too and am fascinated about how I might mash the Night Air, Garrison Keillor’s Radio Program and the Bush Telegraph for this Forum.

I hope to blog during the Forum. I am mindful of a recent post by Graham Attwell in sharing ideas live. Graham observed:

I am all for openness, open education, open discussions, open knowledge and a culture of sharing. Yet as digital identities become ever more important, it is critical that we have the rights and the tools to manage that identity and that social network providers appreciate and support those rights and make it easy for individuals to understand how they can mange both privacy and openness. This is an issue which will not go away.

This is a news item about the Forum.